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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The cake is a lie

I’ve tried everything. Lists, timers, project management systems, Pomodoro, time blocking, dashes, scheduling, time tracking… everything. It turns out: There are things I enjoy doing; they get done. There are things I don’t enjoy doing; they are a struggle. This is the way.

This lie is often called “work/life balance.” And it’s a deviously demotivating false dichotomy. A narrative designed to stigmatize work and trivialize what work is really all about. It reduces transformation to a mere transaction.

~ Cierra Martin from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/must-we-hate-our-jobs/

There’s no need to struggle against my nature. It’s futile and that way lies madness. What remains is to reign in my Idea Monster. I also do not need to attempt everything I can possibly imagine that might be fun or productive. Essentialism is the middle road I steer towards more and more. This is the way.

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The payoff

If I think about how some project or effort of mine affects the world, it’s hard to imagine the effects that I would never know about. A tree falls in the woods; if no one hears it, does it make a sound? Does it make a sound a microphone would pick up? Yes, of course. Does it make a sound that affects someone? No, of course not. The answer depends on what we mean when we ask the question. If I do something creative, and no one that I know of benefits from it, does it matter?

Why? Because anyone who has ever done anything worth a damn, knows that they probably weren’t the main beneficiaries of their efforts. Our work may have lit up the world, but we still remain down in the mud, somehow.

~ Cierra Martin from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/what-samurai-teach-us-about-service/

For some reason, I liked the overall shape of that little article. But I don’t like the imagery of “we still remain down in the mud.” I feel like the thankless creative work that I do, doesn’t leave me “down in the mud.” A better metaphor—the way I think of it—is that I’m “still in the workshop.” I’m in the workshop. I’m being creative. My work has affects (I presume), but the fact that I don’t see those affects doesn’t make them any less real.

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Try it

I’ve described a problem as being the ability to explain the current state (of something, anything you care to imagine) and a desired state. The problem is that those states are different. Unfortunately, the word “problem” comes packed with negative connotation. That’s not what I’m suggesting here. The “problem(s)” I’m talking about are anything you desire to change.

A critical feature of intelligence is the ability to describe those two states; that’s literally how you do all the intentional things that you do. Current state, desired state… and then working to get from the current state to the desire state is being a problem solver.

In his book, Principles, Ray Dalio describes leadership as something very similar: having the ability to a) visualize a future state be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or all three and b) find the people and the resources needed to make it happen.

~ Cierra Martin from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2023/09/17/going-from-idea-to-impact/

Any time anything makes me think, I label it “good”. This is a good little article from Martin.

But Dalio’s description in the quoted bit above—I’ve not read the book, perhaps this gets covered therein—skips over the actual hard part. It’s giving a nice step 1, then step 3 map. When one tries to solve a problem (“problem” as I described above) which involves other people, there is also a step 2: Getting other people to understand you. And you’ve probably noticed that turns out to be really difficult.

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The practice

I am often stuck in the resistance right before actually writing. It usually takes me several attempts to approach the work. It feels like walking up the slippery slope of a small hill, where the initial speed and direction has to be perfect, and then with continued effort—a penguin waddling judiciously—I reach the gently rounded top of the hill (after sliding off obtusely a few times and beginning again.)

I can easily be nudged into sliding off that small hill by distractions. I’m drawn to address the distraction. Can I fix that so it doesn’t happen again? (For example, change fundamentally how my phone is configured.) But I know that distractions are not all bad and I know that I can hide in the busyness of getting things just right. (Hazards warned of by both Pressfield and Godin.)

Besides that, if you want to get anywhere interesting, there’s no substitute – not even talent – for grinding away at something year after year until you’ve put more work into it than almost anyone else alive.

~ Cierra Martin from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/what-is-your-practice/

The word grinding feels too negative a way to spin simply doing the work. If I think, “that’s going to be grinding,” I’m setting myself up to more easily slide off that little hill. Because invariably—for the things I have to, and want to, do—the actual work is exceedingly easy. Easy like gleeful skipping. All of the hard part is in the way I think about the work before I ever begin. Even using the word “work” feels too negative. All of the hard part is in the way I think about the practice.

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Control

At one point I made a serious attempt at gratitude journaling. I learned that the many moments of delight I encounter on any given day don’t stick in my memory. In those moments I am aware of the experience (I really do think “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” often) but it drifts into the forgotten realms. I don’t randomly have thoughts like, “hey Craig, remember that delightful thing from that other moment?” I have to intentionally pause to make a space for those thoughts to appear.

Humans by nature have a strong desire to control and predict. We want to know what happens at the end of the story, and we focus on those things we can measure and easily influence.

~ Cierra Martin from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2022/11/21/more-dancing-less-box-checking/

Can one remove a desire? This desire which I definitely have, has not abated through familiarity (something which I believe can cause a desire to fade.) I think the only way is to connect the many experiences which did not go through my control-it desire, and led to happiness. “See brain, we got to delight and there was not even an attempt at control there.” Pausing in moments of delight, as it were, to ask, “well… how did I get here?

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