In preparation to my recent trip to Chicago I picked up The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. Augie’s story is almost entirely set in Chicago, and I will say he sure did have a lot of adventures. I’ve followed him around through all kinds of places with all kinds of people.
It’s very long, and I may finally be coming in for a landing. Here in Chapter 21 of 26 it dawns on me that Augie has done a ton of stuff but not accomplished anything. All that activity for what?
Dude, you’ve got 5 chapters to turn it around and leave a mark on the world. I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s most likely to be who he’s always been.
There is a big difference between adventures and accomplishments.
My day job is all about accomplishments. We call them Scope and Action Items. Accomplishments do not happen by accident. It takes intention and effort. And when multiple people are needed to do it, there has to be consensus on what the goal is.
These are big expensive words. Even bigger ideas.
I’ve read some political books as well, large academic tomes that describe problems of sexism and racism. Big problems. The academics are full of notebooks and observation.
That’s one kind of effort. There is value is defining a problem. Famously, that’s the first of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Those books define brilliantly specific instances and circumstances that make up the -isms. But I don’t see a plan for how to change it.
Just like Augie March. What are you doing with all this effort? He hasn’t put his effort into consensus with anyone else for long enough to follow through on a plan.
Adventures can be enough for some people. Not for me. And for anyone that wants to reshape the world more is required.