Digging deep

What was fascinating to me about what T.R. said was that he never mentioned athletic ability or strength or speed. The qualities he cited were all mental. They were deeper than mental. They were psychological, emotional, and spiritual. They were qualities of aspiration, of commitment, of intention, of will, of intensity, and of perseverance.

These are all qualities that you and I have control of in our writing and our artistic lives.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/01/hes-a-winner/

There was definitely a time, until very recently in fact, when I thought that bashing through the work was a predictor of success. I know see that my ability fetish for bashing through work was made possible by my ability to focus. It’s that focus which I’m still able to summon while the physical and mental strength to bash is gone—maybe not completely gone, sure, but certainly far reduced from the days of yore.

Should I spend time having a meaningful conversation, or should I spend that same amount of time working on this task? One requires bashing on work I don’t really feel like doing, while one is pleasantly challenging. I continuously come back to my touch-stone phrase for 2020: Get less done. Laser focus? Check. Laser focus on the right thing? Well, that’s what I’m trying to be more intentional about these days.

What are you up to?

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Do the work

She didn’t give me a chance because I was an “insider” or because I had the fire of an “outsider.” She gave me a chance because I did the work. When she was in on the weekends, she saw me there too. When she asked me to read something, she got a report on her desk the next day. If she took the time to solicit ideas from the window seats, I spoke up. I made an ass out of myself more times than I’d like to admit but I watched, read, and learned.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2013/04/insideoutside/

In all my years I’ve never worked a “real” job; I never had one of those corporate wage-slave jobs you may have heard of from the 80’s and 90’s. I had two, generic-type, hourly-wage-type jobs; one involving insane physical labor as a grounds-keeper on a golf course. I worked while in college, but only for the extra spending money, so I had the luxury of working jobs I wanted. Lots of people at those jobs helped me out, and lots of people have given me breaks along the way. Why?

Because I did the work.

I cut the edging of sand traps in the blazing heat, by hand, with a machete. I mopped floors, loaded and drove a delivery truck. Mowed grass, mucked horse stalls, loaded tons of paper into laser printers, read a room full of manuals, typed and then edited an entire book chapter full of complex math. Some things I did for money, some for favors, and some for fun. I put my back into it, literally and figuratively.

So now—on a Wednesday morning, relaxing before a fire, deciding what I will do today—I’m also thinking: Who do I know that could use a tip? Who could do wonders with an opportunity? Who could accomplish a lot if I just helped them get in motion?

Yes, each of us should seize the day, chart our own course, and begin now under our own power. But those of us in positions where we are able, we should be helping, nudging, pushing and guiding wherever our efforts can have outsized benefit.

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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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Hardly seems worth doing

Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.

~ Cormac McCarthy

A grievous error

“Setting the bar too high.”
“Setting stretch goals with the knowledge that coming up short will be the norm.”

…are symptoms of forward-looking assessment of progress. Assessing progress by looking forward is a grievous error. “What have I accomplished?” is only measurable by looking back at what has been accomplished. This error is one of my big problems—I’d even say it’s my #2 problem. I’m working on it by practicing looking back to assess progress. :) My instinct and habit though is to look forward. Thus, more practice is needed to make looking back the default.

What have I accomplished?
What is the affect of what I have done?
How far have I moved?
How much have I learned?

Such questions can only be answered by considering the change between two points in my past.

The hard part—at least for me—is to keep out the “I wanted.” “I accomplished that much, but I wanted to accomplish [insert goal here],” creeps in through the open door of assessment.

By shifting my eyes just a bit to my left, I can see my personal oath which is stuck next to my monitor. There are a few phrases in it which are specifically meant to help me keep, “but I wanted to…” firmly locked outside.

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All things

https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2007/12/16/post-dreaming-reality/

One day I’ll be a filmmaker! One day I’ll be a famous artist! One day I’ll be a CEO! One day I’ll be a Creative Director! One day I’ll be a Venture Capitalist! And so forth.

Then you get to a certain age and you realize that the time for “One Day” is over. You’re either doing it, or you’re not. And if you’re not, a feeling of bitter disappointment starts hitting you deep into the marrow. Which explains why we all know so many people in their 30s and 40s having mid-life crisis’.

~ Hugh MacLeod

Whether I’m different, or have already passed through that, I know not. What I can tell you is that my problem is not at all a feeling of not doing what I want to do.

My problem is the feeling that I am doing too many different things. All things I’ve chosen. All things which I’m passionate about. All things which are cool, rewarding, meaningful and make the world a better place.

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Inspiration is for suckers

https://seths.blog/2011/05/self-directed-effort/

The thing I care the most about: what do you do when no one is looking, what do you make when it’s not an immediate part of your job… how many push ups do you do, just because you can?

~ Seth Godin

Stumbled over this 8-year-old post from Seth. It’s suprisingly apropos—confirmation bias in action I suppose—of a conversation I just had.

There are two ways I can go with my thoughts on this: It turns out that I do a lot push-ups, (and other things, “Hello, Art du Déplacement,”) just because I can. But I think there’s a more interesting thread I can pull from this serendipity.

I don’t trust inspiration. I don’t trust it to show up, let alone motivate me. If something inspires me, I channel that energy to envision the path which could make the inspiring idea into some reality. I use moments of inspiration to propel me into doing the hard work of figuring out the next possible step. …and the step after that. …and after that.

The rest of the time—most of the time in fact—all I’m doing is working my systems. A bit of this, a bit of that, some of this, and some of that.

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Get above the snow-line

https://www.gapingvoid.com/content/uploads/assets/Moveable_Type/archives/000880.html

Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

~ Hugh MacLeod

I am way above the snow line. I believe my toes have succumbed to frost-bite. It has not escaped me that people die on Mount Everest. It has not escaped me that no one cares about your ascent unless you come back with a great story.

Unfortunately for my well-being, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and there’s no one left to tell me to stop climbing.

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Circumstances

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.

~ George Bernard Shaw

On passion

http://www.raptitude.com/2009/12/what-passion-will-buy-you/

There is a tremendous disparity between the passion and effort that goes into a work of art and the amount a person is likely to pay for it. Some areas pay better than others, and your passion may very well not create much in the way of salable value for anyone else.

~ David Cain

This is such a critical point! Even if my passion, “comes through,” in what I create, that doesn’t necessarily mean others will value my work.

Worse, there’s always some amount of capriciousness to the valuation made by others. Even if I’m making something clearly of value, if that isn’t aligned with other people’s values, I’m still screwed. Passion is critical, but has little to do with success.

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