The best work

Somehow these less-than-ideal conditions raised his game, spurred him on to greatness. There’s a definite lesson here. Fair winds do not a great captain make. We dream of finding our own greatness one day, but we want it to happen when the sun is shining.

~ Hugh Macleod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2020/05/11/fair-winds-do-not-a-great-capitan-make/

One—particularly one named “Craig”—can also veer too far in the other direction. Continuously choosing the most arduous path towards each goal is exhausting.

Random weather metaphor for life: (Weather geeks: This is written for the Northern Hemisphere.) Large storms rotate. They always rotate in the same direction. Have you seen a stop-motion video made from satellite photos of a hurricane? If you are standing on the shore, facing an oncoming storm, you can try to avoid it by fleeing to your left, or to your right. (Presuming you ignored the warning yesterday to simply go inland.) If the center is coming directly towards you, and you have a car and just a few minutes… which way do you flee? Left, or right? To the left, the motion of the entire storm, coming at you, adds to the winds of the rotating storm. To the right, the motion of the storm, subtracts from the winds of the rotating storm. A storm with 100mph winds, coming at you at 30mph… Flee left and you get 130mph winds. Flee right and you get 70mph winds.

Seems to me that’s a good metaphor for life. “Oh shit, here comes a storm.” Maybe I should consider which way to go, rather than just fleeing like a rabbit in whatever direction I happen to be facing.

Hey also, while I’m doing weather: The Saffir-Simpson Scale has only 5 categories for a reason. It’s designed to be easy to understand when you hear the number. I sometimes hear talk that we should add a Category 6. Nononono. Category 5 already means, literally, that you should evacuate because nothing survives the 250kmh/160mph sustained winds of a Category 5 storm. So, what would having a Category 6 add? “srsly bro’, flee!”

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There is no trick

Stop searching for magic tricks. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. The fool will find this idea depressing. The wise person will find this liberating. So it goes.

~ Hugh Macleod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2020/02/29/the-trick-is-there-is-no-trick/

No.

But I do still agree with Hugh.

You see, it’s really a paradox: Understanding that the trick is that there is no trick enables you to see the trick.

Only after you truly believe there is no trick, and you truly roll up your sleeves and get to work—and not just work for a day or a week or a year, but instead truly pour your entire self into something…

Only after you truly believe there is no trick, and you truly roll up your sleeves and get to work, can you understand what the trick really is.

Reading this now, you either know the trick—congratulations, honestly and I’m sorry you had to suffer along the way but look what you’ve learned…

Reading this now, you either know the trick, or you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

What? …you thought I was going to tell you the trick? But, I just did.

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Excellence

… excellence is not a law of physics. Excellence is a moral act.

You create excellence by deciding to do so, nothing more. It doesn’t matter if you went to the wrong school, or were born on the wrong side of the tracks, or working the wrong job.

You go into the situation and you go the extra mile. Your decision. You own it. You own the potential downsides as well.

~ Huch MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2020/02/03/why-excellence-is-a-moral-act/

I have a hard time distinguishing when I’m in the pursuit of excellence from when I’m in the paralysis of perfection. In my mind I can see so many options, permutations and problems, and my thinking wants to race down every path. Which path leads to excellence? Which path leads only to perfection? I spent a lot of time—let’s say the ’90s and ’00s—checking every available path to see where they led.

But I don’t want to do that any more. Here are things I’m doing, and of course I’ll do them with excellence. And over there? Over there are the rest of the paths throughout the entire universe which I’m perfectly fine leaving to others. The universe did just fine before I was here, and it will continue to be fine after.

You know that great Robert Frost poem about two paths diverging in a wood? Turns out that it does not matter which path you choose… until you’ve gone so far down that path that you cannot return and go the other way. Only then have you actually chosen.

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Please stop laughing at me

It’s pretty safe to say, that when you finally come up with your million-dollar idea, nobody is going to understand it at first. They many not laugh in your face outright, but they’ll probably scratch their heads, at least.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2018/05/15/great-ideas-lonely-childhoods/

…except it probably should be “…with [my] two-dollar idea…”, but anyway.

It’s been crystal clear to me for years, that my Movers Mindset project is not understood. In the beginning that was frustrating; I felt like it was so obviously awesome, that it was insulting that people didn’t understand what I was trying to do. After a few years of learning, I’ve let go of—or at least, I often manage to let go of… but sometimes still have to remind myself— After a few years of learning, I’ve let go of trying to shout louder.

These days, I try to step back often and look at everything in my life and assess whether or not it brings me joy or is inherently necessary to enable things that bring me joy. It’s a happy day when I find something that takes up my time and which I dislike and which I don’t need to be doing. I’ve no compunctions chucking stuff over the transom.

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Try erasing the whiteboard

You know what the best thing about being an entrepreneur is? That you never have to experience self-doubt, the way people with normal day jobs do.

Ha. I was just kidding. Actually, as an entrepreneur, you have self-doubt coming out of your pores like cold sweat. And that’s on a good day.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2018/05/30/experiencing-self-doubt/

A “local maximum” is a nearby, tall hill. If you find you’re standing in a puddle and the water is rising, walking uphill is a great idea. This will lead you to a local maximum. “Local” means a maximum which you can find by simply heading ”up” from where you are.

