§20 – Three words

(Part 32 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The idea of selecting three words is an amazing tool. A few years back, Yann Hnautra spent significant time traveling in the United States teaching, but also trying to get a sense of what Art du Déplacement meant there, to those people practicing. Off to the side, at most of the events, someone (who was not Yann) took little cell phone videos where people were asked a series of questions. The idea was that he would be able to watch the videos to get a different viewpoint than he would when running events and training with people; Little moments of private candor as it were.

I was standing, being recorded, when I was introduced to this question. Something like, “how would you describe your practice in three words?” Honestly, I have no idea what I said—sometimes I think I should ask Yann to find my video, but I’m terrified to hear what I said even just those few years ago.

When I started the Movers Mindset podcast I wanted a way to give each episode a specific ending which would be recognizable to the listener, but which would give the guest a framework to wrap up what they had said in their own way. Many podcasts have a rapid-fire section of questions they go to at the end. But I felt that would completely change the pacing; Whatever the pace of the interview was by the end, shifting to a preset, rapid-fire pace would be a jarring change. At some point it occurred to me to ask them for three words to describe their practice.

As the podcast grew, and the guests’ backgrounds began to vary widely, the question proved to be even more powerful than I was at first aware. Ask someone who self-identifies as doing Parkour, FreeRunning or Art du Déplacement for “three words to describe your practice” and exactly what you expect to happen happens. But I soon learned that the word “practice” is itself a powerful tool. Ask someone who self-identifies first as operating a school, as a mother, or as a community leader, and the power of the question is multiplied by their having to select words and unpack “practice.”

In case you’re wondering, I do have three words these days, and of course they are Vincent’s…

force | dignite | partage

They are in French to remind me of the global scale, (of the practice, of people in general, all of it.) I have a wrist band with these words on it. It’s black and the words are black so they are difficult to notice; It’s a reminder for me, not a blaring advertisement.

Two final points: The other side of my wrist band reads, “maximum effort.” My favorite answer given by a podcast guest is, “break all the rules.”

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On splitting

Caution: seemingly disjointed thoughts ahead, followed by unifying insight.

I hope.

I’m pragmatic and rational with the usual dose of emotions thrown in, because, human. I also find that I too often ignore the messaging coming from my body and my brain. I sometimes get into deep work on something technical, and I have trouble knowing when I should stop. (Answer: A few hours in, at a place where I know what I should do next. Never work until stuck; Don’t stop there.) I push everything too far and then crash mentally, or even physically.

I’ve recently found I have Lyme disease. “Boooo!” But the treatment—at least, the initial treatment option—is a simple antibiotic called Doxycycline. “Yay, modern science!” Which I take twice per day on an empty stomache and it makes me pretty nauseous. “Booooo,” (more vociforously.) I usually eat dinner by 6:30pm, and the evening 8:30pm pill isn’t usually bad. But the 8:30am pill on a totally empty stomach is nausea-roulette about 40 minutes later.

Splitting is the name for all-or-nothing thinking: You’re either with me, or against me. This project is suceeding or failing. I am a sucess or a failure. Partly this comes from focusing on outcomes; I set lots of goals, and I set them high on purpose, so usually I don’t reach them. “Booooo,” combined with some splitting leads to, “I suck.”

In Stoic parlance, a “dispreferred indifferent” is something you do not prefer, and over which you have no control and are therefore indifferent to the outcome. (Stoicism crib notes: Almost everything is an “indifferent” since you fully control only your own thoughts.) Vomitting around 9am every day is definitely a DISpreferred indifferent. I can drink plenty of water, I can pay attention to my posture, (unexpectedly it drastically affects my stomach reaction,) I can avoid laying down, I can avoid getting up, etc. …and it’s still nausea-roulette.

I have had a superlatively enjoyable week since starting this medication.

Wait, what?

