Cool-Whip

Later, when the Doritos were reduced to crumbly fragments barely worth fishing out of the bag, I reflected on what had gone wrong, and remembered something I discovered years ago about resolutions but forget constantly.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/03/you-dont-need-a-promise-you-need-a-plan/

The other day, I finished off the remaining more–than–half of a can of Cool-Whip. To be clear: I mean that I ate it directly. It’s not terrible as far as things go. But it’s absolutely not the sort of “food” that I want to eat. It definitely doesn’t move me towards my goals. I knew I was going to do it, weeks ago when the can appeared in my refrigerator to be used with some dessert or other. I knew I was going to do it when the can went back in the fridge after dessert. Sure, it took a couple of weeks, but then after an entire day of being stressed out, things played out just as I knew they would. Cain has a plan. I should probably get a plan before the next can of Cool-Whip is left like a lamb for slaughter.

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Now

What we miss about our own beloved Good Old Days isn’t so much the material things they remind us of—wholesome 1980s sitcoms, or musty thrift-store sweaters—it’s the particular feelings those days gave us, feelings which are now impossible to experience.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/03/the-good-old-days-are-happening-now/

Cain rightly goes on to point out, that while we can’t feel those exact feelings again, there’s no reason we can’t—right this very instant—enjoy These Good Days. Ten years from now—presuming, of course—I can look back and think with a chuckle: Remember when I spent a couple years going really deep experimenting with knowledge systems. That was a fun exploration.

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This I hope for you

This simplicity was disorienting in a way. Many times a day I would finish whatever activity I was doing, and realize there was nothing to do but consciously choose another activity and then do that. This is how I made my first bombshell discovery: I take out my phone every time I finish doing basically anything, knowing there will be new emails or mentions or some other dopaminergic prize to collect. I have been inserting an open-ended period of pointless dithering after every intentional task.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/02/what-i-learned-during-my-three-days-offline/

It is still uncommon for me to be without my phone. I have to admit that sometimes I carry it simply because I have a flat pince-nez stuck to the back of my phone. Recently it’s dawned on me that I have another, identical pair in a tiny flat case not stuck to my phone and I sometimes just carry those and not my phone. Regardless, you’ll never see me whip out my phone—unless we have a question, what’s the weather, where’s the nearest…, and so on. It’s a tool I sometimes use, like shoes.

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The Internet

Ultimately, the goal is not to stop using the internet, or even minimize its use, but to put it back into a box in the basement where it belongs. The first step is to discover what I’m up against. If I find a way to make the internet small again, I’ll write a book about it so others can do it too.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/02/how-to-make-the-internet-small-again/

I’ve been beating this drum for years, (eg, here’s a search for “use you”.) I don’t want to put the Internet literally into a box and then stuff it in the basement. (Even setting aside that I don’t have a basement.) The Internet is nothing more than a tool. The Internet, but also TV, food, politics, religion, music, your car(s?), books, or even hoarding [sometimes misspelled “collecting”] things… one can have a dysfunctional relationship with anything. (Truth in blogging: My addiction is TV and snacking.)

Don’t think my little paragraphs here are meant to diminish what Cain wrote. Go read that, it’s better than what I’ve written here. Rather, my point is simply that we each need to figure out—for each of those things I listed above, and every other thing—are we using it, or are we letting it use us.

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The second payment

But then, in order to make use of the thing, you must also pay a second price. This is the effort and initiative required to gain its benefits, and it can be much higher than the first price.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/01/everything-must-be-paid-for-twice/

This is such a clear and important point! I’ve never seen it put in just this way, but it will be forever how I talk about the true costs of things, experiences and opportunities. There’s what feels like a variation of Occam’s Razor here too: Even if you understand the second price, don’t buy things, (through payment of money, time, or allocation of storage space,) unless you are also ready and able to make the second payments. If not, leave those opportunities for someone else.

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How to be productive

For me the pattern is now perfectly clear: the later I come at the task, the more time I’ll spend dancing around it before beginning in earnest. If I can make contact at an earlier hour, the urge to dance away from it is diminished, because I only have so many dance moves, and I’ll run out long before lunchtime.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/12/9-things-i-learned-about-productivity-this-year/

About once per year I trot out a, HOLY CRAP!

This entire article is jammed full of insights, only one of which did I quote above. I’d say that I have learned those same things. But absolutely I have not learned them in a single year. Where’s my time machine? I need to get this to my 16-year-old self.

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A tiny commitment

To suddenly “go mindful” and try to be present all the time is about as easy as running a marathon when you’ve never even run around the block. Since most of us are not present the vast majority of the time, occasional stabs at “being in the moment” are quickly overrun by the colossal momentum of a lifetime of being lost in thought.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2010/03/how-to-make-mindfulness-a-habit-with-only-a-tiny-commitment/

There’s much worth reading on David Cain’s Raptitude website. For example, his How to walk across a parking lot, is one of the greatest things I’ve ever read. But the piece I’ve quoted from above stands out as a terrific “how to…” for working on mindfulness.

I’ve been actively working on first self-awareness, then self-assesment and finally mindfulness, for many years. (And writing about my journey as I’ve done so.) But mindfulness is still something that comes and goes for me.

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Reaching the end isn’t the point

Much better is to rebuild the skill entirely with a different approach, one that directly addresses your perennial snags. Instead of slowly getting better at your familiar, limited way, you embrace the awkwardness of learning an unfamiliar but stronger method, as though you’ve never done the thing before at all.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/10/how-to-level-up-instead-of-plugging-away/

In the article Cain mentions spending as much as 10 minutes in reading one page as part of his larger anecdote from which he’s drawing this lesson. Sometimes it takes me a long time to find enough tranquility in my mind just to feel ready to read. I always have so many thing on the to-do and should-do lists. By the time I get enough of the urgent items beat back into the shadows, often, another days has passed with too little reading. I should do something about that…

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This is the last time

There was, or will be, a last time for everything you do, from climbing a tree to changing a diaper, and living with a practiced awareness of that fact can make even the most routine day feel like it’s bursting with blessings. Of all the lasting takeaways from my periodic dives into Stoicism, this is the one that has enhanced my life the most.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/09/the-last-time-always-happens-now/

This is by far the most important thing I’ve learned in my several decades. I’ve written about this previously, try my “perspective” tag for some tastes, but this item bears endless repeating. Do it as if it is the last time. Think of it, in the moment, as if it is the last time. And for a bonus multiplier—but don’t do this too often or you get disappointed too—think about that thing you’re about to do, the same way. Tomorrow, when I ____ , that will be the last time I get to _____ .

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Travel lightly

What if, instead, we could be flexible and travel through life lightly, flowing with changes?

~ David Cain from, https://zenhabits.net/flexible-travel/

You should interpret that sentence both in the physically traveling without too much physical stuff, and in the sense of traveling without too much mental baggage.

Traveling lightly—both without physical stuff and without mental baggage—will serve you well. Over the years, I’ve tried to explain my thinking around these points via blog posts: One series on physical practicalities and tips is, Travel Gear. And, another series about the mindset of traveling is called, Parkour Travel.

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