Jesse’s McNugget of wisdom for today. This is coming from my academic work and is highly theoretical, so bear with me. My “pedagogy of performance” argues that learning is a process of performance; that we are all performers and we perform every day in our lives. Teaching and learning and growth aren’t really relevant concepts. Instead of the acquisition of knowledge, learning can be thought of as a process of an individual getting better at interacting with their environment, like a performer becomes more effective at affecting their audience through experience, through repeated encounters with audiences. We don’t need passive repositories of knowledge walking around, we need people who positively affect the world around them in whatever they do. 

I borrow an idea from biological systems theory. Every system, every ecosystem, every organism, every cell, effectively “learns” to get better at interacting productively with its environment through one important process. This process, I argue, applies just as powerfully to people, artists, artistic projects, the creative process, even the evolution of societies. It does not require intelligent design, it does not require setting goals, and it does not require knowledge or even forethought. After all, tiny cells (and even viruses) don’t have brains and yet “become better” (in a scary way) at interacting with their environment and making an impact on the world. This is the “magical and miraculous” process called AUTOPOIESIS (self-production). 

Photo by Daniel Torobekov on

Autopoietic systems (and you are one or could be one) are operatively closed (they “do their own thing,” minding their own business, and just keep going without changing who they are), but they are also interactionally open (they let themselves adjust to their outside world only as necessary). They are conservative in that they keep what works, and make changes only in response to hindrances that arise. 

Autopoietic systems evolve and even propel themselves toward excellence not by setting lofty goals, but by following two simple rules: keep doing what works, and apply the SMALLEST, LEAST amount of effort required to adapt to problems as they occur in front of you. Only change as much as you’re required to carry on THAT moment. Don’t think past the moment. 

Photo by Gustavo Tabosa on

We humans are lucky; we can rely on affect (feelings/internal states) to make sense of our environment. As I said in a previous post, don’t set goals, but just chase feelings. If I want to become a better dancer or writer, I have to simply chase the feeling of being a dancer or writer. And I do that by dancing and by writing. I keep dancing and writing, and I don’t worry about achieving anything except that at every moment, when I encounter difficulty in “feeling like” a dancer, I make the smallest adaptation necessary to feel like it. I do the easiest thing possible to feel back on track again.

So If, for example, my splits today are slightly more perfect than yesterday, I feel like a better dancer. I win that day. These small adaptations compound and lead to exponential growth. The world is your teacher; be open to making the slightest adjustment possible to overcome hindrances. And keep going.

Autopoiesis: We create ourselves.