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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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.

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Lose no time

I suspect some people need to cultivate a sense of urgency to motivate them. I need less motivation. I need less urgency.

I managed to create a life where my perception is that every waking moment I’m either on-task or off. Every waking moment is either doing something that moves me towards my goals, or a moment of relaxation and unwinding—self-care practices so to speak. (Of course, there’s another third of my life when I’m asleep.)

It’s perfectly obvious that there is no such thing as work versus life balance. There’s just life. Some moments I’m doing this thing. Some moments that thing. Some moments resting my eyes. Some moments eating. Some moments interacting with this person. Some moments with that person. Many moments I’m alive.

The only way it would make sense to talk about work versus life… I don’t mean work, defined as when money is changing hands. I mean work as in efforts spent progressing towards a goal. The only way it would make sense to talk about work versus life balance would be if I were two—or more—different people; the work me and the life me. I can readily see how that could be a thing. I can see people who do that, or at least they try to do that. It’s completely obvious when people try to be one person in work contexts and another for themselves. I’m not sure I ever tried to do that. I’m sure that I don’t want to do that.

There’s just me. There’s just life. I need to catch myself making a distinction between work and life. That would be a moment, earlier than where I’m currently trying to solve my problems, where I might have more purchase.

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Sunday, fireside

Learning to create spaces is one of those super-power life skills that they don’t—or at least, they didn’t, I don’t know about now—teach in school. But I’m not sure you could have taught this to me in school. Probably best that they didn’t even try. I had to discover for myself how much it matters to have a space, a context, and a set of expectations in which to do… well… everything that matters.

The things I use to create a space certainly don’t need to be expensive. They do need to be purposeful. My particular chair that I use for reading. My gel pens that have served faithfully for years. (A parade of clones, not one super-pen.) The keyboard and large screen for programming. The physical-paper books I generally prefer.

…and then comes the intention. Why am I reading? Why am I writing? Why am I having this conversation, or that experience?

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Impermanence

I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?

~ Alan Lightman from, The Accidental Universe

It seems obvious to me that apprehending the impermanence of everything is necessary in order to remain sane. Obviously my entire existence is an immeasurably tiny fraction of an instant. Obviously there is no ultimate “point” to all of this. Obviously there is no one true meaning of life.

It removes a lot of baggage and struggle once you realize that reality is in fact the real situation you are in.

…and then you’re free. Free to create, conjure, combine, laugh, love, learn, run, ramble, perable, talk, commiserate, procreate, invent, integrate, mix, mingle and just generally ENJOY LIVING.

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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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Sort out what is important

https://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/03/conscious-procrastination/

Every day I have a choice between working on pointless little tasks or big meaningful projects. On days that I choose the former, I end each day feeling I’ve accomplished very little, even though I’ve put in a lot of hours at my desk. I’ve kept up, but all I did was spin my wheels for another day. But when I chose to do the important stuff first, I feel great, knowing that I’m on my way to producing major results.

~ Steve Pavlina

More than 25 years ago, Steven Covey included a simple graph in a book. This task right here– is it important, and is it urgent?

Anything that’s not important, well, good– You just stopped doing that. Gaming, television, most of what you do on the internet, etc. If you’re still doing UN-important stuff… I don’t know what to say.

Now the important stuff is where the hard thinking begins. How important? Does it pay off now, or later? Does is pay off for me, my family (but not me), my family (including me), my tribe, the world . . . well, sorting out all the important stuff is IMPORTANT but not URGENT and so it gets skipped and pushed off. I’m happy to be the bearer of great news: You now know the most important thing to do: Sort out what is important to you.

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