It’s Compulsion, Not Obsession

In part, because I am a nerd, I have a page on my blog where I list things that I’ve found to be the best. I pursue buying the best things in the aspects of my life where I’ve found that I use something very often, or need a new item to replace an old, or broken one. I try many options so that I may eventually say, with some sense of expert confidence, that this is ‘the best’.

Of course it’s likely only the best if you are me, after all, who’s to say what is the best weather app, radar app, PDF reader, or knife? Not me. It’s all subjective, and we could debate this all day, but it doesn’t matter.

My problem and the problem with being a nerd is: you are compelled to find the best. You know there must be something better and therefore, for that very reason, you want it.

It’s not an obsession, it’s a compulsion.

This, though, is a major problem. Because being a nerd also means efficiency. And while I am efficient at many things, like any other (or every other) nerd, I’m only efficient half the time. Because the other half of the time I am busy trying to find tools and systems which will keep me efficient, or make me better.

Truthfully, I’d probably get more done if I never looked for the best tools, but thats not an option because I can’t quell the compulsion. That notion that there is something better, something faster, something more efficient waiting to reward those that search hard enough is far too compelling.

And so I, and fellow nerds, find new macros, new apps, new tools, new systems. We have a never ending need to find the best, whether that is tools, or processes we want them both. We can’t settle until we’ve reached a point where we know we’ve reached peak zen because what we own, or how we do something, is subjective seen by us as the best.

I’m writing this on an iPad Air, but I know there is an iPad Air 2 and I know it is better. I want it, but cannot afford it. But it’s better and knowing that kills me a little inside, however at the same time I recognize that I have the best I can afford and it is only in that realization which I can take comfort and move on.

Pens, notebooks, cameras, apps, devices, scanners, tools, workflows, desks, cords, chargers, cars, fonts, colors, and so very much more. I am, or have at one point, tried to improve upon all of those things.

And then nerds try to apply rules and structure to these tools and processes that they are constantly building. “I take notes in Simplenote, but only when I need to be fast, or am not near my Field Notes. Oh but I take all my notes in Field Notes with a Pilot G2 0.whatevermm when I can because it is sublime. I also take notes in: OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, Ulysses, and more. Don’t get me started on where I write, but sometimes it’s Ulysses, or Byword, or Writer, or Scrivener, or TextEdit.” All of the above could be done in any one of those places, but not a single one of those apps is always the best, and certinaly not for everything — and since I now know what the best iPhone note taking app which also syncs is, I must use it, but Field Notes are also the best, so I must use them too.

We are complicating the process so that we can use the best in each case. Sometimes I just wish I could take notes in whatever is most convenient, and not stop and think about where I should take notes. And that goes for a lot more than just notes. It’s my new compulsion.


You know you are a nerd when someone in your life asks you: “another new X, don’t you already have a 100 of those” on a regular basis.

But you can’t, and shouldn’t, try to stop it lest it eat at you.

There is only one thing I have learned: moderation. It used to be that I was obsessed with looking for the next thing to fix and that’s a terrible plan. My goal now is simple: wait until you are annoyed by something, and try not to read websites that find the best things, because then you will have to try those things yourself and down the rabbit hole you go.

And when you do find something that you feel is definitively the best, prove it by selling all the other things which do that same thing. Found the best notebook? Throw away all the others. Ditto pens, ditto backpacks — well you can sell those.

Which I realize me is telling you not to read this site when I post a review of something, but I can assure you this bit of advice will save you money, and maybe some sanity too.

We each have our own systems and rabbit holes and each time I feel myself being pushed down one, I stop and write. I wanted to keep looking for a better something when I started this post, but now I’ve forgotten. Instead I have this, these words, and they aren’t the best. But they are something productive, well, for me at least.

Finding the best is great, in moderation, but all these fucking best places to takes notes is just nuts.

Become a Member

Members receive access to exclusive weekly content, and help keep the site running.

Join Now

Already a member? Please sign in.

Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
5 minutes to read.


tl;dr

Sometimes finding the best, is really the worst.