Paul Graham谈不要刻意,做事求实不求形

美国著名程序员、博客作者和技术作家保罗·格雷厄姆(Paul Graham)在其个人网站上的长文《How to do great work》给仍然雄心勃勃的年轻人提了一些建议,适合每位对自己仍有期望的朋友反复阅读。下面是本文的第九部分摘录:


Don’t try to work in a distinctive style. Just try to do the best job you can; you won’t be able to help doing it in a distinctive way.

Style is doing things in a distinctive way without trying to. Trying to is affectation.

Affectation is in effect to pretend that someone other than you is doing the work. You adopt an impressive but fake persona, and while you’re pleased with the impressiveness, the fakeness is what shows in the work.

The temptation to be someone else is greatest for the young. They often feel like nobodies. But you never need to worry about that problem, because it’s self-solving if you work on sufficiently ambitious projects. If you succeed at an ambitious project, you’re not a nobody; you’re the person who did it. So just do the work and your identity will take care of itself.

不要刻意追求某种风格。只要专心工作,你的独特风格自然会显现。

风格是自然而然地以独特的方式做事,不要刻意为之。刻意就是在装腔作势。

装腔作势就是假装成别人在做你的工作。你会摆出一副夸张但不真实的作派,外在看起来印象深刻,但内里的不真实还是会暴露出来。

对年轻人来说,想扮成别人的诱惑最大。他们常感到自己一无是处。但只要你专注于足够雄心勃勃的项目,这个问题就会自行解决。如果你成功完成一个伟大的项目,你就不是无名小卒,而是那个完成伟大项目的人。所以专心工作,你的身份自然会确立。

“Avoid affectation” is a useful rule so far as it goes, but how would you express this idea positively? How would you say what to be, instead of what not to be? The best answer is earnest. If you’re earnest you avoid not just affectation but a whole set of similar vices.

The core of being earnest is being intellectually honest. We’re taught as children to be honest as an unselfish virtue — as a kind of sacrifice. But in fact it’s a source of power too. To see new ideas, you need an exceptionally sharp eye for the truth. You’re trying to see more truth than others have seen so far. And how can you have a sharp eye for the truth if you’re intellectually dishonest?

One way to avoid intellectual dishonesty is to maintain a slight positive pressure in the opposite direction. Be aggressively willing to admit that you’re mistaken. Once you’ve admitted you were mistaken about something, you’re free. Till then you have to carry it.

Another more subtle component of earnestness is informality. Informality is much more important than its grammatically negative name implies. It’s not merely the absence of something. It means focusing on what matters instead of what doesn’t.

What formality and affectation have in common is that as well as doing the work, you’re trying to seem a certain way as you’re doing it. But any energy that goes into how you seem comes out of being good. That’s one reason nerds have an advantage in doing great work: they expend little effort on seeming anything. In fact that’s basically the definition of a nerd.

Nerds have a kind of innocent boldness that’s exactly what you need in doing great work. It’s not learned; it’s preserved from childhood. So hold onto it. Be the one who puts things out there rather than the one who sits back and offers sophisticated-sounding criticisms of them. “It’s easy to criticize” is true in the most literal sense, and the route to great work is never easy.

There may be some jobs where it’s an advantage to be cynical and pessimistic, but if you want to do great work it’s an advantage to be optimistic, even though that means you’ll risk looking like a fool sometimes. There’s an old tradition of doing the opposite. The Old Testament says it’s better to keep quiet lest you look like a fool. But that’s advice for seeming smart. If you actually want to discover new things, it’s better to take the risk of telling people your ideas.

Some people are naturally earnest, and with others it takes a conscious effort. Either kind of earnestness will suffice. But I doubt it would be possible to do great work without being earnest. It’s so hard to do even if you are. You don’t have enough margin for error to accommodate the distortions introduced by being affected, intellectually dishonest, orthodox, fashionable, or cool.

“避免装腔作势”的建议本身确实有价值,但如何从积极角度表达这个想法呢?我觉得最好的答案是“要认真”。如果你很认真,不仅可以避免装腔作势,还可以避免许多类似的问题。

认真的核心是保持智识上的诚实。我们从小就被教导要诚实,将其视为一种美德和牺牲。但事实上,它也是一种力量的来源。要看到新思想,你需要异常敏锐地判断真理。你要努力看到比以前更多的真理。如果你在思考上不诚实,如何能有敏锐的洞察力呢?

一种避免思想不诚实的方法是主动并乐于承认错误。一旦你承认在某事上错了,你就自由了。在那之前,你得承担这错误。

认真的另一个更微妙的方面是简单直接。简单直接比它字面上的否定意义更重要。它不仅是没有某些东西,而是关注重要的而不关注无关的东西。

形式主义和装腔作势的共同点是,在做事时,你还在刻意维持某种形象。但维持形象的任何精力都减损了做好事情的精力。这就是为什么专注技术和学术的人在做伟大工作方面有优势,他们很少在形象上花心思。事实上这基本上就是专注技术和学术的人的定义。

专注技术和学术的人有一种天真的热忱,这正是做伟大工作所需要的。这不是后天学习的,而是从小保留下来的。所以要保持这种天真气质。要成为提出想法的人,而不是坐着提出聪明的批评的人。“批评很容易”在最字面意义上是真的,通往伟大工作的道路从来都不容易。

在某些工作中,悲观和愤世嫉俗可能有好处,但如果你想做伟大的工作,乐观是优势,即使这意味着你有时会看起来很愚蠢。传统观点常与此相反,《旧约》说保持沉默比较好,免得你看起来像傻子。但那只是关于“看起来”聪明的建议。如果你真想发现新事物,说出你的想法比保持沉默好。

有些人天性里就很认真负责任,有些人则需要有意识地加以努力。这两种方式的认真态度都可以。但我怀疑,如果一个人不够认真负责任,他就不可能做出伟大的工作。即使一个人很认真,做出伟大的工作也仍然非常困难。如果你容忍被影响而做作假,在思考上不诚实,墨守陈规,追求时尚,或者想要很酷,你就没有足够的容错空间去完成伟大的工作了。


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