Stingy with positive reinforcement

Here’s something I’ve noticed about myself: If I read something great, I’ll sometimes write a short comment like “This was amazing, you’re the best!” Then I’ll stare at it for 10 seconds and decide that posting it would be lame and humiliating, so I delete it go about my day. But on the rare occasions that I read something that triggers me, I get a strong feeling that I have important insights. Assuming that I’m not uniquely broken in this way, it explains a lot.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/internet-writing/

I too have this tendency. In recent years I’ve been actively working on my own version of “See something. Say something.” as part of my changes to achieve results. My version is that nice things must be said out loud. No more sitting on the positive thoughts; Yes, I need to squish my incessant critical commentary. Dial that down, please. But I also need to practice letting out the good stuff too. Nice shirt. Smooth movement. This food is delicious. It’s so insanely comfortable here. Thank you for making this come together. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

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Grit

(Part 73 of 73 in series, My Journey)

Don’t let ease tempt you. Don’t fall for its false promises. What you gain in ease, you lose in meaning. What you gain in ease, you lose in excellence.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2022/07/08/follow-the-yellowbri-road-to-greatness/

This topic came up today in an outdoor Parkour class. Being outside, training, sweating, and overcoming challenges with friends old and new is always a treat. (“If this isn’t nice…“)

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Maybe I should walk back?

As autumn settles in where I am, I’ve been looking ahead to winter with longer nights, brisk days, etc.. I also looked back at the shape I’ve been in in years past. I’m not lamenting, “if only I had my youth back.” Rather, just thinking about health, movement, and what would be the minimum effective dosage of some exercise to move me in the direction I want. (That DuckDuckGo link should make you wonder why a medical-sounding phrase is used most relating to exercise not medicine, and strength training in particular.)

Sometimes—by which I mean any time running comes up—I say that running is both the best thing for me, and the form of activity I hate most. Both of which are untrue. What’s actually best for me is zone-2 aerobic exercise and that’s sometimes what I get when I run. It’s best for me, because that is the main driver of base fitness until you get well up into being a competent athlete. But usually, being quite over-weight at the moment, any running drives my heart-rate above the surprisingly low/slow zone-2. The second part about hating it is also untrue. It turns out that one time—the one single day apparently—that I was ever in shape, I enjoyed running. I was walking, the weather was beautiful, and I had an irresistible urge to run, (and so I did.) But, literally, that happened once.

Anyway. It’ll suffice to say: I spent a few weeks recently thinking about going full-on nerd with zone-2 training. To do it right requires planning, scheduling, and—sources vary—between 150 to 180 minutes exercising each week. And warm-up and cool-down time are not included in those weekly times. Honestly, the deal-breaker was I’m seriously pissed at FitBit, (and their watches are useless without a FitBit account,) and I refuse to spend many-hundreds on an Apple watch. Also, my $30 Timex is nicer, for my definition of “nicer.”

My thinking continued, and eventually I thought: I should just walk back from Mordor.

…except this time I’m not going to bother trying to track the actual mileage. Just walk as many days as I can. Listen to some podcasts some of the time. And basically just stroll along thinking, “If this isn’t nice…

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Last vestiges

It can be hard to say no. It means refusing someone, and often it means denying yourself instant gratification. The rewards of doing this are uncertain and less tangible. I call decisions like this “first-order negative, second-order positive.” Most people don’t take the time to think through the second-order effects of their choices. If they did, they’d realize that freedom comes from the ability to say no.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2018/04/break-the-chain/

I think the “slavery” [to things, to money, to “more”] metaphor is inappropriate, but philosophers from Epictetus and earlier have been using it, so it’s entrenched. “Freedom” is mentioned in the pull-quote, and the metaphor also appears in the article. None the less, it connects a few different ideas together and gives good guidance if you’re new to the ideas. (Or if you could use a wee refresher.)

For me, the last vestiges of the yearning—as Wu Hsin put it—is the yearning for experiences. I am quite often restless. I often joke: “I do not idle well.” In my series on parkour-travel I even mentioned the idea of, when spare time exists, move towards the next scheduled-thing, and kill time there. I believe this yearning springs from my bias to action. As a counter-practice, I like to pause—often seemingly randomly—to remind myself: If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

That phrase can get tossed around lightly, but there’s deep wisdom in it. Once I understand that this is in fact nice, right now, then when I realize that I wasn’t—just then, in the moment—feeling how nice it is… then the second part of the phrase has power: I don’t know what is. Put another way:

If I know what is nice, then this is.

