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Reality flows

Reality flows

When you think of the word reality what image comes to mind?

To me, I see flows. Think Brownian motion.

Everything in reality is moving. Some things move so slow that we think they're not moving at all. Yet, they are still moving, internally. Now, the internal movement of a rock is not that interesting to me, but the internal movement of the human mind is special, because it can affect the flows of the external world in unique and radical ways. More on that later.

Let's go on a bit of an exploration of the affluence of flows in reality. Imagine you're drifting on a lake, lying on an inflatable float, thinking about flows.

Flows show up in all sorts of areas and disciplines.

One of the most discussed would be cashflow, the flow of money from customers to businesses. This flow is highly sought after, and certainly optimized a lot. Cashflow's enterprising cousin is deal flow, the flow of people pitching ideas to other people who have pockets overflowing with money.

Of course, in marketing circles there's another flow related concept: the funnel. It's a particular instance of a behavior flow. Marketers hyper-optimize it in order to make money. Sometimes it's questionable if the flows should be optimized, but that's a topic for a different essay.

Still within the realm of business, there is another flow-related concept: the bottleneck. A place where a flow is restricted, or should I say constricted. The widely applicable theory of constraints says that if you restrict a flow in a particular place, it will restrict the output of the whole system. That's an interesting observation, useful in business and elsewhere.

Zooming out, there are also trends which arise when particular behavior flows start getting more widespread. Veganism, scooters, avocado toast. Trends are like cultural waves, and can be fun or dangerous, just like real waves.

But that's all business-related flows. While I recognize a certain necessity of these, I don't think they are the most fascinating flows by far. What about other flows?

There's of course the flow state, a vital flow for any artist (besides blood flow). When you get into flow, you become immersed in an activity. In fact, it's as if actions merely flow through you. You might even get carried away by the flow and forget about the rest of the world or time.

Speaking of which, the flow of time is particularly fascinating. To me the most interesting part about it is that our perception of time is subjective and changeable. We can make time flow slower for ourselves by virtue of what we do. We can experience time poverty (feeling like you don't have enough time) or time affluence (feeling like you have enough time to live and pursue your goals). As an aside, affluence is a fun term for this since affluence = "a plentiful flowing, an abundant supply."

But perhaps I'm getting a bit carried away by the flow here. So back to the original question.

When you think of the word reality what image comes to mind?

I see flows. Maybe you see them now too.

But what about them?

I think it's interesting to consider one's relationship to particular flows.

Flows and you

You can put yourself in various positions in regards to any flow. An image of a person in a river comes to mind.

Against the flow

Going against the flow takes effort. Over the long term, it's almost always a losing prospect. Therefore, one should carefully pick the flows to go against. Some are too strong, some are not worth it.

Of course, if you're determined or if you have a cohort of others going against the flow with you, it becomes easier. You can resist stronger flows, and go a longer distance even while resisting the current..

From a cultural perspective, going against the mainstream is also often viewed as cool or foolish, depending on which side of the coin (or bank) you stand on.

Across the flow

Sometimes you want to cross the river to reach your destination. In that case, it's up to you whether you let yourself get carried by it or make an extra effort and angle yourself to stay on the original trajectory.

Trends come to mind as an example of this. Whenever something becomes cool as defined by a particular part of culture, we can get a bit carried away, steered away from our original destination. Speaking of which...

With the flow

Of course, we can also choose to fully embrace a particular flow, and let ourselves become defined by it.

Just go with the flow, maaan.
—Baked Californian bro, probably

When you go with the flow, you go fast. Of course, the question is: where? Depends on the flow and what state you stepped into it.

Going with the flow is easy, and therein lies the danger. The clearest example of this is various ideologies, scams, or Ponzi schemes. Those are cases where you perceive a possible flow of human behavior and money, and if you don't have personal principles, you jump into it and get corrupted by it. You go with a flow of the wrong kind. Of course, I don't write this to persuade you not to engage in any of the above. The people who jump straight in often can't be persuaded by others. Sometimes they are the ones who persuaded themselves to do it in the first place, and thereby become inert to argument.

All of us are susceptible to this. We can start taking easy actions that are accepted and reinforced by others, and get further and further away from our own goals, principles, and ideals. That's the downside of mimetic desire. When you go with the flow, you just do what everyone else is doing, often unquestioningly. Watch out. Question the behavior flows reinforced in you by others.

But anyway. Let's get to the most creative and interesting option.

Making a flow

To me this is the true test of the creative individual.

As a discerning observer of flows, you see reality clearly. You see the behavior flows, you see the trends, you see the cash flows,...

And it's up to you to choose whether you dip your toes in them, and if so, how you position yourself to take advantage of them, or weave them together.

Imagine a ship at sea. There are ocean currents underwater and there are winds above water. But you decide how to navigate the currents to reach your destination. You have the compass. You control the sails. You can row through unfavorable conditions.

So what flows are relevant to you?

What flows do you want to steer clear off?

What are the workflows you can use to navigate the flows of reality?

A couple questions before you set sail again, continuing your voyage. Thank you for stopping by and listening to this old explorer's ravings.