The TL; DR Generation
It’s called “mental discipline”, and it’s not a natural state for humans, we have to learn it.
If you don’t have a natural flair for it, it can be a problem, since our society has stopped inculcating any aspect of it, as a part and parcel of dumbing everyone down to make them good factory workers.
… except we don’t need factory workers, we need technology workers, which requires both the tech savvy in question AND the mental discipline to focus in on a subject and really seriously get some brain focus going.
R.M. Persig describes it in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
“Peace of mind isn’t at all superficial, really. It’s the whole thing. That
which produces it is good maintenance; that which disturbs it is poor
maintenance. What we call the workability of the machine is just an
objectification of this peace of mind. The ultimate test’s always your own
serenity. If you don’t have this when you start and maintain it while you’re
working you’re likely to build your personal problems right into the machine
“The material object under observation, the bicycle or rotisserie, can’t be
right or wrong. Molecules are molecules. They don’t have any ethical codes
to follow except those people give to them. The test of the machine is the
satisfaction it gives you. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right.
If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is
changed. The test of the machine’s always your own mind. There isn’t any
“Sometime look at a novice workman or a bad workman and compare his
expression with that of a craftsman whose work you know is excellent and
you’ll see the difference. The craftsman isn’t ever following a single line
of instruction. He’s making decisions as he goes along. For that reason
he’ll be absorbed and attentive to what he’s doing even though he doesn’t
deliberately contrive this. His motions and the machine are in a kind of
harmony. He isn’t following any set of written instructions because the
nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which
simultaneously change the nature of the materials at hand. The materials and
his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind
is at rest at the same time as the material is right.”
“Sounds like art.”
“Well, it IS art. This divorce of art from technology is completely
unnatural. It’s just that it’s gone on so long that you have to be an
archaeologist to find out where the two separated. Rotisserie assembly is
actually a long-lost branch of sculpture, so divorced from its roots by
centuries of intellectual wrong turns that just to associate the two sounds
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
An exceptionally highly recommended book.
You can either buy it in its original form (paper) at many bookstores in new or used forms, or find a legitimate copy of it with a search on the internet, as Persig has apparently placed it into the Public Domain.
In it he strives to convey the idea that there are two “modes” of thought — the Classical and the Romantic. Motorcycle Maintenance, and Zen. Analyzing something and just being in it without thinking about it.
And from there, he tries to convey the notion that people tend to be more comfortable with one mode than the other, which mode depending on the person. And then they attempt to shoehorn all of life’s experience into one mode… and wind up exceptionally frustrated and unhappy because, when push comes to shove, there are situations where the other mode is ALWAYS called for.
If you go out on a dance floor, you don’t analyze what you’re doing, you just DO it. There’s no particular reason to put this hand here, that foot there (queue John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever pose here). Which is why guys, particularly geeks and techboys have a hard time dancing, we’re more commonly wired for Classical mode. So we feel uncomfortable because we WANT to analyze it.
OTOH, you’re riding a motorcycle through the mountains, and you’re in that zen mode, smelling the fresh air, taking in the vistas before you, the blue sky and fluffy clouds and… suddenly the motorcycle starts sputtering… DAMMIT I DON’T WANT TO THINK NOW!!! — Lolz. It’s time to analyze the problem — why is the cycle sputtering? Too rich? Clogged fuel line? Do I proceed or stop and see if I can figure it out? And so forth. Decisions must be made, and that means you have to get out of that zen state and start analyzing things.