But the man who puts all of his time to his own uses, who plans every day as if it were his last, is neither impatient for the morrow nor afraid of it. Is there some new kind of pleasure that an hour might bring? All are familiar, all have been experienced to the full the rest Lady Fortune may dispose of as she will; his life is now impregnable.~ Seneca
The point of life is not to get things done. But life is better if you are able—at your own pace, if and when you want—to get things done.
Aside: In addition, other people will like you if you are also consistent and reliable.
The point of reviewing what I’ve captured is two-fold. Get everything done, (some of which I may have freshly captured yesterday.) But also to not do things. Yes, it’s delightful to finish something; it’s delightful to close a loop. But it’s also delightful to simply not do something. I have countless ideas, and the vast majority of them get captured… and then summarily deleted to be not done.
Happiness isn’t something that is deserved or earned from something outside yourself. Happiness is created within yourself. And it’s created by the simple and constant choice to accept what is. To look at the pain in the face and not blink. To confront one’s fears and struggles and embrace them rather than fight them.~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/values/life-philosophy
Manson has written a number of articles that feel like the fist from the adage: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” (~ Mike Tyson)
It’s important to be aware of our own crystallizing experiences and how they affected us. I’m curious about what crystalizing experiences you’ve had, and I’m thinking beyond just moments, to books, people, videos, discussions, whatever left an impact. What stuck with you and changed the way you thought about things? This could be in any area of your life: work, learning, movement, writing, any hobby. What was the experience, and how did it change your practice?~ Melissa Way
The Movers Mindset team has an internal project management system. (Basecamp.com in case you’re still mysteriously using something dysfunctional, like Slack, to run your team.) Each week, in a sort of loose rotation, we take turns kicking off some discussion by posting something—anything, whatever interests us when it’s our turn.
I’ve been coming back to this post from Melissa for nearly two weeks, trying to figure out where to start on a reply. Each time I start thinking, my mind wanders down a seemingly endless sequence of formative experiences; I can’t even begin to list them as they’d sound like an intolerable bragging-list. There are some unbelievable experiences ranging from, “been there,” to “done that,” and careening between, “literally cheated death,” and “hfsyesagainplease.”
Instead of trying to pick just one, tell the story, and pull out how the experience changed me, I’m going to ask, and attempt to answer, a meta question: Is life a journey of becoming, or simply a journey?
If it’s the former, then I should be paying attention for—perhaps even actively seeking—crystallizing experiences my entire life. I should be continuously repeating the process of asking myself what I should change or improve next, and then seeking out the experiences or knowledge to achieve that change. But having bashed myself on that cold anvil, incessantly seeking change and improvement, I’m now convinced that it’s the later.
Life is simply a journey.
As I write, I’m listening to my neighbor who is gas-powered-rotary-mowing the rocks in his yard…
This is a frequent topic on my blog: I have an old-school style, reel mower. It’s a modern mower; light, and maintainable. It has no motor; you push it and the blades spin. (Thus it comes with an unlimited, free gym membership and exercise program.) It really matters that it be kept sharp and correctly adjusted. A reel mower is basically 6, precisely adjustd, helical scissors. If you hit even a single twig or piece of mulch, it matters.
Yesterday I spent an hour sharpening and adjusting the mower. This is also a manual process where I have to take apart the wheel-drive-setup, and put the mower body in a little stand, (which I built years ago.) Then, using a manual hand-crank arm, and lapping compound—think: grey peanut butter with stuff that cuts steel in it—I can adjust and sharpen the mower. Anyway. I spent an hour on it.
Then I went back out into the lawn like a hero… only to discover I had done it wrong and really messed it up. Now it cuts way worse— Actually, now it mostly doesn’t cut, is impossible to push, and I need to redo all my adjusting and sharpening.
So yesterday, precious little lawn go mowed. But holy shit did I get a workout!
Sometimes my posts are metaphors for life about “sharpening the saw.” Not today. No, yesterday I simply messed up the mower and busted my ass to no avail.
Nope. Definitely no life lesson here. Nothing to see here. Move along.
So it is: The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully. Kingly riches are dissipated in an instant if they fall into the hands of a bad master, but even moderate wealth increases with use in the hands of a careful steward; just so does our life provide ample scope if it is well managed.~ Seneca
This is a topic I revisit often in my personal reflection. When I write, I sometimes remember to search my own site to see what else I’ve written on the topic at hand. Lose no time, is exactly as useful to me—hint: incredibly—as when I first wrote it.
