The dilemma is this: should I pursue theory and scientific enquiry, or down-to-earth productivity and the path of business ventures? The difficulty is subtle; one might even ask why to bother. A similar dilemma troubled one of the greatest Roman emperors too: read the philosophy books or ride to the border of the empire and fight the enemies?
In the last decade, the philosophy of stoicism has got a real revival in the mainstream texts. One could argue that it became the basis for a whole new wave in the self-help industry. However, I'll leave that discussion for another time. I just wanted to point out that I am well aware of the issue, and will leave here a quote from the ultimate source, Epictetus' Handbook, where he says:
When someone acts grand because he understands and can expound the works of Chrysippus, say to yourself, "If Chrysippus had not written unclearly, this man would have nothing to be proud of."
... Instead, when someone says to me, "Read me some Chrysippus," I turn red when I cannot exhibit actions that are similar to his words and in harmony with them.
I was re-reading Meditations of Marcus Aurelius the other day, and I was again impressed by how some of the issues are still accurate today. For instance, my new obsession is reading philosophy of science: Popper, Kuhn and the like. It's a vast and significant topic. But on the other hand, I have WORK TO DO. It was then when Marcus slapped me in the face with the following quotes, and when I realised, I'm just procrastinating. Procrastinating uniquely, but still procrastinating.
Here's a section 2.2 from his notes:
Whatever this is that I am, it is flesh and a little spirit and intelligence. Throw away your books; stop letting yourself be distracted. That is not allowed. Instead, as if you were dying right now, despise your flesh. A mess of blood, pieces of bone, a woven tangle of nerves, veins, arteries. ...
... The world is maintained by change—in the elements and in the things they compose. That should be enough for you; treat it as an axiom. Discard your thirst for books, so that you won't die in bitterness, but in cheerfulness and truth, grateful to the gods from the bottom of your heart.
Stop drifting. You're not going to re-read your Brief Comments, your Deeds of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the commonplace books you saved for your old age. Sprint for the finish. Write off your hopes, and if your well-being matters to you, be your own saviour while you can.
No time for reading. For controlling your arrogance, yes. For overcoming pain and pleasure, yes. For outgrowing ambition, yes. For not feeling anger at stupid and unpleasant people—even for caring about them—for that, yes.
To make that business worth at least hundreds of thousands, you need to commit yourself to it. It takes years of hard work to achieve that, and while you can't be 100% certain that you will succeed, one must agree that the first condition to even entertain the thought of success is to put in some work in the enterprise which is about to succeed.
Now, one might ask what the dilemma is in the first place? Just sit, solve problems, exercise, eat healthily, solve some more problems, and there you are, on the brink of business success.
The thing is, that, for whatever reason, I am now more inclined to think more fundamentally about life, business, humans, cosmos, science, or whatever topic you might think about. I even think about football that way - I ask questions such as why is there this game we call football, will the football last for as long as the humans are alive or will we abandon it for some other kind of entertainment? Is there something intrinsic to human nature in football/soccer and related sports?
Then the question goes to what is human nature, et cetera, et cetera.
It's not the questions that are particularly bad; it's that asking that kind of questions is not productive when you work on a startup.
One needs to stop at some level, and stop going deep, but instead start working horizontally, asking more practical questions and start exploring more practical problems.
One should assume that the ground below its feet is firm, and start to walk. Because if you delve and delve deeper, you will never be able to walk, you will never be ready to go anywhere.
Keep your eyes on the ground, dig only when you hear the bleep of the inconsistency detector, and come up to the surface to share what you have found in this thing we call the reality.