Just listening

It’s easy to get lost in the moment when another is speaking. So many things can spring to mind as our thoughts race to keep up with, and perhaps even to get ahead of, the speaker’s thinking. It seems so clearly truly that in order to have any chance to affect this other person, we have to get to the part where I get to start talking… But truly, step one is always to first be able to listen.

There is good reason to believe that high-quality listening can constructively influence a person’s attitudes about controversial issues. My previous work on listening suggests that when speakers experience high-quality listening, their attitudes often become less extreme and less prejudiced. Attitudes can also become more complex.

~ Guy Itzchakov from, https://psyche.co/ideas/why-listening-well-can-make-disagreements-less-damaging

Simply listening—good, active listening—can have a real effect on the speaker.

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If you can hold them

A while back I found this large essay about questions. I’ve been reading it repeatedly and found a number of interesting points (which will go on to become seeds for posts to Open + Curious.)

And questions are a tool you can use for that, as long as you’re able to hold them without immediately asking them (which shifts your focus onto answers). Leave the question in your mind as a thing to be figured out by your mind’s further interactions with the world.

~ Malcolm Ocean from, https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2017/08/10/questions-are-not-just-for-asking/

It struck me that the sense of wonder that I sometimes experience in a conversation may actually be exactly the same sense of wonder from childhood. Everything is possibility. Everywhere there is opportunity for learning. Everyone brings perspectives. All of which invites further interactions.

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Freerunning with George McGowan

George McGowan discusses his journey through Parkour and his philosophical approach to movement, sharing insights on achieving perfection through relentless practice and creativity.

I think that carried over into my style, and then as I progressed it just got more… I was more critical of myself. But it’s my style of training, and I want the line to be—in my eyes—perfect and if I’m happy with it, then that’s all that matters. And having the clip at the end is just a bonus to me.

~ George McGowan, (04:30)

Craig Constantine welcomes George McGowan, a Freerunning and Parkour enthusiast and filmmaker, to discuss his experiences and insights into the world of movement. Early in the conversation, they discuss a recent documentary featuring George, emphasizing the dedication and meticulous approach required to master Parkour moves. George elaborates on his collaboration with notable figures like Robbie Corbett and his participation in events like the USA Parkour Cup, highlighting how these experiences have fostered valuable relationships and opportunities in the Parkour community.

George shares his philosophy on training and Parkour lines, explaining that achieving perfection in his movements is paramount, a sentiment reflected in his rigorous practice routine as seen in the documentary. He talks about his preference for efficient and fluid movements over showy, disconnected tricks, underscoring his focus on the aesthetics and functionality of each sequence.

Additionally, George discusses the influence of his peers, particularly from his early days training in Belfast, on developing a perfectionist approach to Parkour. This mindset extends into how he visualizes and plans his movements, often laying in bed thinking about the next day’s potential lines and challenges.

Takeaways

Exploration of Parkour documentaries — the conversation opens with a discussion about a documentary that delves into the intricacies of Parkour, focusing on the commitment and precision required to excel in the sport.

Importance of collaboration and networking — highlights how relationships built through Parkour, such as with notable athletes and event participation, play a crucial role in expanding opportunities and experiences within the community.

Philosophy and approach to training — emphasizes a meticulous and perfection-oriented approach to Parkour, where each movement and line is critically analyzed and practiced extensively to achieve the desired perfection.

Influence of community and mentors — discusses the significant impact that local Parkour legends and peers have on a person’s training ethos, particularly how early influences can shape one’s technical skills and overall approach to the sport.

Visualization and mental preparation — sheds light on the mental aspect of Parkour, where visualizing movements and lines the night before training helps enhance performance and creativity.

Adaptation and evolution of practice — explores how one’s style and focus in Parkour may evolve, from performing high-impact moves to prioritizing efficiency and flow in movements as one matures in the sport.

Global Parkour community — touches on the desire to connect with Parkour practitioners worldwide, particularly from regions known for producing exceptionally skilled athletes, to learn and draw inspiration.

The joy and personal satisfaction of Parkour — conveys that beyond technical achievement, the personal joy and satisfaction derived from mastering challenging movements are the core motivations for engaging in Parkour.

