Nameless joys

That particular experience—abundant warmth and dryness with dampness at the fringes, and a well-earned touch of fatigue—is exactly the same feeling I had as a kid every time I came in from playing in the snow. It still summons images of snowball fights, toboggan rides, and the ribbon of exposed grass you make when you roll up a snowman-ball.

~ David Cain from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/10/a-million-nameless-joys-await/

Anybody else feel like looking back at all the ones I can think of seems almost inappropriately decadent? The more I thought about it, the more I came up with, until I started to think, “maybe I should become monastic for at least a short while, since I seem to have been gorging myself on joy.”

haha no

More seriously, his idea of the intersection—a Venn diagram as he put it—of place, time, and culture leading to unique moments of joy, is a succinct description of what I love about traveling; I’m not trying to escape from “here,” but rather I’m trying to see what’s outside my normally tiny Venn diagram.

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Humility

The artist and the entrepreneur (and all of us on the soul-level) live in an uncertain world. Our trade is in ideas, but who can say where the next one is coming from—or even if there will be a next one?

There’s a wonderful quote from John Gardner or somebody that, alas, I can’t find. The bad paraphrase goes something like this: …

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2010/08/humility/

Yes, I left out the best part to make you click through to his site.

It seems there are three choices:

  1. be a braggadocios asshole, “I am the King of Awesome!”
  2. be faux humble, “little ‘ol me? …I’m nobody, I’ve not done anything.”
  3. be actually humble, “I’m in love with this idea, and I’ve over here quietly working on it.”

Of course, there’s an infinite range of coloring on those axis. But I think my point is clear. I spent a lot of time over in zone 1; that didn’t work out well (for me or anyone else.) I’m disqualified from zone 2; there are simply too many things I’ve done.

Which leads to the problem: Over in zone three, one would necessarily want to sacrifice everything else to nurture the idea. That way lies madness, I think.

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Nice things or echo chamber?

Every once in awhile, someone steps up and makes something better. Much better. When it happens, it’s up to us to stand up and notice it. Which means buying it and consuming it with the very same care that it was created with.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2018/01/why-we-dont-have-nice-things/

I love the sentiment. But I believe it’s actually a Catch-22.

If I create something better—as I believe I have with Movers Mindset—and no one is interested in buying it with the same care, that also means that—by definition—no one else values it the way I do. This leads to Seth’s often talked about “dip,” where one needs to push through the suck from the initial peak of the thrill of the great work, to the second peak of success.

Anyone care to guide me on navigating the dip? How long should I spend in the dip creating work which I think is great, but which no one else values? Face-to-face, people love the project, but yet, no one is interested. No one is buying in.

Constant struggle. Endless frustration. If I was able to stop doing the work, I’d have stopped long ago.

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Movers Mindset Three Words

In each of our podcasts, we ask guests to pick three words to define their practice. Choosing the three words to describe your practice has turned out to be a much more interesting and intriguing part of the conversation than we had initially anticipated.

The word practice, for example, goes beyond movement and often evokes broader images and ideas that reflect an approach to life. The idea that parkour and movement techniques in general are more than just physical has always been behind Movers Mindset. This is why we focus on ideas and reflection, for example, rather than on flashy videos of daring movement. The deeper dive into the mindset of movers is where the real magic happens.

We decided to do some introspection and pick three words that describe our practice. It was a challenge because reducing your practice to three words can seem like you are saying that the practice is nothing more than these three words, so you try to pick broad, powerful words to make sure you cover everything. Really, however, when you pick words that are too broad and too sweeping, you wind up not really saying anything specific that is unique to you. On the other hand, if you try to pick overly specific words, they may describe only one tiny part of your practice and give the impression that the scope of your focus is too narrow.

Picking three words is a challenge that we give to our guests, so it’s fair that we do it too. We found that capturing the essence of our practice in three words required a lot of introspection, and the act of choosing three words wound up being empowering. By going through the process, we now understand our practice more explicitly and are better prepared to describe it to other people. It’s not that we did not know the path we were following before, but now the path is clearer. It is easier to determine if a new project is consistent with our practice and vision, and this helps guide our choices in the overall direction of Movers Mindset. In general, we found the exercise to be challenging and highly worthwhile.  If you want the extra boost yourself, picking three words to describe your own practice is a good way to get started. It is a great way to discover things about yourself and about your relationship to the world.

