Grit

(Part 73 of 73 in series, My Journey)

Don’t let ease tempt you. Don’t fall for its false promises. What you gain in ease, you lose in meaning. What you gain in ease, you lose in excellence.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2022/07/08/follow-the-yellowbri-road-to-greatness/

This topic came up today in an outdoor Parkour class. Being outside, training, sweating, and overcoming challenges with friends old and new is always a treat. (“If this isn’t nice…“)

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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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How you play

If life is a game, how do you play it? The answer will have a huge impact on your choices, your satisfaction, and how you achieve success.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2020/02/finite-and-infinite-games/

There are of course some games simply not worth playing. (For example, Global Thermonucler War, which is, “[a] strange game. The only winning move is not to play.“) For most of my life I’ve thought of games as something I first decided to do—”let’s play a game!”—and then sorted out what sort of game—board games, tag, charades, etc.. Even sports games worked this way; “I feel like playing baseball…” and then round up my friends, or “I feel like getting good at baseball and playing a lot…” and then join a league. In all the cases, the game itself was the point.

Then, back around 40 when I was busy rediscovering movement, I realized that one could start by having a goal, or an idea one wanted to explore, and then one could deploy games as the vehicle for accomplishing that. On the one hand, it’s still fun to simply play for play’s sake, but it’s empowering to have fun playing while intentionally accomplishing something of your own choosing.

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It’s the journey

Tippet resurfaces questions many have explored before us. “What does it mean to be human? What matters in life? What matters in death? How to be of service to each other and the world?”

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2017/01/krista-tippett-becoming-wise/

Confirmation bias never ceases to amaze me. One minute, I’ve never noticed Tippett wrote a book. The suddenly I’m tripping over references and suggestions for it; Here’s a blog post from 2017 which I’m just reading 4 years later. And over here is a mention from another blogger. And then this podcaster. And so on.

Finding people, their work, their books, etc. feels like wandering through an ancient stand of Redwoods, (which is something I’ve actually done, just to be clear.) This stuff was here long before me, and will be here long after me. Sure, I’ve “hiked”—it’s just walking on a trail—far beyond the usual little loop which most tourists opt to explore. But way farther along, behold! Here is a bench, with a dedication. And even here people have been walking for, I dunno… 100 years now? I don’t even know exactly where this trail goes, but I can see up to the next bend, and the part I’ve already traveled has been purty durn neato. This other person exploring conversation and the human condition has, probably, already done more than I ever will. But that doesn’t take away from what I get from strolling the trail.

Because—as I hope you too have already discovered—it’s the journey that counts.

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Side quests

I [generally] hate the Internet. I wanted to start this post with a reference to a little children’s TV skit I saw many (many) moons ago, on Sesame Street or maybe it was the Muppets… about a guy named Henry with a bucket with a hole who tried to fix it based on another character’s—named Liza—ministrations, but which eventually lead him to need the hole-y, original bucket to haul water to complete the bucket-repair process. If you’re not yet grabbing your head, try reading: “There a hole in my bucket. Dear Liza. Dear Liza.” Fortunately, Wikipedia, and a pile of YouTube clips I managed to not watch, have me covered. Long live the Internet!

“Holey-bucket-fixing” is a long chain of tasks which turn out to be circularly dependent. Obviously, I don’t realize it’s holey-bucket-fixing at the start of the side quest. I start off on some simple problem. To do A, I need B. To do B, I need C. To do C, I need… A? Where’s the Tylenol?!

But sometimes, I start off on some simple problem and it goes very well. As in . . .

Your merry band enters the dimly lit inn, glad to find shelter from the stormy night. The rogue among you sticks to the shadows to the left, the dwarf angles right, (in both senses of the word,) towards the bar, and the elf-archer, with the balance of the band in tow, strides for a long table against the doorless, far wall. The dwarf orders the first round of whatever-it-is-they-serve-around-these-parts, and the bartender strikes up a conversation. “Haven’t seen you folks around before. You look like you might be up for an adventure.” If you want to go on an adventure, turn to page 42. If you just want this idiot to shut up so you can drink your whatever-it-is-they-serve-around-these-parts in peace, continue reading.

And so, with a hole in my bucket, or a simple question in mind, or—challenge-loving dwarf-at-the-bar that I play so well—just too curious for my own good… I almost always turn to page 42.

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Quadrupedal Movement

(Part 72 of 73 in series, My Journey)

Quadrupedal Movement (QM) is a diverse collection of movements using both hands and feet on the ground to support one’s weight.

