The Eudaimonia Machine

In his book Deep Work, a meditation on focus in an age of distraction, Cal Newport introduces the dream of a Eudaimonia Machine–an architectural concept of Professor David Dewane’s meant to bring an idea from kernel to fruition by dint of physical procession through five staged areas in a one-floor office plan.  

Eudaimonia in the Greek translates roughly to ‘human flourishing or prosperity,’ and the underpinning of Dewane’s machine is its challenge to the user: take your idea through its five rooms:
*Gallery (Inspiration: Display of Completed Projects)
*Salon (Collaboration: Work Through and Debate the Beginnings of Your Ideas)
*Library (Information: Access the research you need)
*Office Space (Busy Work: Get the architecture of your project out onto paper)
*Chambers (Deep Work: Full focus to flesh out your project and bring it to completion)

and you will have walked yourself to the edges of your capabilities.

In this way, the Eudaimonia machine is both a production and a teaching tool.  As you move your project along its timeline, you learn something quite valuable: that deep work and an exploration of your own capabilities can be truly exhilarating.  You realize, perhaps for the first time in a very long time, that work can be its own reward.

Reading about Dewane’s machine, I couldn’t help thinking that a well-ordered workout might be similar in concept.  We walk into the gym and are reminded of possibility: we see names, achievements, and bright spots on the whiteboard.  Perhaps we are greeted by folks from the class that’s just finished; we see their smiles and sweat angels.

During our warmup and skill work we talk and collaborate with our classmates and coach.  We begin to get the feel of how the hour will go. We stand in front of the whiteboard to go over that day’s instructions and class notes–this is the information we will need as we go about our business.

Our office space is the lifting area and our writing tools are the barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells.  Because our strength work is ordered and regimented, we buzz about the lifting area like worker bees, hitting our sets and reps and laying the foundation for our project.

After we lift, we condition.  Out on the mats, we are each in our chambers–together but alone.  Here is where we explore something deep, something primal, and something human: what are we capable of, and how do we push that rock a little bit further every day.

We always tell our new athletes that a good workout should leave you feeling like you’ve done something hard and done something well, and really that you’ve learned something new about yourself.  Eudaimonia doesn’t fit very well on a t-shirt, but the concept is similar: there is tremendous, life-affirming value in the exploration and celebration of human movement and progress towards an ideal.

You move, you achieve, and you teach yourself that you can get even better.  That’s beauty.

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