This leads us to the first word, discovery. We wanted a word that involved starting with reality, with what we know about the world and about ourselves. We rejected observation because it is not active enough.  It has connotations of just sitting back and watching, listening, and taking the world in through your senses, but in a passive way.  We also did not want a word like imagination or invention as our starting point, because these involve creating things. 

Generations ago when Benjamin Franklin confronted that fearsomely powerful storm driven on by his even more powerful desire to know—a desire that pushed him beyond the limits of anything humans had ever done—he was driven by the urge to discover, the urge to take action to learn what it was and what made it work. Franklin discovered that lightning was a form of electricity, but Edison invented the lightbulb. Discovery always comes first. Franklin pushed past the millennia of fear, the millennia of cowering primitive people who saw lightning as the tool and province of the gods—never to be understood, grasped, or controlled by humans. He uncovered or discovered its secret. By learning what it was, he took the tool of the gods and made it his own. He was not the first to discover facts about electricity, but his actions symbolize the process and the principle: boldly looking at reality, uncovering its secrets, and moving them from the realm of mystery and superstition to our realm of understanding and science.

Discovery is an active process involving interacting or experimenting with reality. You may not discover that you are great at painting, cooking, or singing until you try and observe the results. Often you will discover that you need more practice or that you need to master specific skills and techniques. However, without action, you cannot discover your strengths to move you forward or discover any weaknesses to be overcome. Discovery involves the honest looking at reality and the identification and understanding of what reality tells you. Your opinions, wishes, feelings, do not matter at this stage.  What matters is that you observe to the best of your ability, that you experiment, and that you see—with as much honesty and focus as you can muster—all that reality has to offer.

Discovery is not the end of the game; it is only the beginning. The second step in the process leads us to our second word: reflection. Discovery means you have learned something about reality and yourself. What should you do with that information? What does it mean? What do you do next? The answer is that you must think about what you learned. Why didn’t we pick the word thinking instead of reflection? Thinking is too broad in meaning for our context. While we are big advocates of thinking in general and recognize it as the key to every successful human endeavor—without exception, our practice involves a particular type of thinking that is tied directly to reality and the facts we have uncovered about it. Reflection captures this meaning. A clear reflection in a mirror involves the accurate reproduction of reality.

As we think about things, we want to be careful that we do not go off course, that we do not imagine things that are not real or ignore things that are. We want to make sure that our thinking accurately reflects those facts about reality that we have discovered. Reflection is a type of careful thinking that takes each idea and connects it specifically to some fact about reality that we have discovered. There is nothing in your head to automatically guarantee that your thinking is correct. It is easy to go off course. It is easy to deceive yourself. It is easy to make the mistake that an early failure at a complex movement means that you will never master it. Reflection can protect you from such errors. If you fail in your first attempt, that is a fact, a part of reality that you cannot deny. So, the idea that you failed is valid; it corresponds to a fact you discovered. However, the idea that you will be bad at this every time you try is imaginary; you made it up. There is no discovery in reality, no fact in reality that corresponds to the notion that you will always fail. There is no reason to believe or to accept your imagined ideas when they do not reflect reality.

Reflection, then, is a type of self-check, a way of making sure that your ideas are validated by reality. Imagination can give you ideas about what you want to validate through discovery and reflection, but it leads to useful information only when the idea is tested. If you imagine you will always be bad at something, start testing your idea. Practice. Practice again and again. Discover if you get better or if you continue to be bad at it. Reflect on your progress honestly. If after a period of regular practice, you find that you still are no good at it, there is at least a possibility that you are right. Your conclusion has some support. But if you are much better now than you were when you started, that improvement supports the idea that you will eventually—with continued practice and diligence—get good at it.