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What actually is the problem

Every obstacle that we normally think of as a problem to be fixed … every “flaw” in ourselves or others that we judge as something to be fixed … what if we can pause, find stillness, and get curious instead of trying to fix?

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/explore/

Any day that Babauta gets me thinking is a good day. (If that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.) I’ve gotten pretty durn good at the “pause”, and the “find stillness”, parts. I also believe I have the “wait but why” curiosity bit figured out, since it has always been with me. It’s that “trying to fix” part upon which I’m perpetually stuck. And I get “particularly stuck”— “particularly stuck” aren’t the right words… if I could find the right words or word, I would use it instead. “Ensnared” is close. Or, have you ever gotten caught by a single thorn while out walking or hiking? That one thorn isn’t going to do too much damage if you stop quickly. In an instant, that one thorn becomes the laser focus of all of my attention. I really feel like I should be able to find the right word to fix that sentence.

Well, that’s curious.

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Inconsistent yet persistent

Tuline Kinaci is an all-around mover, a dancer, rock climber, traceusse and earned her degree in athletic training. In addition to her movement practices, Tuline is a certified authentic Tantra instructor, teaching holistic healing of body, mind, spirit and sex. Tuline considers herself a sex activist and is the founder of LoveCraft, a sexual coaching and empowerment collective.

Tantra was the obvious place to begin since we were surely going to end up talking about tantric sex. My fear was that most people’s—myself included—knowledge of Tantra would be something to do with the artist, Sting. We immediately agreed that leaving the world only knowing about “men in linen pants” would be a disservice. “Tantra means, literally, to weave light and sound with form, the light being visualizations of your chakras in your body, sound being chants that you’re making, and then the form being your body, your physical body. That’s it, in a nutshell. The way that often looks is meditating. The way a lot of people do that is they’ll meditate and then have sex; they’ll meditate during sex; they’ll meditate on their own without any sex. Yeah, that’s kind of that, which means nothing, right? It’s like a, ‘Cool, and then what?’ which is what got me into having a coach.” — ~ Tuline Kinaci from, ~4’40”

(more…)

How does one take notes…

…when the goal isn’t to end up with a pile of notes?

There are many scenarios where, over time, I do want to end up with a collection of notes. This is straight forward; start taking notes, and keep them somewhere. Bonus points if you review them, or use them as reference, or do anything with them.

But what if I have a scenario where I want to “do a better job” but I don’t care at all about the notes themselves. Suppose you have a regularly scheduled recurring meeting, but you don’t need a historical collection of notes. In fact, suppose you don’t actually need notes, but you think: It would be nice to know what we did last time, so we can follow-up next time.

And so I’m thinking this would be easy. I’ll just have a pile of notes (physical, digital, whatever) and I’ll go through them and … wait, what, actually? Recopy them? gag, that’s tedious. How many do I keep? How long do I keep the old ones? Here’s what I came up with…

I’m working in a single digital document. I have a heading, “Ongoing,” at the top that has the big things we currently have on our radar. The list has some dates with notes; “Oct 2020 — started that big project” and similar things.

Next I have a heading, “Jan 5, 2022” with the date of our next scheduled meeting. When that meeting arrives, I start by doing something very weird: I add “9876543210” on the line below the heading. Then I take simple bullet-point notes under that heading. “We discussed the foo bazzle widget needs defranishizing,” and similar items. Before our meeting ends, I add a heading for the date of the NEXT meeting, ABOVE this meeting’s heading. This pushes the heading and notes down the page a bit.

Then I continue reading. The heading just below this meeting’s, is the date of our last meeting. Just below the heading is “9876543210”, which I put there when we had that meeting. I delete the “9” from the front. I read my notes from the meeting. I may even edit them. Sometimes things that were obvious then, don’t seem so obvious a week later.

Then I continue reading. The next heading is the one from two meetings ago. Just below it is “876543210” — think about that, if it’s not obvious that last week, I read this part and already removed the “9”. So this week, I remove the “8.” Read the notes.

I work my way down each of the historical dates. Snipping a lead number, off the front of the line after each heading. 7. 6. 5. etc.