Seriously. Something about having this [actually quite minor] regular nausea thing seems to be treating my splitting thinking. “Oh, nice it’s time to work on this cool thing I want to see suceed!” “Oh, nice it seems to be time to vomit!” “Oh, nice that was just a wave of nausea!” “It’s really going to be hot outside today, but it’s cool on the patio for now. Nice!” “Oh, are we vomitting now? That’s nice too!” “Oh, I have an idea for something to do this afternoon. Nice!” It seems to have all just run together into this general state of, “nice!”

Ok, yeah, that may be pretty messed up. But, gotta go, it’s 8:30.

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Be kind to yourself

I just finished listening to an interview with Stephane Vigroux (see, 123, and 4) and one of his take-aways—the point he ended with actually—was that your parkour practice should make you happy. If I may unpack a bit: That you should be kind to yourself.

Stephane teaches a drill which has many variations, but is roughly to spend 30 minutes balancing on a rail. One finds something reasonable to balance on, like a simple railing or a low bar, where falling off has no consequences and where it’s easy to re-mount. When balancing, simply stand as still as you can. Switch legs and positions as you need to, but mostly, simply stand still and balance. If you fall off, simply get back on, and be kind to yourself for the duration.

Go do this drill. Seriously. If you cannot balance on a railing, scale the challenge down to fit your ability; Find a narrow wall, a curb, something the size of a shoebox, a bench—whatever, and alternate balancing on one foot at a time.

I’ve had the chance to train with Stephane a few times. Once, in Évry France (right in front of the Cathedral) a large group was being led by Williams Belle through a long sequence of ground movements. I had arrived at the event from another week-long event, in the middle of a summer after I had recently given up a year-long physical challenge that had my left shoulder with an aching weakness. It was only mid-morning and I was grinding my way through the physical training. There was a tremendous group spirit of support and encouragement, with everyone—absolutely everyone being pushed to their own personal limits. There was shouting and cheering and a good bit of laughing.

I could have continued. It’s possible that every other time I had ever done physical training I did continue. I had struggled through the, “this hurts I want to quit,” rationalization much earlier that morning. But for some reason, at some random moment, I stood up and walked off to the side where I sat down on an outdoor chair in the shade. At that moment, it felt right to choose to be kind to myself rather than persevere.

After a few minutes, Stephane also stopped, walked over, sat down in a neighboring chair, and asked how I was doing. It wasn’t an, “are you injured, why have you stopped?” visit. Just a friend dropping by to see how I was feeling.

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Society does not exist

Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.

~ Oscar Wilde

§19 – One word

(Part 31 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

What is it, in this sport or project, that moves me, motivates me, nourishes me—and helps me thrive and shine?

~ Vincent Thibault

What facilitates my flourishing? Today, I’m going to say it’s space.

Not physical space—although there’s a nice metaphor here about having things planted too closely in a garden and how that affects the plants’ flourishing. No, not physical space; I’ve plenty of that.

Perhaps not even mental space—I’m certainly buffeted about by the myriad winds of demands and responsibilities. But with very few exceptions, I’ve created all of those zephyrs. No, although I have left myself no mental space, I am able usually to create it on demand.

Most likely it’s emotional space. The idea that we need room to soak in the emotional experiences that go along with the reality of things, events, and people, and to do that with no specific “why” in mind.

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Incessant

I’m on a streak about my problems and weaknesses, and today I have another one: Incessant, incremental improvement. I need to learn that sometimes it’s best to leave well-enough alone. My drive for continuous improvement causes me problems in two ways.

First, not every conceived improvement turns out to be so in the end. It’s more like a random walk experiment; One step forward, one step forward, one step forward, two steps back! The setbacks stick in my craw and I get fixated on the thing I was tinkering with. I had good enough, better, ok wow, awesome… and the setback to ‘better’ just feels unbearable. My favorite though is the setback to now it’s totally broken.

Second, I expend huge amounts of mental effort and time looking for incremental improvements. I can take this quest to batshit-crazy levels. Sometimes I manage to see or experience something and not start thinking of ways to change it. Sometimes. It’s rare. There’s no peace nor serenity when your mind is always ticking looking for improvements.