Reflection also means holding a mirror up to yourself. Why do you like certain things? What makes you feel happy, successful, powerful or disappointed and sad? Why do you think you are good at something? How did you develop those skills? Reflecting on your strengths and understanding what worked for you previously helps you grow. Reflecting on the things that scare you and hold you back helps you develop the strengths you need to overcome those worries. When you reflect on your emotions, you discover ideas or premises that are the foundation of those emotions. This means you have the opportunity to reflect on those ideas and premises and test them against reality. Are they true or false? Do they correspond to reality or contradict it?

These two questions–Are your ideas true or false? Do your ideas correspond to reality or contradict it?–ask the same thing. Reality is the standard of right and wrong, of true and false. By actively reflecting about your ideas, your discoveries, your thoughts, and your feelings, you will eventually eliminate all contradictions from your entire life. You will reach a state where you see reality, and yourself in it, with full clarity and full understanding. The world has rules by which it behaves. Things act in a particular way. If you drop something, it falls. If you touch a fire, it hurts. If you act according to these rules, you will be successful. If you ignore the rules either by failing to discover them or by evasion, you fail. Acting in accordance with the rules of reality gives you a sense of self-confidence in your own ability. This leads us to our last word that captures this self-confidence: efficacy.

After practicing discovery and reflection again and again, you realize through experience that the world is knowable. You learn that you can discover it, learn its rules, and apply them successfully. You know that you have the power to validate your results along the way and correct any errors. Reflection gives you confidence that what you have discovered, is correct; your knowledge and conclusions are valid. Given enough time and effort, you know that you can reach any rational goal, understand any process, and check and refine your results thoroughly until you have the confidence of certainty. This mental state, where you know you can meet any challenge, learn anything, develop any skill, solve any problem is efficacy.

Efficacy is the power to produce a desired effect. Recognition of your own efficacy means that you have recognized your own potential for continued success and growth. Your choices of actions at this point are not based on concerns about current limits of your ability or understanding. Instead, your choices are guided by what skills, practices, and accomplishments will give you the most enjoyment, make your life better, increase your skills, or broaden your knowledge. Your experience in life changes from asking “What can I do?” to asking “What should I do to make my life the best it can be?”

The ancient Greeks had a word for this process of reaching your full potential: eudaimonia. We did not pick that as one of our three words, in part because it is even more obscure than efficacy, but eudaimonia was in the running. Aristotle wrote most extensively about eudaimonia, but it was important to many Greek philosophers. It is difficult to translate, because the concepts leading up to it are not yet widely understood in our culture. Few people today recognize that by understanding the rules of reality, validating them, and putting them into practice consistently, success is almost guaranteed—barring error or misfortune. Eudaimonia integrates these ideas into a process of living your best life. It is a continuous process of self-actualization where all the best conditions are in place: happiness, morality, meaning, purpose, the fulfilling of our special, unique potentials as humans. Efficacy is necessary to have the confidence to work toward eudaimonia.

We also picked efficacy over eudaimonia because to English speakers eudaimonia sounds like a final state like happiness. Eudaimonia is more than just a final condition. It is the process of human flourishing. It is the process of doing those things that best help you function well as a human being at the highest level. Our other two words, discovery and reflection are both active processes, and we want to focus on the active process of developing and recognizing efficacy.

Efficacy includes both being effective and recognizing that you are effective; it describes a self-aware competence in action. Eudaimonia is the goal, but recognizing and developing your own efficacy is how you get there and stay there. Efficacy empowers you to even greater achievements that expand your potential to ever higher levels.

Finally, Movers Mindset wanted three words that reflected our practice in terms of its essentials, but if those three words were adopted by others, they would still help them find the path to success. The words had to capture the ideas of action and thinking, doing and learning–the Mover and the Mindset. They had to wrap up our process and philosophy in a way that captures who we are and provides value to our audience. We think that discovery and reflection applied iteratively–again and again–building on previous knowledge and success leads to continued growth. Repeated experience with success leads to a recognition of efficacy where you understand that you have potential to be successful in almost anything.

