What versus how

When you find yourself stuck on some decision, figure out if you are stuck on the ‘what’ or the ‘how’. Every situation is different, but here are some examples:

Thinking about marriage: You’re likely to be stuck on the ‘what’. Should I get married? Should I marry this person? You’re stuck on what should I do. If you decide to get married, it’s quite simple. You probably need a marriage license and a simple legal ceremony. The how you get married is almost always very easy.

Thinking about quitting college: You’re likely to be stuck on the ‘what’. Should I quit? Should I continue? How you quit is very easy; go to the Registrar’s office, and they’ll give you a form. (Actually, you could simply walk away and they’ll do the quitting for you.)

Thinking about changing jobs: You’re likely stuck on the ‘how’. I don’t like this job; I’d like that other career. Straightforward what I should do. But how do I do that? Existing family commitments, monetary support, contracts with your employer… So how you change jobs is hard.

Side hustles: I want to start a side-project working on my passion. How do I do that in my spare time? How do I create a business? How do I find some funding. Again, the what is easy and the how is hard.

It isn’t that being stuck on one versus the other is better or worse. But figuring out which you are stuck on—hopefully it’s one and not both—will clarify your thinking and will show you the type of help you should seek.

I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it.

I don’t know what I want to do, but I know how to do it.

When you’re stuck, figure out where your “don’t” lies. Then figure out who you can ask for guidance to help you remove your “don’t” so you’re left with:

I know what I want to do, and I know how to do it.

ɕ

§25 – Fun days

(Part 37 of 37 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Chapter 25, starts with, “You are feeling crappy.” Why, yes. Yes I am.

I know how to train hard. I know how to play and have fun. I have complete freedom in what I do with my days. Complete. There is not a single responsibility I have which I have not freely chosen to take on; freely chosen in both the sense that I was under no obligation to choose it, and that I felt it was a worthwhile responsibilit to take on. Sometimes I train, sometimes I play. This shit? I’ve got this shit figured out.

Problem: If I’m having fun, afterwards I feel guilty because the things I’m responsible for are not getting done. Always. Every time. It’s a disease of the mind that undercuts everthing I ever manage to accomplish. There’s no point telling me that this thinking/guilt is wrong; I am well aware. There’s no point trying to help me get things done. (It’s not possible to finish everything.) There’s no point telling me to relax/unwind/have-fun. (That’s the space where the problem rears it’s ugly head.)

The only solution— scratch that. The only progress I’ve made is to give up on things. (For example, years ago I gave up on reading science-fiction. I gave away stacks of books and I only look back occassionally to doublecheck that I don’t miss it.) I just keep hacking and slashing and saying “no” to as many things as I can.

I’m hoping some day to be able to enjoy life, without the guilt.

ɕ

The arbiter of truth

What is the arbiter of truth? Some things might be unknowable, and some questions might be unanswerable. But for everything else, what is the arbiter of truth?

The really big questions— Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? The really big questions may not have answers. But for everything else, what is the arbiter of truth?

How do you decide if you have the correct answer to a question?

How do you decide what to do next? You just finished something and time is marching on; what will you do with the next moment?

How do you decide what to not do? Suppose some topic interests you; how do you decide how much time you should spend on it?

Difficult questions, certainly. Can you think of any questions which are more important than these?

If not, what are you doing to work on finding answers to these questions?

ɕ

Retreat and reflection

In this place, you remove yourself from the busy world and find space for quiet. For reflection. For contemplation, setting intentions, reviewing how things have gone. For gratitude and appreciation for life.

You might meditate, relax, read, journal. You might take a walk in nature, or find solitude. You might just mindfully enjoy the space.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/december-retreat/

What I like about this prompting from Babauta is that it’s about creating space for retreat and reflection; it’s not about necessarily going to some specific, special place. I’ve spent several years arranging and rearranging my life to create space for retreat and reflection in my daily life. It’s not easy. It hasn’t been easy. …on me or on those around me. I had gotten to the place I was gradually by taking small steps, day after day, in the wrong direction. So turning around was difficult, and beginning to walk back was close to impossible.

But it was possible. It is possible.

Do you have 5 minutes every day where you can retreat and reflect? If you don’t, try it for a few days. Set aside a specific time and work to arrange your life (including the people in your life) to make that small space sacred.

ɕ

Self-improvement

If you’re the sort of person for whom success in life means stepping outside the comfort zone that your parents and high school counselor charted out for you, if you’re willing to explore spaces of consciousness and relationships that other people warn you about, if you compare yourself only to who you were yesterday and not to who someone else is today…

~ Jacobian from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/8xLtE3BwgegJ7WBbf/is-rationalist-self-improvement-real

Wait. Wat?! Some people think self-improvement isn’t real?

I mean, if you are not using your rational faculties to improve yourself… Honestly, that’s redundant; How could one improve oneself without using rationality? I suppose one could just make random changes, (which seems to be what a lot of people do,) but as soon as you observe and reflect, then you are engaging your rationality. To be human is to be all the things the animals are, and to have the ability to be—to various degrees at various times—rational.

There’s a reason I really like the three words: Observation. Reflection. Efficacy.

