§21 – It’s all about love

(Part 33 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

For me, what defines a human being is the combination of our intellect, our self-awareness, and our mortality. Developing the first two, and in particular becoming comfortable with the third takes a lot of time. It’s clear to me that there are seasons to our human lives. The best description I’ve heard is that of four seasons: roots, fire, water and air, corresponding to beginning, actively carving one’s path, learning acceptance and understanding, and finally wisdom. (This is obviously a variation of the four, classical elements.)

Frequently over the past year I’ve found myself thinking about the transition from the season of water to the season of air. What would the season of air feel like if I experienced glimpses of it from the season of water?

I believe I have an answer: Understanding self-love.

To come to grips with one’s own mortality requires a deep apprehension of the temporary state of our existence, and I now believe understanding self-love is the doorway to the age of air.

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§20 – Three words

(Part 32 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The idea of selecting three words is an amazing tool. A few years back, Yann Hnautra spent significant time traveling in the United States teaching, but also trying to get a sense of what Art du Déplacement meant there, to those people practicing. Off to the side, at most of the events, someone (who was not Yann) took little cell phone videos where people were asked a series of questions. The idea was that he would be able to watch the videos to get a different viewpoint than he would when running events and training with people; Little moments of private candor as it were.

I was standing, being recorded, when I was introduced to this question. Something like, “how would you describe your practice in three words?” Honestly, I have no idea what I said—sometimes I think I should ask Yann to find my video, but I’m terrified to hear what I said even just those few years ago.

When I started the Movers Mindset podcast I wanted a way to give each episode a specific ending which would be recognizable to the listener, but which would give the guest a framework to wrap up what they had said in their own way. Many podcasts have a rapid-fire section of questions they go to at the end. But I felt that would completely change the pacing; Whatever the pace of the interview was by the end, shifting to a preset, rapid-fire pace would be a jarring change. At some point it occurred to me to ask them for three words to describe their practice.

As the podcast grew, and the guests’ backgrounds began to vary widely, the question proved to be even more powerful than I was at first aware. Ask someone who self-identifies as doing Parkour, FreeRunning or Art du Déplacement for “three words to describe your practice” and exactly what you expect to happen happens. But I soon learned that the word “practice” is itself a powerful tool. Ask someone who self-identifies first as operating a school, as a mother, or as a community leader, and the power of the question is multiplied by their having to select words and unpack “practice.”

In case you’re wondering, I do have three words these days, and of course they are Vincent’s…

force | dignite | partage

They are in French to remind me of the global scale, (of the practice, of people in general, all of it.) I have a wrist band with these words on it. It’s black and the words are black so they are difficult to notice; It’s a reminder for me, not a blaring advertisement.

Two final points: The other side of my wrist band reads, “maximum effort.” My favorite answer given by a podcast guest is, “break all the rules.”

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§19 – One word

(Part 31 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

What is it, in this sport or project, that moves me, motivates me, nourishes me—and helps me thrive and shine?

~ Vincent Thibault

What facilitates my flourishing? Today, I’m going to say it’s space.

Not physical space—although there’s a nice metaphor here about having things planted too closely in a garden and how that affects the plants’ flourishing. No, not physical space; I’ve plenty of that.

Perhaps not even mental space—I’m certainly buffeted about by the myriad winds of demands and responsibilities. But with very few exceptions, I’ve created all of those zephyrs. No, although I have left myself no mental space, I am able usually to create it on demand.

Most likely it’s emotional space. The idea that we need room to soak in the emotional experiences that go along with the reality of things, events, and people, and to do that with no specific “why” in mind.

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§18 – Start where you are

(Part 30 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The magic of confirmation bias is that everything I encounter seems to apply to the current situation. I incessantly, and to a fault, seek meaning. Not “what is the meaning of life” meaning, but explanations and reasons and plans and systems… all as a means to manipulating the universe around me.

Chapter 18 is the heaviest so far in the book. (I’ve read it many times now of course.) Whereas the previous chapters select a single idea that one readily finds within parkour/ADD, and unpacks it, this chapter points out that there is a large body of work and a vast shared human experience outside of parkour/ADD. Taking some hints from that outside space and bringing them back into one’s parkour/ADD practice, and into one’s life in general, can only benefit those of us on the path.