QM is almost always done using just the feet, and not the knees, since our knees are not capable of taking prolonged usage or impact. That said, there are some small-size, low-impact, movements using various surfaces of the knees, lower legs, buttocks, and thighs which integrate well with the usual hands-and-feet-only QM.

There are countless variations of QM. Many variations are physically demanding, but many are drastically easier than the more usual bipedal movements: Using a railing with your hands for balance and support as you ascend stairs, using walking sticks and canes, and “scrambling” on hands and feet up steep slopes, are all common variations of QM.

Start here https://gmb.io/locomotion/

…and then take a look at some advanced options, Two Hours and a Slab of Concrete.

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Meta: I’m retiring this series, “My Journey.” Over the years, my blog has changed a lot. In the beginning I had a lot of more random things here and I used this series as a way to highlight this aspect of my blog writing. Today, the blog itself is basically a record of my journey.

Parkour floor

We forget that what we have is more than what we need. Obscenely more. I know it may sound perverse, but here in the future people often feel like they need more than they have.

~ David Cain from, http://www.raptitude.com/2011/01/a-day-in-the-future/

There’s a sense of accomplishment in being prepared to sleep on the floor when traveling. There’s a sense of freedom in being able to carry a small backpack and live comfortably. I always knew this was at least partly due to knowing that I was prepared enough for important contingencies and free enough to roll with whatever comes up during the day.

But now I see that there’s a second dimension to why I enjoy it: The self-imposed hardship. Sometimes the floor is cold and drafty, sometimes there’s a cat (I’m allergic to cats), sometimes everyone stays up very late (I usually turn in around 9:30), sometimes I miss a meal, sometimes I don’t sleep much if there’s too much light, sometimes it’s noisy, … and so on. Still, I am invariably in a better mood than usual the morning after each of these choose-your-own-adventures-gone-bad. Cold, stiff, sneezy, tired … sure. But in a good mood. Well, that’s very interesting, now isn’t it?

I’m not making a call for you to take up Parkour-flooring. I’m only pointing out that when I occassionally reset my callibration by intentionally taking on some suffering, I’m invariably happier after.

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Ever-present mental stress

Most people have been in some version of this mental stress state so consistently, for so long, that they don’t even know they’re in it. Like gravity, it’s ever present — so much so that those who experience it usually aren’t even aware of the pressure. The only time most of them will realize how much tension they’ve been under is when they get rid of it and notice how different they feel. It’s like the constant buzzing noise in a room you didn’t know was there until it stops.

~ David Allen from, https://www.librarything.com/work/1844807

The key insight for me was once I realized there are two “directions” to thinking: I was always good at vertical thinking, going down thru a project (big or small), planning, organizing and doing. This was simply “thinking”, and how could there be more than one “direction” in which to think?

Unfortunately, I often got stuck when my brain started doing this other direction of thinking for which I had no name; no concept to attach: The horizontal thinking. The hopping from project to project — and I use “project” in the most broad sense of ANY thing involving a goal (“remodel house”, “send holiday cards”), any size (“seven years of projet management and contractors”, “buy stamps, buy cards, stuff, mail” ), and any number of steps. My mind hopped uncontrollably from thing to thing, around and around, across all the open loops, as the same things came up over and over and over.

These days, having a solid capture and review system enables me to close those mental loops. I can often read for a half an hour without my mind once interrupting me with some random, “I need to do this,” or “I need to remember that,” thought. (And if it does interupt me, I simple capture that thought once. Done. Freedom.) In the beginning I used paper notecards, then notebooks, software, and on and on. The exact system does not matter. It only matters that you trust your system. Only when you truly trust your system will your subconscious close all those open loops.

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A lifetime of successful training

(Part 65 of 73 in series, My Journey)

I had to change my expectations of how much I trained because I was in that mindset, the more training, the better. You can’t do more intense training, so now I probably train, if you look at it, still, I train maybe four or five hours per day, but three of those hours or four of those hours are watching video, or reading books, and researching because I can do that without damaging my body or going too far. For me, it’s not saying, “Well, I guess I’ll never be this good. Well, I’m just not going to have the expectation that I can get on the mat and grind it out with the 20-year-olds for five hours a day.” That’s not going to happen.

~ Burton Richardson from, https://gmb.io/episode-92/

If you don’t know who Burton Richardson is… uh, think: Direct student of Bruce Lee, and 30 years of training with many of the greatest martial artists in history. Also, zero ego.

This interview with the legendary Burton Richardson is life-changing. My pull-quote does not do this interview justice. This 45-minute interview contains an insane amount of insight into training and practice for the long-haul.

…yeah, how many hours a day do I train?

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