Writings Yixin Lin


If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

I always thought this was incorrect. Besides being a generalization that could only approximate truth, I also didn’t know where to apply it. Knowing this pithy wisdom didn’t actually make me do anything differently, which is what you would want pithy wisdom to do.

But I’ve consistently tried to construct optimal scenarios, situations where you could milk it for all it’s got. Hill-climbing with hilltop in view, searching for positions of strength, for unassailable high ground. It’s a pretty good low-level tactic, and it also feels good in a specific way. I never rooted for the underdog, because I wanted to deify some Hercules. Worship came easy.

Whenever I got there, though, the ground felt shaky. Maintaining optimums is like obsessively looking for cracks in your armor. The game was to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory– and it’s impossible to win, just lose less. Wasn’t that what being humble meant: to know where to improve, even when you’re winning?

And yet winning didn’t feel that good, and losing felt like taking steps back. More importantly, the climb itself always felt ridiculous. Either you’re reaching for heights you’ve already been to, or the higher altitudes seem as arbitrary as the current one. Just another mark on the number line. (Isn’t that humility, to know that greater heights are possible?)

I think the funnest times are when you’re growing. When you’re a rising star, you’re asking how far you can go. When you’re king, you ask how can this last?

When you look forward to something, you know that there’s something better, and you think it’s going to get here. You don’t even notice the grime because you know you’re getting out of this shithole.

When you think you’ve arrived there, you’re a little nervous it’ll go away. You’re scared there’s something better you don’t have. And you’re absolutely frightened that there’s nothing better.

Economies embody this. The hedonic treadmill perverts this. Young people may sometimes sense it, but old people know it.

Look beyond optimums. You’ll probably have more fun.