In medieval times, cathedral builders could start a project and never see the end of it during their lifetime.
Majestic cathedrals were built across multiple generations.
It wasn’t rare to see a project spanning over 200 or 300 years until completion!
In this day and age, we tend to have a high time preference, which means that we focus on short term returns. We prefer not to postpone the satisfaction of our goals and desires.
The issue with this mindset is that it hinders the creation of long lasting value, which requires time and sustained efforts.
Cathedral Thinking is the opposite of our relentless craving for immediate satisfaction. It’s a mindset which requires patience and vision, two values usually associated with craftsmanship.
Cathedral thinkers are ready to sacrifice their instant well-being to build a better world for the next generations.
It’s a way of thinking which cruelly lacks in most aspects of modern life: in the way we approach personal relationships, business or politics. Couples tend to break up when the first tensions arise, business leaders are subject to the pressure of their quarterly results and politicians are mainly driven by their re-election agenda. Few people project themselves into a distant future. Even fewer act in the interests of posterity.
Tackling the biggest challenges of our civilization requires cathedral thinking. Climate change, AI risks, health safety, wealth distribution and other similar topics can’t be properly addressed with a short-sighted mindset.
We need to rediscover the virtues of deep work and deferred gratification.