I find that things go well once I’m heads-down tinkering away on some specific task. I’ve also learned, but relatively recently in my journey if I’m being honest, to enjoy myself at a relaxed pace in the times leading up to important things; that phone call in an hour, the doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning, etc. In those two cases where it quite clearly could, the urgency demon does not actually come knocking on my door.
As you’re expecting, I’m going to say that there is a third case where the urgency demon does show up, bites off my head, and dances on my chest: When I’m thinking. A thought drifts through the living room of my mind; “that’s a good point, I should do such-and-so about that.” Another thought arrives on the stoop and rings the bell; “oh, yeah that’s probably important and if I just nip it in the bud…” And another thought slips in with the second thought when I open the front door; “actually, I busted my ass on that and now I’m stuck waiting on…” Those three thoughts, now in my living room, realize it’s a party, they each message three friends, and nine new thoughts arrive; “I thought I had all this stuff under control [you should see my systems!] how are there a dozen of you partying in my house? …who brought music?!” Another thought streaks through unbidden; “hey wait, I totally know I had that sorted out, and you agreed to wear clothing…” The pizza delivery guy arrives to feed all the thoughts. Ride-shares queue up my block to pick up the drunken revelers barfing on my lawn. The cops do a second slow-roll after the third noise complaint. And how is there a bonfire in the yard?!
I eventually panic, and flee to food or distraction.
It’s not quite splitting; I sometimes do that, but knowing what it is makes it pretty easy to avoid. It’s not quite catastrophizing; again, been there, know what that is. I think it’s simply mental overload—in the sense of physical exhaustion combined with some feedback looping. The sure sign, for me at least, is when everything starts to seem urgent. When everything seems urgent, (and none of the things are actually urgent in the way choking or a heart attack are urgent,) that’s a sure sign to call, “bullshit!” and to walk—not run—to something other than thinking. Rather than wait until I panic and flee to negative distractions, I’m working on throwing my hands up much sooner at that party: “Well, this is clearly going to get out of hand. I’m outta’ here.”
Which I guess is what the paradox resolves into: a devaluing of superficial pleasures and a greater appreciation for simple, authentic ones. I don’t really enjoy the presents at Christmas anymore, the fireworks at Fourth of July, or even the parties on New Year’s Eve. I’ve seen bigger parties, been to more beautiful places, and already own everything I’ll ever want in this life. But unlike before, I appreciate every day spent with those who mean a lot to me. A quiet beer on a patio. Watching a basketball game together. Going to a birthday party or a barbecue. These are the events I look forward to now and get excited about, days and weeks ahead of time… And that’s probably the way it should be.~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/joy-and-meaning
I really have seen bigger parties, been to more beautiful places, and already own everything I’ll ever want in this life.
The comparison I’m making is not with you. The sentence above does not contain the phrase, “than you have.”
The comparison I am making is to this moment… to this experience. There’s a reason I choose to share this moment with you. Not this exact moment as you’re reading; we’re not sharing this moment as you’re reading. I’m taking about moments in real life that we experience together, if any. There’s a reason I’m choosing to experience those moments.
Enough about me. How do you choose— …actually, wait…
Do you choose how to spend your moments?
Hilbert had no patience with mathematical lectures which filled the students with facts but did not teach them how to frame a problem and solve it. He often used to tell them that “a perfect formulation of a problem is already half its solution.”~ Constance Reid, via Paul Graham from, http://www.paulgraham.com/know.html
Today is a three-for-one; two attributions for the quote and a hat tip for my title, which I hope you recognize as being lifted from Ulysses.
I’ve been thinking recently about wisdom. I have countless aphorisms that hint, with a wink, at how it differs from knowledge. I’m certain I don’t know exactly what wisdom is, but I am certain I know what it rhymes with. Today I listened to an entire album, the way the artist hoped I would. Today I provided a bit of help to some people who are starting out in something that I happen to know about. Today I ate peanut butter and jelly using the same spoon in both jars while nibbling at the bread. Today I read journal entries I had written 6, 3 and 1 years ago. Today I spent time with a few people important to me. Today I sat in the sun. Today I played and ran and jumped on some stuff. Today, aside from the people I interacted with, I did not leave, (nor attempt to leave,) my mark in the world.
In a non-judging way, meant only to spur you on, I ask: What did you do today?
… excellence is not a law of physics. Excellence is a moral act.~ Huch MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2020/02/03/why-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.
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.