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§17 – Be that guy

(Part 29 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

After too many readings to remember, I’m still at a loss to summarize my thoughts. The difficulty is that this is an area of my life with which I currently struggle daily.

There is a basic challenge-level to reality: There is a stone in my shoe. It’s time to mow the lawn. This bill should be paid. I’m great at handling huge numbers of these basic sorts of challenges. Unfortunately, the positive thinking of chapter 17 doesn’t give me a handle on solutions to basic challenges. …and I am completely swamped with these sorts of basic challenges.

Don’t conflate basic with easy. All of the easy, basic challenges I have under control; They are already done, or are managed by reliable systems. What I’m left with are the remainders—a pile of difficult, basic challenges. Things for which positive thinking still gives me no purchase.

I don’t have much of a grasp on this chapter. But then, that’s why I’m studying this book and using its chapters as jumping-off points for my thoughts.

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§15 – A great recipe to be stressed out

(Part 27 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Have you noticed: Once you know something, you see it everywhere?

Reading this section, I’m reminded of Joe Erhmann’s ideas from the book “InsideOUT Coaching,” and of Steven Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Both of which also counsel beginning with what’s inside; Beginning by taking a step back and noticing — perhaps _learning_ to notice is the first step — the broader context.

Over a decade ago, the previous-me was entirely focused inward, on myself, on the small picture. That previous-me molted as I managed to become self aware and began learning empathy. With empathy came the ability to listen and, most recently, the ability to communicate, “How can I help?”

And yet I still regularly find myself stressed out.

My impatience regarding…
fat loss
movement progression
the podcast
memento mori

…grows, and the things I appreciate– the things I have now which I have worked so vary hard for to this point– …well, I’ve grown accustomed to them and while I still internally appreciate them I’ve stopped showing that appreciation externally.

I need to shift my goals.

I need to move the goal posts.

I need to set milestones at smaller intervals.

When you make some new connection, one then suddenly sees it everywhere.

On a recent Saturday — a day I usually jam full of goals — I accidentally set so few goals for the day, that by 4pm I was completely done. Normally, I set my goals at “do all the things” [meme image omitted :], and at some point each day I surrender with a fatalistic, “that’s enough for today!” It took me a long time to get comfortable knowing I’m organized and motivated enough that I will make progress towards my long-term goals. But every day is either a day “off” with rest and relaxation with minimal work towards goals, or a day “on” where everything is ordered– flexible, adjustable, prioritized sure, but ordered none the less.

On this particular Saturday, at 4pm…

It was surreal. It was just a nice feeling, like, “Okay, what do I want to do?” I wandered around in this daze of, “Gee, the weather is nice,” “Wow, the feel of the concrete under my bare feet is nice,” “I’d forgotten to notice how comfortable this chair is,” and “Wow, this food is particularly yummy.”

What was different? Nothing.

I still had — still have! — an enormously-complex, personal productivity system which holds all the things I’m working on. That’s not bad; That’s good. It helps me greatly by remembering everything for me, so I can use my brain for having ideas and doing things. I still have a house with a sort of strange spot on one of the ceilings that I think means the roof might be leaking. I still have a leak in the shower that I haven’t figured out. There’s still some firewood to be split.

…but for one evening — a Saturday from about 4pm until I went to sleep around 9:30 — for one evening, I clearly forgot to put in one (or both!) of the ingredients that make up the recipe for being stressed out.

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§14 – Precommit

(Part 26 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The devil is in the details?

On one hand pre-committment gives you the power of hindsight; the power of having a higher view point– the executive-level view. You can sort out all the nuances and make an objective decision. But the downside is that you’re intentionally surrendering the ability to make flexible, quick decisions down the road when your day-to-day passions might lead off in a new direction.

Do I want to be sacrificing following my passions?

I’ve attempted — sometimes even “done” :) — big projects where I’ve invested a lot of time up-front thinking, planning, and then started off on the journey. But later, in the midst of the journey, I started to have doubts. Not small, nagging doubts, but well-founded, objective doubts. When that happens I’m faced with letting go of the sunk cost of the prep work that went into the pre-committment. I start thinking, “Look at all this planning I did. Look at how far I’ve come! This doubt must be unfounded.” And suddenly all my pre-commitment is working against me. Granted, the original intention of the pre-committment is to make it easier to achieve my goals, but it can pile on sunk costs, or worse, pile on guilt, which never serves me.

