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foxwizard ☾
Recent musing—

🧙🏻‍♂️ Totally authentic meaningful progress

Long-time subscribers will know—I’ve been harping on about meaningful progress (as distinct from the delusion of progress) since before How to Lead a Quest was published. In recent years—and particularly in his recent conversation with Nate Hagens—Daniel Schmachtenberger has offered a similar way to look at things: the distinction between naïve progress and authentic progress.

“[...] you can make a progress narrative, associated with effective achieving of narrow goals, even if they are driving rivalry and driving externality.* And you know, it’s not a great definition of progress. It’s generously, it’s a naive definition of progress. Less generously, it’s propaganda and apologism for winners.”

* Externalities are the risks and harm that our economy is blind to, and that are not priced into our metrics for success. This includes: global heating and its associated catastrophic risks, rising inequality and its associated effects, down-stream (pollution) effects, overexploitation of resources, ecocide and ecosystem collapse, habitat destruction and mass extinction, rising depression and social isolation, increasing costs of living, exacerbated multipolar traps... and more!

To my mind, meaningful progress is effectively akin to authentic progress. And the delusion of progress is effectively akin to naïve progress. But Daniel’s elucidation goes far deeper than I ever have, and the framing of naïve progress (rather than “a delusion of progress”) is perhaps kinder and more palatable.

When I wrote How to Lead a Quest, I hadn’t yet grasped the full extent of our metacrisis. My frame was limited to meaningful progress for you (the individual) and meaningful progress for your enterprise (the strategy of the organisation or group you work with).

Eight years ago, I genuinely believed that if we but orientate towards future relevance, the world would be a better place.

But the question is: relevant in terms of what, and for whom?

If our answer is anything less than the totality of life on this planet we share—then it is very likely we have—at best—a [naïve] delusion of progress.

More dollars for shareholders does not constitute [authentic] meaningful progress, in and of itself. Not at this scale of consideration. And particularly not when such actions involve extraction, exploitation, externalities (and the rivalrous dynamics that see this pattern perpetuated).

Besides: salience outcompetes relevance in our attention/distraction economy. This is glammourie magic. Something doesn’t need to actually be relevant—it only needs to seem that way. This is at the heart of sales, and the manufactured sense of lack and want perpetuated by the social media advertising platforms we are addicted to.

The irony of meaningful (authentic) progress is that it often looks like the opposite to the default naïve [delusion of] progress we have become accustomed to. It looks like slowing down. It looks like nurturing, tending, and care. It looks like moving quietly and planting things. It looks like... you’re wasting time. Because time is money. And if you aren’t dollar productive, you are actively diminishing your future optionality.

Best get back to it!


Lol, I jest. Watch the latest Schmachtenberger conversation instead.

Yes, that’s quite the beard.

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