As usual, more questions and observations than answers today.

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Dopamine

On the other hand, if you choose to work inside this messy metaphor, you get the thrill of finding a new path instead of merely following the old one.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2019/06/ahead-of-the-curve/

I was reading recently about ways to add pleasure and enjoyment by simply planning ahead for the more simple things one regularly does. For example, instead of just going out randomly for dinner, plan in the morning to go out for dinner at 6:15 this evening—even if it’s just to your regular, local spot. The anticipation of even a small, normally trivial and unconsidered act, will be pleasurable all day.

Which leads me to wondering about wether one of my problems is that I too often rush ahead. If I have an idea for a project, since I’ve a tremendous amount of freedom to choose what I do on a daily basis, there’s no reason (so my thinking goes,) that I shouldn’t just start on it right now. …and of course once I’ve started, I may as well sprint all the way through, and reveal my creation fully formed.

Except, there was no anticipation between the idea and the execution.

I already, intentionally do not act on a lot of ideas. (My motto for 2019 is, “no.”) But what if I intentionally begin to not act yet on my ideas to which I’ve said yes. If an idea is so great, it will certainly be there tomorrow. (I see now that there’s also an element of impulse control involved here.) Tomorrow—or next week—when I come back to the idea and find it still very interesting, then it might be time to schedule some time to work on it. Then let that sit for a few more days, and so on.

Some interesting food for thought. I’ll think about this some more tomorrow.

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Daily reminders

I learned then that even when I felt powerless to control my job or education — or anything else that seemed out of my hands — I always had control over my own mind and how I treated others. Even when I had nothing else, I could still be kind, just, generous, honest, loving and compassionate.

~ Susan Fowler, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/30/opinion/power-self-improvement.html

I find that I’ve often committed myself to an unmanageable number of responsibilities. There are so many things I have the personal power to do, that I seem to be compelled to constantly deploy my power. Worse, I feel guilty if I’m not constantly applying my power towards some goal. I end up with a forest of goals and a feeling of being trapped. Shortly after feeling trapped, I find myself sinking into the pits of dispair on the shore of the lake of learned helplessness.

One habit I’ve built to try to keep myself entirely away from that lake is a collection of daily reminders. Ever the process maniac, I have them in my personal task management system in a rotation that brings one up each day. There are enough of them that even though they are in a fixed order I never know which is next. Each feels like a fresh reminder. They are collected from Ben Franklin, Leo Babauta and some other places I’ve neglected to keep track of.

They are:

