But now a lot of my pop culture needs are met through television and Netflix. I have lucked out and happened to pull fatherhood at a time when TV shows have never been better. There’s a trend that I’ve noticed in these past two years as a parent with regards to those shows that has piqued by philosophical nature.
I find myself torn between Dexter and Heisenberg.
First though, I’ll start with Nietzsche. I’ve always been a slight fan of his philosophy on a person pursuing their best self. Whether someone is extremely religious or not (and Nietzsche wasn’t) there’s still something important to gain from his ideology. We should all be more introspective to find out what our true purpose is and then go all in to fulfill that purpose.
You can find the basic Nietzsche philosophy in a lot of popular culture these days, especially TV. Tony Soprano, Dexter Morgan, Walter White, Greg House, hell even Barney Stinson are characters driven by a deep, personal desire to become something great, regardless of what others or society thinks.
Interestingly enough, Dexter and Walter White, or his alter ego Heisenberg, represent two distinct personality types, goal oriented vs. process oriented. Having been a big fan of both shows, I wonder at times which one I’m more like in so far as how I seek to be the best me.
Dexter is very much someone who is goal oriented. His every waking moment is spent working towards the next kill. He does his best to balance a lot of background distractions such as family, work, etc. but his motivation is about getting someone on his table. Once he finishes one victim he begins to move on to the next. He revels in each one by keeping a drop of blood in a slide to represent each time he’s achieved a kill. Dexter is always after another kill.
Walter White, however, is more about a process. Throughout his career in the meth world, he worked to perfect his product. He was obsessed with the process, the right amount of chemicals for each batch and striving for the highest purity. He does have a goal of leading a meth empire but he knows fully that it has to be built on a superior drug. For Walt, there is no dollar amount or purity level that serves as a finish line. He wants to make the best meth.
Yes, they’re fictional characters. I understand that. What I like about the comparison though is that they demonstrate two different paths for living your life. I don’t mean choosing to kill people or make meth but the focus on what is more important: who you are or what you do.
I’ve decided I’m a Heisenberg. In my writing I care more about becoming a better craftsman as opposed to creating a masterpiece. I like finishing stories and books but at the end of the day I want to believe I’ve improved my skill.
While goal-oriented people are highly valued in the job market, there are two major pitfalls for someone who is obsessed with results. 1) When you are too focused on the finish line, the means by which you get there blurs and you may use unethical behavior and possibly take short cuts. 2) If you are going after a major goal, what do you do when you get there? If someone has a goal of running a marathon, the motivation to keep running might dwindle once they finish one.
For me it’s more important to master a process. Results are important. Otherwise how would you know if you’re becoming better at your process? I guess a person who’s truly successful at self realization is adept at focusing both on their skill as well as their accomplishments.
I’d rather be known as a good writer than a person who wrote a good book. I may never achieve either, but my pursuit will be the process.