Follow your dreams

Listen to your heart.

Go with your gut instinct.

You hear that sort of thing a lot. Be careful about overthinking, relying on your brain too much. Do what feels right in the moment.

So, firstly, your heart and your gut (in these examples) are still actually your brain, as far as I know. Maybe just different bits of your brain – I’m no expert.

Here’s an example. Did you see the Nintendo World Championships at E3? Probably not if you are a family member, maybe if you are a games industry friend. Those are the two main demographics of this blog, I reckon.

These guys and girls, they are at another level. Literally. They can play a challenging Mario level, full of diabolical traps and pixel-perfect jumps, and blaze through it first time. Why? Because they are in ‘play’ mode. They don’t need to analyse each jump one at a time. They don’t need to stop and wait and observe patterns. They just go, and trust in their instincts. Their instincts are more accurately described (I think) as their powerful, hard-won, enormous breadth and depth of experience with these kinds of rules.

They know how much inertia Mario has, how high and far he can jump. So they just do it.

They don’t need to engage the top level bits of brain, the busy bits at the very top, until and unless it goes a bit wrong. Then they stop, take a breath, and start breaking things down intellectually.

That was one of the most fascinating parts, to me. Just watching how they tackled stuff they had never seen before.

In fact, let me find a video.

At this point we’re at the final of the Championship, there are two guys remaining, and this chap (John Numbers) is the second to try this level.

It’s absolutely fascinating.

Having said that, I think there’s a dark side to ‘trusting your gut’.

For a long time – not even years, but decades – I would use “But it just feels wrong/right” as a justification for believing something, or acting in a certain way. I trusted my gut, without really questioning it. Why question your gut, right? That defeats the point! You’re overthinking it, egghead!

But my gut was, once again, just an accumulation of experiences and assumptions and information that swirled in a huge, throbbing mass somewhere deep in my subconscious, and sometimes… it was bullshit. Citation needed, gut.

I grew up in a very white, middle class area of the country – of the world. That’s how I defined normality. I watched endless films and TV showed through the eighties and nineties. I learned that certain things were normal, and healthy – being white, being straight, being a man, coming to the rescue of a beautiful woman – and that certain things were comically weird – being gay, being a vegetarian, having a funny accent.

Look, you know the drill. This is all basic cultural programming stuff. I didn’t even think about it, because it was just so obvious. So normal. So natural. I didn’t even stop to think about the definitions of those three words, and how dizzyingly subjective they are, to the point of uselessness.

Most of the aforementioned films and TV shows were American, so ‘following your dreams’ inevitably meant some version of the elusive American Dream (RIP Dusty Rhodes). If you can imagine it, you can do it! This part actually never felt that convincing to me, even when I was young. My eyes are bad and I’m scared of heights, so at no point did I believe that a future as a fighter pilot beckoned.

For example, this is a really interesting Reddit thread. Admittedly I only ever saw the title and never read the thread, but it’s worth thinking about it.

You know what?

Don’t follow your dreams.

Don’t listen to your heart.

Don’t go with your gut instinct.

Unless you’re in a Nintendo World Championship, then go for it.

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