Systems underlie the craft


Real talk, “practicing Stoicism” involves a lot of reading of the same core concepts boiled down to “get good at prioritizing what really matters” and “don’t lose your shit.” Tim Ferris calls Stoicism his operating system; I think of it - because I’m a dork - like an honor code. What’s appealing about Stoicism, I think, is its practical application devoid of woo.

It’s less common to run across letters about interconnectedness, but that’s precisely what I did this morning.

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p. 77 (Hayes)

Because it’s not reminding you how dead you’re going to be, it feels a little out of place - but when you do design work you learn to appreciate the systems of design, how the process of research dovetails with the realities of accounting, which lead to the creation of artifacts like wireframes or reports, that guide service provision.

Systems of work connect even the most siloed developer to the reference librarian, who in a higher-ed organization might not only be separated by departments but entire bureaucracies.

Unlike the interconnectedness between me and you across states and time, which is no less true, the connective tissue is much more tangible in an organization, where an individual has real leverage to improve those connections, and even engineer new systems entirely.

Stoicism is dogmatic about understanding what is and isn’t within your realm of control; in advice like the above from Marcus Aurelius, it also reinforces that your reach is extended through the systems that underlie the craft.

Craft virtuously.

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Remember that design is not art, but a practice.

Michael Schofield