Atomic Actions

Francis Bacon strived to ensure that every brushstroke in his paintings possessed the immediacy and vitality of the first one. A collection of individual marks composing a larger whole.

I’ve recently been thinking about how physical laws (gravity, relativity, thermodynamics, etc.) impact human systems, and how we might use these as mental models in our individual endeavors.

One somewhat obvious model lies in what I call “atomic actions”. It’s an attempt to mimic - in our actions - the fact that all existence rests upon a bed of atoms. Small steps lend themselves to large outcomes. This is a common notion in building habits, but I think it can be and has been seen in many other endeavors. From businesses to communities and settlements, from intellectual inquiry to painting and writing.

What is the smallest, most infinitesimal action you take with one of your endeavors, right now?

I’ve wanted to start writing for a year. This post is my first atomic action.

Edit, May 13th
The erudite Shane Parrish of Farnam Street messaged me recently about his updated index of mental models, which is a fantastic resource if you’re looking to improve the quality of your thinking.


Now read this

Sand and sediment

In a speech in 1964 (echoed here in 1981), Richard Feynman talked about the importance of doubt as a principle element of belief and knowledge. He lamented science’s passivity in encouraging society to embrace this point-of-view and it... Continue →