Activities that involve continuous improvements are often described as mastery practices. Mastery practices involve continuous improvement through discovery, reflection, and active practice with full recognition of efficacy. While mastery practices range from focused practices like law, medicine, Parkour, Aikido, plumbing or carpentry, the most important mastery practice is living your own life to the fullest–reaching your full potential–eudaimonia. Since your full potential requires continuous improvement, it is important to develop the mindset–the set of ideas–that allows for this unceasing movement toward greater success and well-being. Discovery of this process, reflection to hone its accuracy, and development of efficacy are the steps that each individual must undertake independently.

Although your own path is unique, the principles involved are universal and can be learned from others. A goal of Movers Mindset is to bring these principles to light in an accessible way that encourages discovery and reflection while demonstrating and promoting efficacy in each individual. While you still have to walk the path on your own, under your own power and by your own effort, Movers Mindset hopes to make the path a little clearer.

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Sharpen the saw

It’s preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. … “Sharpen the saw” basically means expressing all four motivations. It means exercising all four dimensions of our nature, regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.

~ Stephen Covey

You can’t fool your body either

I also can’t fool my old friend Hormesis, and rust never sleeps.

Walk distances. Lift heavy things. Move in mysterious ways. (She does!) Ask your body to try something new. Remind your body to try something old.

Jerzy Gregorek said something—which I feel is profound—about, “your first body,” and your second body. I’m definitely understanding what he means these days. The first fifty, this thing was pretty responsive; Handled pretty good in the corners, stopped well in slippery conditions, got terrible mileage, but could haul firewood.

Now? …not so much. But that’s fun too.

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You can’t fool your mind

You can’t fool your mind.  It’s an expert on your current personal management system, and it knows whether you can be trusted to look at what you need to at the appropriate time.  It knows if you’ve decided what the next action should be. And it knows if there is a reminder of that action placed somewhere you will actually look, when you could possibly take that action. If you have not done any of that, your mind won’t let it go. It can’t. It will endlessly keep trying to remind you of what to remember. The mind is a loyal and dedicated servant, but it needs to be given the jobs it does well–not the ones that it mismanages.

~ David Allen, from Ready for Anything

…and yet I try all the time. Fortunately I’ve gotten much better at capturing my thoughts.

The important part, the hard part—one might even say, “the trick”—is to have regular and sufficient time to review all the things I’ve captured. Do I really want to read that book that piqued my interest? Do I really want to try that new recipe I found? Do I really want to go to the trouble of adding that new electric outlet in the dining room?

I see too many people with no way of capturing their thoughts, and I see very few people who have a habit of regularly assessing what they want to be doing.

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A happy body

I’m pushing 50 and the challenge of getting enough physical activity into the day is, well, a serious challenge. My biggest challenge though is my unhealthy relationship with food, and my self-imposed stress. But, I’ll set those later two aside for another day.

Today I want to talk about a neat little program by Jerzy Gregorek, (who’s known as the “Lion of Olympic weight lifting,”) called the Happy Body Program. I’d been toying with this program for over a year, before I got serious a couple months ago.

In his “Happy Body” book, Gregorek has a very direct and simple way of defining, measuring and working towards a happy body — meaning one that is basically fit — in the sense of fit for living. There’s a companion poster)—it’s pricey but rather useful to put the entire program up on your wall.

Every morning starts with me doing about 20 minutes of mobility work, followed by Tracy and I running through Happy Body. Currently, we’re working our way up in the number of circuits it calls for, but it’s easy to do and as quick as real work can be.

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The humble sand timer

Over the years I’ve experimented with many forms of time management. One that works well for me—and I’ve heard this from others—is to work in a mixture of Pomodoro sprints, combined with open-ended deep work sessions. Combined, I mean, in the same day; A some-of-this and some-of-that approach.

Unfortunately, Pomodoro sprints don’t work for me with a “hard” timer. I’ve tried various timing apps on my computer and phone, and I’ve tried a digital countdown timer on my desk. (This cube timer is a nice one.) But I always find the firm interruption frustrates me. No matter how polite or subtle the alert, I’m annoyed by the interruption.

The solution is the humble sand timer. (Here’s a nice set.) Standing quietly, it is unobtrusive. Eventually, it has run out—but it remains patiently waiting for me to stop working. “No rush to stop Craig, but when you find a good spot, it’s time to move to the next thing.”

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Synergize

What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part.

~ Stephen Covey