Mar 22 • 9M

New Name!!

I'm making some changes to the platform. The podcast is no longer Cognitive Revolution. I'm calling it: Against Habit.

 
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Against Habit — essays by Cody Kommers.

I started my podcast two months before I began my PhD. That was August 2019: two and a half years ago. When I started it, I knew that I wanted to have a career in ideas. The motivation behind the show was to talk to people I looked up to about the decisions they made back when they were in my position. I wanted to know the things they were doing at my age that led them to where they are today. I’ve since done more than 85 episodes and had the opportunity to talk to many of my academic and intellectual heroes. It’s been a blast.

But now my PhD is almost done, and I’m looking toward the future. I don’t want to say I know everything about how to succeed as an academic or author. But to some extent, I did what I set out to do. I learned from the people I look up to most. I got to ask them about the choices they made during graduate school. Have I been able to uniformly apply these principles and insights? Not really. None of the people, for instance, had to deal with a worldwide pandemic during their PhD. Also, the academic career pipeline today is just different than it was twenty years ago, and wayyy different than it was fifty years ago.

Nonetheless, I feel like I got what I was going to get out of that project. It’s not that I’m uninterested in the personal stories of scientists and intellectuals now. I still believe that ideas are inextricable from the personal experiences of the people who have them. That’s one of the reasons why Cognitive Revolution was about the “personal side of the intellectual journey”. But going forward, this no longer feels like the dimension of greatest growth for me.

Partly, I’ve exhausted my list of heroes that I wanted to talk to. Sure, I can always find more, but eventually it’s like, okay, what’s the point?

Mostly, it’s just that I’m at a different stage now than I was when I started the podcast. It was a great vehicle of growth for me throughout the pandemic. In a way, it gave me the kind of academic advising I always wanted from my mentors but could never seem to get. At the highest points it made me feel connected to the wider academic community. At the lower points it served as evidence for why the whole academic endeavor isn’t worthwhile. Now I feel like I’ve grown as much as I’m going to from this approach.

If I’m going to continue doing this kind of work—podcasting, writing, that sort of thing—I need an approach that can grow with me from where I am now into where I want to be in the future.

And so I’m doing a complete overhaul of my podcasting and writing. In short, the goal is to establish the next level of clarity and specificity on the kind of topics I want to cover, and to distribute my writing and interviews in a way that reach the largest number of people interested in that topic. Call it a rebrand, fine. But it’s more than that. To me, it’s a signal of the intention to take my work to the next level; a rite of passage, like a graduation, to say that I’ve reached an important milestone and now it’s time to push myself to improve beyond where I’m currently at. My podcast until this point has been called Cognitive Revolution. It’s explored “the personal side of the intellectual journey.” My newsletter has been The New Kommers, and it’s explored whatever the fuck it occurs to me to talk about on any given week. Both of these will now be going by a new name.

I call it “Against Habit.”

The idea of being “against habit” is less a conclusion and more an approach. Our mainstream productivity wisdom tells us that the road to success is paved with optimal habits. If we can just instill our daily routines with good habits and divest ourselves of bad ones, then we’ll be happy, successful, and productive. I’m skeptical of this project. I think in our pursuit of frictionless productivity, we’ve missed some of the most important aspects of life. It’s this line of received wisdom that I want to push back on.

In my writing, I will be exploring what cognitive science research has to say about what habits are good for—and what they are not. The main thing here is that in the common discourse, there’s not really a concept for the opposite of a “habit.” Therefore, we’re able to talk about habits as if they’re this holy grail of efficient behavior without having a clear image of what to compare them to. In cognitive science, such a concept exists. I’ll be covering it at length in future posts. I think it can bring a lot more depth to the way we conceptualize the role of habits in our everyday life.

In my podcast, I will be talking to guests who can help me rethink my own entrenched habits—the good and the bad. These will be people who make me question the standard-operating-procedure of some aspect of my own life: whether it’s in work, romantic relationships, the pursuit of meaningful activity, listening to music, or even what I wear. I hope to talk to a lot of the same kinds of people I’ve been talking to for Cognitive Revolution; but I want to get into a whole different kind of subject matter.

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One of my driving principles in life is that the set of things I could potentially like is much larger than the set of things I currently do. So I’m constantly trying to find ways to make my experience of the world wider and deeper. To me, this is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be against habit: to think about our behavior not in terms of continuing to do what we’ve already done, but to find new ways of connecting with everything the world has to offer.

This is the dimension on which I want to grow going forward. I think “Against Habit” is the right premise to help me do it from.

So you can expect plenty of developments from me in the near future. Not just a new logo and that kind of stuff. But also a new approach to the material I’m producing. It’s not going to be a cut and dry swap. It’s not going to change overnight. There will be a transition between my current Cognitive Revolution content and the new stuff in line with Against Habit. I’m excited to share it with you. As always, thanks for your support. Stay tuned.