  1. AM I AN ENERGY-GIVER OR -TAKER?
  2. BECOME MINDFUL OF ATTACHMENTS THAT LEAD TO CLUTTER AND COMPLEXITY — For example, if you are attached to sentimental items, you won’t be able to let go of clutter. If you are attached to living a certain way, you will not be able to let go of a lot of stuff. If you are attached to doing a lot of activities and messaging everyone, your life will be complex.
  3. TEMPERANCE — Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  4. AM I LIKELY TO “ACT” OR “REACT” TO A TASK?
  5. SILENCE — Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  6. DISTRACTION, BUSYNESS AND CONSTANT SWITCHING ARE MENTAL HABITS — We don’t need any of these habits, but they build up over the years because they comfort us. We can live more simply by letting go of these mental habits. What would life be like without constant switching, distraction and busyness?
  7. ORDER — Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  8. AM I AUTHENTIC OR OBSEQUIOUS?
  9. SINGLE-TASK BY PUTTING YOUR LIFE IN FULL-SCREEN MODE — Imagine that everything you do — a work task, answering an email or message, washing a dish, reading an article — goes into full-screen mode, so that you don’t do or look at anything else. You just inhabit that task fully, and are fully present as you do it. What would your life be like? In my experience, it’s much less stressful when you work and live this way. Things get your full attention, and you do them much better. And you can even savor them.
  10. RESOLUTION — Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  11. HOW DO I TREAT SOMEONE I DON’T KNOW?
  12. FRUGALITY — Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  13. CREATE SPACE BETWEEN THINGS — Add padding to everything. Do half of what you imagine you can do. We tend to cram as much as possible into our days. And this becomes stressful, because we always underestimate how long things will take, and we forget about maintenance tasks like putting on clothes and brushing teeth and preparing meals. We never feel like we have enough time because we try to do too much. But what would it be like if we did less? What would it be like if we padded how long things took, so that we have the space to actually do them well, with full attention? What would it be like if we took a few minutes’ pause between tasks, to savor the accomplishment of the last task, to savor the space between things, to savor being alive?
  14. INDUSTRY — Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  15. IS THERE AN ELEMENT OF STRUGGLE IN MY HISTORY?
  16. MY OATH — Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I shall make no excuses and hold no grudges. I care not where I came from, only where I am going. I don’t compare myself to others, only to myself from yesterday. I shall not brag about successes nor complain about my struggles, but share my experiences and help my fellows. I know I impact those around me with my actions, and so I must move forward, every day. I acknowledge fear, doubt, and despair, but I do not let them defeat me.
  17. SINCERITY — Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  18. WHAT HAVE I BEEN READING?
  19. JUSTICE — Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  20. FIND JOY IN A FEW SIMPLE THINGS — For me, those include writing, reading/learning, walking and doing other active things, eating simple food, meditating, spending quality time with people I care about. Most of that doesn’t cost anything or require any possessions (especially if you use the library for books!). I’m not saying I have zero possessions, nor that I only do these few things. But to the extent that I remember the simple things I love doing, my life suddenly becomes simpler. When I remember, I can let go of everything else my mind has fixated on, and just find the simple joy of doing simple activities.
  21. MODERATION — Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  22. WOULD I WANT TO GO ON A LONG CAR RIDE WITH ME?
  23. GET CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT, AND SAY NO TO MORE THINGS — We are rarely very clear on what we want. When we see someone post a photo of something cool, we might all of a sudden get fixed on doing that too, and suddenly the course of our lives veer off in a new direction. Same thing if we read about something cool, or watch a video of a new destination or hobby. When someone invites us to something cool, we instantly want to say yes, because our minds love saying yes to everything, to all the shiny new toys. What if we became crystal clear on what we wanted in life? If we knew what we wanted to create, how we wanted to live … we could say yes to these things, and no to everything else. Saying no to more things would simplify our lives.
  24. CLEANLINESS — Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  25. AM I SELF-AWARE?
  26. TRANQUILLITY — Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  27. PRACTICE DOING NOTHING, EXQUISITELY — How often do we actually do nothing? OK, technically we’re always “doing something,” but you know what I mean — just sit there and do nothing. No need to plan, no need to read, no need to watch something, no need to do a chore or eat while you do nothing. Just don’t do anything. Don’t accomplish anything, don’t take care of anything. What happens is you will start to notice your brain’s habit of wanting to get something done — it will almost itch to do something. This exposes our mental habits, which is a good thing. However, keep doing nothing. Just sit for awhile, resisting the urge to do something. After some practice, you can get good at doing nothing. And this leads to the mental habit of contentment, gratitude without complaining.
  28. CHASTITY — Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  29. WHAT IS MY TALK-TO-LISTEN RATIO?
  30. WE CREATE OUR OWN STRUGGLES — All the stress, all the frustrations and disappointments, all the busyness and rushing … we create these with attachments in our heads. By letting go, we can relax and live more simply.
  31. HUMILITY — Imitate Socrates.

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Teach them

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The emperor has no clothes

These contrived notifications were the “Emperor wears no clothes” moment for me. It became obvious then that Facebook knows its users have better things to do, and quietly hopes they don’t notice how little they get out of it. It knows that most of the value it delivers is on the level of lab-rat food pellets: small, scheduled hits of gratification we’ve learned to expect many times a day.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2017/06/want-more-time-get-rid-of-the-easiest-way-to-spend-it/

I can tell you now there has been no change in the amount of human interaction since I left the last of the social networks.

Want to see how addicted you really are? Clear you home screen.

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