David Heinemeier Hansson

December 15, 2021

The art of not having a take

The most liberating aspect for me of writing emails rather than tweets is the natural limit on topics I might be tempted to have a take on. When I was primarily writing tweets, I could easily involve myself in a dozen topics in a day. HERE'S A TAKE, THERE'S A TAKE, TAKE THAT! With email, it's a sliver of that.

But it goes even deeper than that. When there's no public outlet for all the possible takes, I've found that fewer takes actually develop. That it's possible to see a story float by and go "I don't need or want to assume even a mental position on this". It feels like the olden days, before we were all mined for opinions all day long by the platforms of engagement and enragement.

This is a helpful constriction in general, especially if you, like me, have a natural tendency to spontaneously develop takes on everything under the sun. But it's also a helpful constriction in the particular, within your natural, narrow sphere of interest.

Take web3. It's a raging river of opinions right now. Of converts, apostles, and opponents. Duking it out with dunks galore. It's at the intersection of many topics I do generally care about: decentralization, technology, money, society. And yet, I've studiously avoided developing or sharing a revised take on the latest surge in interest.

Maybe this is The Future. Maybe this is A Fad. Either way, I don't have to pontificate on the matter even within my own skull. It can just be a thing swirling around in the universe that I can observe, and then let pass. Like a fleeting emotion or a bodily sensation during meditation.

There's this concept of dopamine fasting. It's basically been discredited, both as a nonsensical term (you can't fast what you do not consume), and as a bad direction (fasting from the dopamine from positive human interaction because you want to wean yourself off social media is counterproductive). But there's a kernel of inspiration within it that I like: Refraining from engagement.

Let it float by, and be still. Don't reach, just acknowledge.

It isn't easy, especially if you've been drenched in social media for a decade or more. But that makes it all the more appealing. Do it because it is hard.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.