“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”
That’s Richard Feynman from Lectures on Physics. While he’s referring to scientific knowledge, I considered how his question might apply to what we do. How could we meaningfully sum up what we do in a few words?
I love these sorts of challenges, forcing us to be brief, working with constraints. No small task. Yet, encapsulating an entire design profession seemed a rather daunting — and fleeting — task, thus, I developed a daily practice.
At the end of each day, I write an “atomic sentence,” a single statement that summarizes the most vital lesson about that day.
More than zero
At times where I flail, fumble, and otherwise seek a signpost, these sentences have helped — personal lifelines indicating a larger story. Each day, an atomic unit in a living network.
Over the years, my atomic sentences have included:
- “Make sure you believe in what you start as there are only two ways it can end: you will finish it or it will finish you.”
- “When you step in the stream, the water doesn’t pass you by (although the risk of drowning does increase).”
- “Letting go is in fact — or perhaps only sometimes — letting in.”
- “Certainty made clear by uncertainty; safety by danger.”
- “Every person is just a person trying to be a person.”
- “Make starts, not ends.”
Hurry off, for at least a sentence’s worth of time, to make your own.