Imagine you have a project under discussion. You and your team are thinking, talking and writing [and editing and erasing bits here and there] on the whiteboard as you capture the project you are imagining. Because you have some perspective— because you can see the entire idea as it’s laid out on the board, you can probably find a maximum better than just a “local” one. You can notice broad connections, and realize that (for example) if you do some extra bit of that’s-not-obvious work, then these two far-apart pieces will give us this new feature. Hey! …that’s better, and it’s not a simple improvement—that is, it’s not simply directly up out of this rising puddle of water.

But it’s still a local maximum. Sure, it’s not the one immediately adjacent to the puddle. But it’s still a maximum in the context of what’s on the board.

What happens if, after you are done— after you’ve got the best solution you can image— What happens if you note the key features that are the “must haves”, and then you entirely erase the board. (This is a metaphor. If you do this for real, definitely take a photo before erasing!)

Now take your blank board and write in the things you identified as the key parts before you erased. Now build the thing again.

Did you get the exact same thing you had before? If not, what exactly is missing, or added, in the new version? Is this version better, or worse? What if you’re whiteboarding about something that you cannot reset and start over— You can easily erase the whiteboard, but not the actual thing. Can you learn something from doing the “erase the whiteboard” exercise that would enable you do something not normally obvious…

…to head down the hill, off your current local maximum, to a hill you can’t see from where you currently are. What if that other hill had all the current great stuff—not everything, but the great parts—and it had something else?

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Because your soul demands it

So I make it really simple. I’d say art is: “That which you have no choice but to do, because your soul demands it”.

Yes, it’s a fairly flawed definition. But it illustrates something that most people don’t get about artists or entrepreneurs. We do it, because if we don’t, life feels empty. The downside being, it doesn’t exactly come with an easy life.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2018/05/10/do-it-because-your-soul-demands-it/

I’ve found it very difficult to distinguish, “I started this thing therefore I must finish this thing, and I must do it well,” from, “I must finish this thing, and I must do it well.” Notice the missing, “I started this thing therefore…” I have a lot of ideas, several of which I often believe are totally not utter crap. So I start on them.

But once I’ve begun, it gets very hard to tell why I am continuing. What exactly indicates when my soul demands I should continue?

I think about whatever thing I’m currently working on all the time. So I can’t simply use, “does it hold my attention?” It sure feels like I absolutely must continue this thing! Meanwhile, I’ve a long list of things that consumed my attention and energy at one point, but which today are lost from sight in the rearview mirror.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with taking holidays by trying to set something down. This requires immense effort in the beginning; I usally have to cold-turkey-quit to get away from my passion project du jour. Sometimes, day by day, the urge to pick it back up fades and I feel like maybe that project should be left in the rear view mirror. I suppose that my soul doesn’t actually demand it because I hope that my soul wouldn’t just give up after a few days.

Questions today. None of them elucidating. ymmv.

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The difficulty setting

But a strong work ethic will keep on opening doors for you, again and again, for years to come.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2018/04/05/its-not-what-you-do-its-how-you-do-it/

MacLeod’s point about work ethic is spot-on. A certain type and quantity of work ethic is necessary for success; however you wish to define success for yourself, you’ll need work ethic to succeed. It’s necessary.

But it’s not sufficient. The game of life has initial difficulty settings, and we each have little control over that.

Are you born in a country that protects your rights? Are you raised by people who care for you, and create an environment where you flourish? Were you lucky enough to inherit good DNA (as opposed to having a genetic disorder)? Did you grow up in a safe and healthy community (or did people steal your things, threaten you with violence, etc.)?

Work ethic and initiative can enable you to overcome almost all of the challenges the random initial conditions of life might set up for you. You can even change the difficulty level of your own game. But it’s harder.

You’re probably not responsible for more than a handful of people (children, parents, family, etc.) You do not need to sacrifice yourself for others. But if you have extra time, extra resources, extra skill, extra knowledge, or extra ability, what happens to the world if you choose to try to change the difficulty setting for others?

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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.

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Focus on what’s before you

And when you’re distracted? See what’s distracting you and choose, mindfully, what’s most important in that moment. Maybe what’s distracting you is worth your time after all.

But where your energy goes is where you’re going.

~ Hugh MacCleod from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/06/27/how-to-stay-focused-at-work/

Slowly I changed how I interact will waiters, how I reply to email, how I use my phone (note particularly that I use it and it never uses me,) how I chop wood, how I show up for video calls, how I walk, and so on, and so forth…

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Social networks

Quit your yakkin’ and get busy. Quit wasting time obsessing about pimping your ass and checking your stats. Instead, MAKE stuff. Make AMAZING stuff. Make stuff that is so good that people have no choice but to find out about it. Otherwise, you REALLY are just wasting your time. This game is already TOO hard and TOO BIG a time suck to fritter away on what is, for the most part, a big ol’ distraction.

~ Hugh MacLeod, from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2011/08/21/im-sick-to-death-of-hearing-the-phrase-driving-traffic-to-your-site/

At this point, I have left all of the online social networks. I’m busy spending all of my time working on The Work—or at least trying to figure out what The Work is for me— cultivating my mind, writing and spending time with those whose company I enjoy. Unfortunately, that last one is nearly impossible since the vast majority of people are too busy.

I suggest you make a list of what’s important to you. It does not need to be ordered by priority. Simply make a list of things which are important. If that is hard to do, you’ve just learned something important; “Figure out what’s important to me,” would be a good item for your list.

I check my list occasionally to see if what I am doing in some random moment is aligned with my list. I checked recently, and social networks no longer made the cut.

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