The dark swamp of despair

Matthew Siu
2 min readDec 17, 2018

I like to refer back to this chart whenever I start something and struggle to complete it. When you start a new project, you have a high level idea of the steps to bring it to fruition. You start making quick progress but sooner or later, problems arise in the details. There’s a realization that this project is more difficult and time consuming then you initially thought it would be. At this point it’s easy to quit since in your mind, maybe the newfound time and effort to finish what you started isn’t worth it to you. Yet making it through the challenges of the dark swamp of despair has multiple benefits.

  • You acquire new skills and experience allowing you to tackle even greater projects.
  • The completed project, while maybe not exactly what you expected, helps to create new order in the world. Its existence is something that others can enjoy, use, be inspired from, learn from or build on top of.

These positive feedback loops have compounding effects.

When you experience the dark swamp of despair, it can be helpful to remember the 80/20 rule. Progress is not linear. Begin any new project with the assumption that details you cannot see at the outset will inevitably arrive. Budget the time and effort for unexpected challenges when evaluating any new project.

In a universe thats natural state is entropic, we are in the unique position to reverse it. We can exert energy on the world to create order and shape it. Embrace the challenge.

“The ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.”
— Steven Pinker

Originally published at Matthew Siu.