Defying Math 2: Life Is Non-Linear

In the previous post I challenged traditional school math by the concept of synergy.

Here is another good example on how life is not exactly what they teach in school. It will be from math again.

Remember this graph from algebra class?

Or this one?

This is the so called direct proportion chart. In essence it’s quite simple. The further you go along axis X, the further you get along axis Y. A variation of the same relationship is a reverse proportion graph, where the principle is the same but with the opposite direction.

Imagine that ‘X’ is your time, and ‘Y’ is your result. In this case it will be a graph representing direct proportion between the time you invest into something and the result you achieve. Something like “the harder you work, the more you’ll get”.

Makes sense, right?

Not really.

Life is much more complex than that. Consider the below example.

You work hard on achieving some goal. Let’s say you are a scientist trying to solve a puzzle, a riddle that keeps nagging you as if a worm in the brain. You keep on researching, collecting data, analyzing, researching again, experimenting … Nothing happens for months, or even years. Nothing. And then – BAM! – you get an insight, a revelation. Suddenly the missing pieces of the puzzle come together to form a clear picture.

The funniest part is this.

The positive scientific result in this example would not be possible without a long fruitless period of trial and error. Remember how many thousand attempts Thomas Edison made before he invented a light bulb?

See the difference between the graph and life? The graph says you will always progress, whereas in reality the major progress is towards the end.

I am not saying linear graphs are absolutely irrelevant in real life. Sometimes they work. Yet in many cases they don’t. 🙂

Quite often we have to keep on going with no result at all before there is a breakthrough. This seemingly useless period, however, is crucial. As they say in the yoga tradition:

Enlightenment is not a result of practice, but without it it’s impossible. 


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