In the end, it seems I simply have to know myself: These days, a 30 day challenge is something I can probably do, but 100 days will probably become a drag.

The devil really is in the details.

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§13 – On Noticing New Jumps

(Part 25 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

I once visited the Hoover Dam in Nevada.

South of the dam, U.S. Highway 93 soars across the gorge 900 feet (270m) above the Colorado river. The view of the dam, from the pedestrian walkway on that bridge, is one previously seen only by helicopter. It is simply amazing.

There is a chest-high railing along that pedestrian walkway, and there is nothing above the railing.

The bridge is a “simple” arch span — all of the bridge structure is under the bridge deck — so there I was, standing on a sidewalk.

…next to a railing.

…900 feet in the air.

I leaned casually on that rock-solid railing and took in the unrivaled view.

I took some tourist-y photos.

The bridge occasionally quivered ever-so-slightly in response to a truck embedded in the streams of traffic flying between Arizona and Nevada.

I looked down, down, down to the river far below. It was a serene view; peaceful.

I noticed: The big, round, easy-to-hold top of the railing and the two-inch-wide concrete lip on the outside of the railing.

…and like a sucker-punch to the stomach, it occurred to me that I could turn-vault over that railing. I nearly threw up from the adrenaline spike. My knees went wobbly and had I not been on the sane side of that railing, I would absolutely have fallen off that bridge.

I slinked back to the car, hugging the side of the walkway away from the railing.

I have since looked up the numbers; it would have taken me 7.5 seconds to fall to the river, and I would have been traveling at 160mph (263km/hr) upon dipping my toes in the Colorado river.

I have never — before or since — been blind-sided so violently by a physical reaction. I went from calmly enjoying a spectacular view, to needing to immediately hurry the long distance to the end of the bridge where we had parked.

Noticing new jumps indeed.

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§12 – Don’t jump

(Part 24 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

I wish I could have read this section from Thibault in the early days of my parkour journey.

If there’s an aspect of parkour training which is alien — or at least, was alien to the entirety of my experience — it is the idea of not jumping, of not doing the challenge, and having that truly be training.

Sometimes, parkour is simply spending time with fear. Sometimes, parkour is simply being calm in proximity with danger. Sometimes, parkour is simply learning to love oneself despite not reaching goals. Sometimes, parkour is simply walking away. While that may seem ok, it’s better than ok: It’s terrific!

In order to feel that one’s life is flowing more slowly — and fully — one might seek out new situations over and over to have novel experiences that, because of their emotional value, are retained by memory over the long term. Greater variety makes a given period of life expand in retrospect. Life passes more slowly. If one challenges oneself consistently, it pays off, over the years, as the feeling of having lived fully — and, most importantly, of having lived for a long time.

~ Marc Wittmann, from The Psychology of Time and the Paradox of How Impulsivity and Self-Control Mediate Our Capacity for Presence

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§11 – Half Measures

(Part 23 of 33 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The keys to life are running and reading. When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and says, “Oh I’m tired. My lung’s about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.” You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running. You will know how to not quit when things get hard in your life. For reading: there have been gazillions of people that have lived before all of us. There’s no new problem you could have–with your parents, with school, with a bully. There’s no new problem that someone hasn’t already had and written about it in a book.

~ Will Smith

Coming up short because of half-measures is not a problem I have. On the other hand, I am stubborn to a fault. Sure, I’m not stubborn every moment of every day, but I can easily muster my inner Bulldog when I need to dig my nails into the earth and push through things. I don’t think anyone has ever called me a “quitter.”

Self-injury? Behavior corrosive to interpersonal relationships? Mindlessly bashing myself on challenges both mental and physical? Being critical of others from a myopic view-point? Wearing my stubbornness as a badge of honor? Pride? Hubris? On all counts: Guilty as charged!

Clearly, I should continue to practice dialing-down the stubbornness. But, is there an appropriate amount of stubbornness?

Is play, or joyfulness, the key to finding the balance?

If I’m happy and having fun, does that rule out being stubborn?

Thibault’s section is urging us to avoid half-measures. But maybe I should occasionally practice putting in only a half-measure of effort. Maybe — just to practice not following through — I should try abandoning something for no particular reason?

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