Future aspirations and openness to new challenges — reflects on future goals, including the integration of other forms of movement and fitness into Parkour practice to maintain health, enjoyment, and overall well-being.

Resources

Meet the BOUNCIEST Freerunner on Earth — Recent documentary and training video with George McGowan, by JimmyTheGiant.

Robbie Corbett — Mentioned as a collaborator in the Parkour documentary, known for his involvement in the Parkour community.

USA Parkour Cup — An event where Parkour athletes compete, and where George McGowan had notable participation in 2022.

World Freerunning Parkour Federation (WFPF) — An organization involved in the promotion and structuring of Parkour and Freerunning worldwide. Mentioned as having invited George to participate in a documentary.

@georgepkay — George McGowan on Instagram

ADAPT Qualifications — A certification program for Parkour coaching, mentioned as a credential held by George McGowan.

Motus Project — YouTube search results for George and Motus Project videos.

International Parkour Federation — Contains some information and links on Iran’s parkour community and athletes, who George expressed a desire to train with and learn from.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Incredible

The linked post is an Apple-specific, nerdy deep dive related to technical details in recording. In the specifics it’s about people ripping on Apple for certain claims about something being “shot on iPhone.”

I much prefer the other way of looking at this same rig, which is that it is incredible that this entire professional workflow is being funneled through a tiny sensor on basically the same telephone I have in my pocket right now.

~ Nick Heer from, https://pxlnv.com/linklog/let-loose-lenses/

Heer is so spot-on here. Hear! Hear! I love this sentiment. When I take a moment to mentally zoom out, I’m knocked out by the incomprehensibly-advanced super-computers which are now everywhere. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

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Resistance

Opinions are strongly divided about Pressfield’s concept of Resistance. And yes, some days I do find myself over in the Resistance-is-bullshit encampment thinking: No, Resistance is not real. It is important and meaningful for me to be spending my time rearranging these deck chairs, polishing this silverware, sorting these shelved books, getting the edge of my lawn just so, tagging and organizing all these blog posts… And then, “Curse you, Resistance!!

For myself, I was years into the act of having a practice before I even thought about its efficacy as a strategy to overcome my own Resistance. Resistance was (and is) a given for me. It wakes up with me. I know I will have to face it every day, and I know it will never diminish or relent or go away.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2024/02/a-practice-and-resistance/

I’ve been looking for a word to replace “professional” in my regular usage. (Please hit reply if you’ve got one.) I’ve given up on changing how others perceive the words I say; People take professional to first refer to getting paid for one’s efforts. But by professional I mean—and this is the way Pressfield uses the word—competent, skilled, assured, and approaching mastery. Steve Martin is talking about that sort of professionalism, not about money, when he says, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Why do I care? Because with the concept of getting paid pushed aside, then professionalism can be used as a razor for cutting through resistance. I simply consider my practices (left for another day is the discussion of whether or not it works to have more than one practice) and ask the question: Would a professional do this?

Yes, a professional would take time off for this restorative activity. No, a professional would just ignore these deck chairs. Yes, a professional would spend 3 days writing software tooling so 10 years from now this stuff is still organized and useful. No, a professional would not stoop to that level. Yes, a professional would totally get this part pitch perfect.

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To write is human

I write here a great deal about journaling. It’s not lost on me that in a way, what I write here is a sort of journal. I began by creating small journals for specific trips where selecting the journal itself was part of the trip preparation. Soon I began using dedicated journals and started writing when I felt like it. The more I wrote, the more I appreciated the practice. I’m long convinced that the mind is for having ideas, not for holding them. In fact, often I use my journals to chase things out of my mind; get thee gone flittering woes and flocking shoulds!

Lately, I’ve been dipping into my personal archives – specifically, my old journals – to reacquaint myself with the person I was 20 years ago, doing remote fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic for eight weeks each summer. I’m writing a book, you see, about my experiences as a field scientist, and though my memories of that time seem strong, I’m still surprised by some of what appears in my journals. For example, I didn’t remember arriving in the field as early as I did one year, or the level of frustration I had when some of my equipment didn’t work. My journals bring these events back to me, in full colour and precise detail, allowing me to add lyrical descriptions and scenes to my book.