ɕ

Being a listener

It feels different to be a true listener. You fall into a different brain state—calmer, because you have no stray thoughts blooming in your head—but intensely alert to what the other person is saying. You lose track of time because you are actively following the point the other person has brought up, trying to comprehend what she means and if it relates to other points she’s brought up. Your brain may jump to conclusions, but you’re continually recognizing when that happens, letting it go, and getting a better grip on what the speaker really intends to communicate.

~ Indi Young from, https://alistapart.com/article/a-new-way-to-listen/

This agrees with my experience conducting interviews for the podcast. I’ve now spent several hundred hours intentionally practicing listening. I’ve learned a lot of different things in the process of interviewing and creating a podcast, but what I’ve learned about listening has proven by far the most valuable. Learning how to listen changes every interaction with another person.

Occasionally I wonder if I can sort out some small set of actionable advice from my experience thus far. I haven’t been able to yet, and I think it’s because the act of being able to objectively review your interactions is necessary. It’s one thing to have a conversation, but when it’s recorded and you can return later to review what you said, and what you thought you heard, that’s mind-altering.

ɕ

Nobody cares

More specifically it’s, “Nobody cares. Do it yourself.” This is a terrific splash of cold water from Jason Korman, (or maybe it was Hugh Macleod?)

I interpret this not as a pessimistic, “people suck.” But rather, a catalyst to, “simply start.”

Nobody cares in the same way one cares about one’s own projects and ideas. Obviously nobody cares like that! But why do we—ok fine yes I’m projecting my behavior onto you… Why do we look outward for the external validation? Certainly, the real world is the ultimate arbiter of truth. (As opposed to one’s thoughts.) But no amount of external data is going to create or destroy your true passion. If you have a project that you cannot put down because you’re passionate about it to the extent that it consumes your life, then whether or not you have external validation is irrelevant.

Do the thing. Make the art. It doesn’t matter that nobody cares. Do it yourself.

ɕ

Getting less done

I believe I’ve mentioned that my touch-stone motto for 2020 is, “Get less done.” I’ve been working on this. I’ve been setting smaller daily goals, and I’ve been keeping the “today I should…” list shorter.

Yesterday was a curveball. Didn’t feel well the night before… very little sleep, spent some time napping on the bathroom floor, etc. Nothing serious, nothing major, just… a curveball. So Saturday was a crazy-slow start. …later than normal start. …maybe I’ll just read a little before I even stretch. …maybe I’ll do my little exercise route later. …there are a couple things I need to prepare for a small car trip, but I’ll just do them quickly, rather than my usual thoroughly. …maybe I’ll skip this. …maybe I’ll do that later.

It’s not yet my usual bed time, and I’m stumble down tired. But I’ve gotten more done today than— well, it’s like one of the most productive days in ages. What’s up with that? Was it the slow-and-steady pace that led to all-day success? Was it the complete lack of any real goals for the day; and then, well I did that one thing, so I guess I can do this next thing…

“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.

ɕ

Is it a process?

Not everything is a process, but much of what you do each day is a process. How much of what you do each day is a process, but you don’t realize it is? Because you’re wasting your life in that gap.

Two examples to illuminate my thinking, then you’re on your own:

Groceries. You know there’s a process for this. Get in car. Travel to store(s). Move through store in the usual pattern. Select things. Pay and leave. Travel home. Exit car. Move purchases into domicile and put them away.

Laundry. Move dirty clothing to the washing machine. Load machine with clothes and detergent. Start machine. Return later. Flip laundry to drier or to hang-dry. Return later. Fold or organize clean laundry. Return clothing to domicile storage.

Every detail of those processes will be different for each of us. You know your exact process very well, and you could tell me your process, just as I’ve done above. But these processes are actually closed loops which you are going to repeat a huge number of times. I could append, “Wear clothes. Repeat.” to the laundry process, and I could add, “Consume food. Repeat.” to the grocery process.

You know you can optimize things, but the entire process can be optimized—should be optimized. If it’s a process, you’re doing it by rote. (Yes, you can focus on what you’re doing and enjoy it. But you’re not doing anything creative.) So optimize the entire process. Is a car the optimal way to go get your groceries? Where do you keep the grocery list? How do things get put onto that list? Where do groceries etc. get stored in your domicile? How do you prepare and plan meals to use the groceries? Where do you store your dirty laundry? Where do you store “wear this again” clothing? How do you store and rotate seasonally changing clothes? How do you replace items that wear out? If it’s a process, you can optimize it and then you can spend less time on it.

Groceries and laundry are simply my examples. What other things do you do in your life that are processes which you haven’t considered at all? If you thought about them, and organized and optimized the process, how much time would it save you? Aren’t you always wishing you had more time? How much better would your mind work if it wasn’t trying to remember, and struggle through poorly-designed, (or worse, figured out on-the-fly each time,) processes?

What could you do with all that extra time?

Could you use that free time for things in your life that are not processes? Read a book… Spend a day relaxing on a beach… Have dinner with a friend…

To me, “life balance” is about how much time I spend on things which are processes versus things which are not processes.

ɕ

Check yourself

But in order to be to be self-aware, first one needs a self to be aware of.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/12/05/check-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself/

I see what you did there, Hugh. But aside from the clever word play, there’s an obvious level to “having a self.” Everyone certainly has a self, so this just seems banal.

But I see this as a reminder that self-awareness of a static self is not good enough. I need to be aware of my self, and constantly working to improve my self.

How do I do that?

Chop wood; carry water. Write. Read. Seek out challenges great and small.

ɕ