At the very end of the document, I find a heading that is from 11 meetings ago. Below the heading is “0” — because I’ve looked at these notes 9, 8, 7, 6, etc deleting a digit each time. These notes are now quite old. In fact, they should be irrelevant after 11 meetings. If they are not, I figure out what I have to add to “Ongoing” (the very topmost heading)… or perhaps I put a note under the coming meetings heading (just below “Ongoing”.)

It sounds wonky, but it’s magic. One digital document, you can skim the entire thing right in any of the meetings. You can search in the document. I can be sure I’m not forgetting things, but I can be sure I’m not making a huge collection of crap I’m never going to look at again.

Care to guess where that delete-a-digit each time comes from? It’s an idea from book printing. When they used to set type (physical lead type in trays) they would put “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10” (or other orderings of the numbers) in the cover plate. Then print the book. What printing? This one is “1” Next printing? …they’d just chip off the “1” and print “2 3 4 5…” in the book… second printing. They still print those weird sequences of digits in digitally printed books. I believe this one is a second edition, 3rd printing…

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Looking back

I’ve started thinking about a touch phrase for 2021. (2020’s was the superbly helpful, “Get less done.”) As part of the thinking, I was browsing the old blog, and wondered when I last missed a daily post. That turns out to be November 18, 2019. It’s simply a random day with nothing posted.

For a few weeks leading up to that 18th, there’s a post on each day. But October of 2019 is Swiss cheese—actually, it’s more hole than cheese. But early to mid 2019 things look mostly solidly-posted. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I also know that in the very beginning of this blog I wasn’t even intending to post daily; In the beginning it was just a place for me to put things that I felt I needed some place to put. Unsurprisingly, character by character this blog was built like a drifting sand dune. In 2021 this blog will turn 10. Hello World was posted on August 13, 2011. If I continue, and I see no reason to stop, post number 3,000 should appear in late December 2021.

I bring this up because this time of year is traditionally a time for wrapping things up, and striking out anew, perhaps with a fresh start or a new commitment, into the new year. meh. That never works for me. But you know what has been working well—year-round, not just during this completely arbitrary calendar roll-over point—

LOOK BACK!

Look back at some of the things you’ve accomplished or experienced and think: “Well if that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” Seriously. I’m not going to end this post on a, “but if you don’t like what you see…”. No.

Take some time during the arbitrary end-of-the-year machinations to look back and think:

Well if that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

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40 knots in the freezing Atlantic

The point is, you’re basically this walking, lumbering habit machine. And these habits — a.k.a. your identity — have been built up over the course of decades of living and breathing, laughing and loving, succeeding and failing, and through the years, they have built up a cruising speed of 40 knots or so in the freezing Atlantic. And if you want to change them — that is, change your identity, how you perceive yourself or how you adapt to the world — well you better slam that steering wheel to the side and be ready to hit a couple icebergs, because ships this big don’t turn so well.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/be-patient

I’ve been saying, “big ship, little rudder,” for a long time about my own attempts to change course. I’m certain I’m right about myself, but it’s reassuring to hear other people say they see this about themselves too. Wether or not Manson is your cup ‘o tea, it’s nice to hear things that confirm your assessment. “That looks like a shark, right? That’s a shark; we should get out of the water, right?”

The reason—not “one of the reasons”, but the actual, single, I’m-not-kidding, this is really why, reason—I tell the truth is that it helps other people form a good model of their world. Sound bonkers? …try this:

You know what it looks like, and/or sounds like, when a car is approaching along a roadway. You have a model of your world that, I hope, predicts that being struck by said car would be Very Bad. So you instinctively adjust your actions—get out of the way that is—when you see or hear a car approaching. That’s you using a model of reality; in this case a really good model that almost always works. Your model isn’t perfect: The driver could swerve to avoid you, and end up hitting you. In which case your model of the world has failed; you should have stood stationary, in the street to avoid being hit.

Where did you get that model?

What if I had arranged it so that every car you encountered as a child was driven by a confidant of mine. I had them all swerve to avoid you, and I taught you that cars will avoid you. You’d have a very different model! …and you’d agree I had done some SERIOUS lying to you!

Does my definition of True make sense now? I’ll say something if it will help you build a better model of the world. One can try this test on everything; it always works perfectly to tell you what is morally correct [in the context of speaking]. Anyway, I digress.

So I’ve been saying to myself, “big ship, small rudder,” and here I have an external bit of evidence from Manson that my model is correct. *shrugs* Sorry, this is what happens when you peek into my head.

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