~ Sarah Boon from, https://psyche.co/ideas/learn-the-art-of-journaling-and-archive-your-life

One day—yes I could look it up—I sat down and figured out a way to be able to review all my handwritten journals based on the dates of the entries. (Relax, you can see there’s no wall of text coming. I’m not going to explain it.) Now, when I sit down to journal, I can flit back to any point. I don’t know how to explain how powerful that is. I know me best. Absolutely, 100%, no exaggeration, no wiggle room, the big lessons I’ve learned through my own hard work of listening(!), reflecting, journaling and reviewing said journaling.

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Meditation

If I were forced to choose—in some trolley-car, false dichotomy, morality scenario—whether to give up meditation or journaling, I’m pretty sure I’d give up journaling before meditation. Or at least, that’s the lie I’d tell you. One’s meditation practice will inevitably settle into some specific physical form. The stillness is one of the keys. I was once sat (in the “having something done to you” sense) in a particular position, in the vein of a particular tradition, and now after 25 years meditating there, that’s the position I will forever assume. Still, even now for me it’s an uncommon position, it’s an uncommon point of view, and it’s an uncommon intention. Frankly, in the beginning it was simply physical agony. Now, it doesn’t make sense to not do it. Which is right, then or now?

A lot of people said meditation is like jogging or like lying in the sun on the beach. This shows a huge misunderstanding about what meditation is. Meditation is a way to go within, all the way within to the deepest level of life, the transcendence, the absolute, the totality and reality, and experience that. The human being is built for it.

~ David Lynch from, https://the-talks.com/interview/david-lynch

The more I read, the more I’m certain that the “now” is right.

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The interlude

On a random rainy day, I sat in seiza on the concrete, barefoot, gazing into our back yard. Everything was uniformly 53 degrees as I sat down with a mug of steaming broth. I sat under cover of the patio, but open otherwise to the sound of light rain, the gurgle of water in the downspouts, and the occasional drafts of cool air. Previous sunny days, and the current inch of rain had create an entire world of verdant green before me. The world looks different when your eyes are closer to the ground. Time passed. Some light came in.

There, in the Zen-like supremacy of the moment, on the road and adrift in this world, the nicotine would enter my bloodstream and with a blissful rush of pure meaning God would declare Himself to me – just as He did to you, Dee, on your balcony, at 21.49, on that rainy evening in Rosario, Argentina. That five minute interlude, puffing on a cigarette, in the deranged chaos of our lives – you on your balcony and me in some alley in some foreign city – was, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, the crack where the light came in.

~ Nick Cave from, https://www.theredhandfiles.com/how-do-you-feel-about-god-really/

For countless eons, all of our kind have wondered about, sought firsthand and then shared, experiences of such interludes. Are they experiences of the divine? Self-hypnosis? Enlightenment? Semi-sleeping states? Spirituality? Meditation? …and does it actually matter what we each call them? I simply hope you have your own occasional interludes.

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Nobody

I’m a brooder. Ruminating on one’s problems can be good, if one is actually trying to understand the situation and is seeking solutions. But brooding, that’s just ruminating without the potential for change. Brooding is simply going around and around on the same old thoughts.

Nobody else needs to endure my negative thoughts.

~ Nate Dickson from, https://thoughts.natedickson.com/the-life-changing-power-of-shutting-up

It’s not enough to simply shut up. One also has to change one’s thinking.

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Slow down

Lately, I’ve been going too fast. Which is odd, because I don’t generally walk fast, or drive fast… and sure, I can talk fast, but not always. But my thoughts go too fast. I go from one thing to the next too quickly. There’s simply too much of: I do this, then I do that, then I can go do that other thing, and then this next thing, and then…

Short answer: Interdependence.

~ Cierra Martin from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/what-we-can-learn-from-a-village-postman/

Another thing we can learn from a village postman is to do one thing, and do it well. That village postman didn’t also run the general store and the post office itself and the grocery and the church and …

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Constraints

There are two roads to my destination: Addition or subtraction. If I imagine something I want to achieve, my habit and instinct is to imagine what I’m going to do to get there. That’s the additive approach. But sometimes it would be easier—in fact, sometimes it is only possible—to get there by removing impediments.

I love that question to ask yourself when you’re troubleshooting failed attempts at personal change: Why am I not doing this thing already?

