Gardening and Engineering
Well, this is goodbye.
Even with my gratuitous four-part ﬁnale, it’s hard to ﬁnd the right words to wrap this blog up. It’s taken up the greater part of two years of my life, and I’ve shared so many hopes, fears, insecurities and mood swings that “fare you well” just doesn’t cut it. But the more I think about it, there really is one great takeaway from this journey. When I think about the changes I’ve undergone, it comes down to one thing.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the legendary economist Friedrich Hayek. He wrote plenty of brilliant things, most famously The Road to Serfdom, but I’ve been ﬁxated on one particular idea. In his view, there are two ways to run an economy. Makers of economic policy can either be engineers or gardeners. A leader who takes the “engineering” path comes up with a detailed vision for a society, then calculates every variable that goes into that vision and tries to artiﬁcially create it. A gardener, on the other hand, ignores outcomes and simply creates the best possible conditions for something to grow. After studying this, his conclusion was that engineers became the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, and every great country was great because its leaders chose to be gardeners. It didn’t matter what kind of outcome you were trying to create, because the very act of planning was immoral and doomed to fail.
Politics and economics aside, I think this is a pretty great metaphor for my life. I used to be the ultimate engineer. I thought career success could give me happiness, and I devoted my life to planning everything down to the last detail. If I could just artiﬁcially create what I imagined to be a fruitful life, all would be well in the world. Then I lived a bit, I failed at a lot of things, I succeeded at a few, and I just realized that nothing is ever as black and white as I thought. The reality of the situation is that all I can do is create the right conditions and hope for the best.
So while in many ways it’s hard to let go of this blog, I know this is the right moment. Because I was a different person when I started this. I wanted to plan, I wanted to reﬂect, I wanted to be introspective. I wanted to do everything except live, which of course made me an engineer. But I learned to stop caring about all of that and live in the present. I’ve built up enough conﬁdence to give myself a little bit of a break. I thank you all for reading this for two years, but now it’s time to go garden.
Grateful for Your Readership