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/character/habits/why-arent-you-doing-it-already/

It’s quite startling, but that question works. Always. (And that question is closely related to: It is not a priority.)

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Recognizing

There is a phrase I like to trot out: “Any day at the crag.” And you need two details for this to make sense: First, that a crag is any outdoors place where one goes to climb rocks. Second, the part left unsaid is that any day at the crag is better than any other day. Thus, any day at the crag. Yes, despite the litany of things that normal people would list as negatives at the crag.

To be clear, by “appreciate” I don’t mean “enjoy” exactly, although you might also enjoy the experience. I mean “recognizing the unique or worthy qualities” of the experience itself: the texture of it, the aesthetics of it, the heft of it, the heat of it, the poetry of it, the poignancy of it — whatever strikes your sensibilities when you pay attention to what’s happening.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2023/12/appreciate-what-happens-as-a-rule/

And yet, despite that litany, the density of “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” moments is much higher, any day at the crag. Dappled sunlight. A cool breeze in the shade. A view. Friends. Food tastes better. Sleep is less troubled. You don’t have to climb (or go to a crag), but you do have to find your something.

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What systems are in place?

Finish this sentence: I am the sort of person who…

Here’s a different way to look at it, one that we can broaden into an insight about adult decisions about where to work, where to live, who to hang out with. There are two parts:

Are the people this place attracts the sort of people I want to spend time with and become more like?

Is the system that is in place here one that pushes and cajoles and processes people to become more like the kind of person I’d like to be?

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2023/12/on-choosing-a-college/

Not everything needs to be planned out, pre-visualized, processified, done-defined, and OODA looped. However, having mastered those things, it is massively empowering when things go sideways, off the rails, and get set back. Having mastered those things, I know I can always begin anew a slow upward spiral.

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We create the decision

The following is a very short blog post. The idea that struck me is that how true it is (!) that we create the decision. Each decision (the root of the word, but also clearly what happens when we decide) represents our choosing to cut off—to amputate—some thing or things as we create new or renewed focus on some other thing.

This is especially true of the most difficult decisions—the ones where you are taking a risk and simply can’t predict the many ways in which it will play out. A useful perspective for the anxiety-ridden late night hours those decisions tend to inspire.

~ Mandy Brown from, https://aworkinglibrary.com/writing/making-decisions

Truly, I’ve only had to make a handful of actual decisions. And they were really stressful. Right up until the moment when I actually, finally, made a decision. I can’t recall a single time where the post-decision stress or worry was anything at all like the pre-decision stress or worry. It’s almost as if I am the one creating all the stress and worry within myself.

And to be clear: That’s snark. Obviously, I’m the once creating the stress and worry. How about you? Anything you should be deciding so you can relax and move forward?

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Playing at the edge

I’m endlessly fascinated with mastery practices. I might, on occasion, go so far as to say that the purpose of life is to pursue some mastery practice or another.

If you learn to play at your edge, you learn to stop shying away from discomfort. You grow and learn in new ways. And you develop a confidence in yourself that is hard to do when you stay in your comfort zone.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/edge-practice/

Where is your discomfort zone? Are you avoiding that for a reason? Have you truly explored near that edge?

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The joy of discovery

I have always loved book stores. All types. All sizes. All manner of [dis]organization. When I was young, each store represented a hoard of tomes I could not even dream of possessing. How many books would I have bought? …how much money do you have? Literally. The books I did have then became valuable to me. They were precious because I had chosen them for purchase with various allotments I received; Or they were gifted to me making them both surprising and precious. To this day: Mmmmmmmm, bookstores.

Each store has its own way of embracing you, embracing the reader, and creating a sense of the universe expanding. For anybody curious and interested in printed matter, the more bookstores you go into, the more you’ll realize how many different ways there are to be curious. That helps us set a foundation to be more knowledgeable about the world we inhabit. The practical and the sheer joy of it.

~ Paul Yamazaki from, https://lithub.com/paul-yamazaki-on-the-important-joyous-work-of-running-an-independent-bookstore/

In more recent years, resources have become available. These days, each time I wander into a bookstore I think: Once—just once—I’m going to clear the rest of my day, and spend it all here in this bookstore, and I’m going to buy every single book that i want. Just to see what that feels like.

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