Responsibility

In an increasingly interconnected world, finding focus and enabling time to do work is becoming harder and harder. Demands are outstripping our capacity at an alarming rate. It’s time to start thinking about how we work.

~ From https://fs.blog/2013/05/the-single-most-important-change-you-can-make-in-your-working-habits/

It’s not “time,” it’s far past time. But the key point of the article, (which is itself simply a pull-quote hyper-summary of a book I’ve not read,) is:

Personal responsibility.

That’s it. That’s the magic sauce. Where I’ve found success has only ever been where I took personal responsibility. And I’ve chosen my language carefully in that sentence. There are places where I took personal responsibility and still did not find success; in some cases I’ve found outright failure. But in absolutely no case was I ever successful without taking personal responsibility.

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No no no no no

The power of saying no is not a new concept. In addition to Ric Elias, Jason Fried and Ryan Holiday have also spoken eloquently about it on the podcast. Most of us struggle with saying no. Saying no is simple, but it’s not easy. 

~ Pete Attia from, https://peterattiamd.com/the-power-of-no/

Over-Accepters Anonymous should be a thing. I would totally attend those meetings. …wait, did I just say yes to a hypothetical commitment? …omg I really do need OAA meetings!

The first phase of getting myself under control was to learn to say the easier no’s. Those were the things that I didn’t actually want to do or accept, but which I used to say yes to out of habit or from a sense of obligation. I’m not perfect with that yet, but I’m getting close. (Go ahead, ask me to commit to something.)

But the second phase is far harder. (Who said, “the first 90% of a project is far easier than the second 90%?“) It’s difficult to say no to things I would in fact like to do! Curiously, years ago I made flossing twice a day into a habit—I know, right? Flossing is supposed to be really hard to make a habit, but some how I pulled it off. Meanwhile, I still say yes to far too many things that I want to do.

Yes! …another blog post written.

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Know when to punt

25 days ago I started a wee challenge: Trying to train every day for 100 days straight. I’d done this challenge in 2017 to mixed results. Physically it was mixed; training every day is too much and I ended up defining some recovery days as “training.” Mentally it was also mixed; I wasn’t trying to build a new habit, so the “daily” part didn’t work towards that, and it became a serious drag forcing myself to train every day.

When I finished the 2017 challenge I knew it sucked and definitely didn’t want to make that a thing I did often, nor even yearly. When 2020 rolled around—my physical activity was exactly as usual, with me outside doing various things just as much as 2019—but I started thinking about doing some more rock climbing (outdoors, on real mountains.) That prompted me to think about getting into better shape. For me, that’s primarily removing fat. For the first couple months I concentrated on diet, which means focusing on when and how much I’m eating.

After I peeled off 10 pounds of blubber, that’s when I had the idea to take on a fresh 100-days-of-training challenge. It was exactly what I remembered it was like: It sucks. In years past I would have just embraced the suck and pushed through the thing. Note that I would have constantly considered myself to be failing. Entirely missing a day here and there, realizing I need a rest day and defining recovery as training, and just generally nagging myself with, “I should go train.” Instead I simply punted on the whole thing and deleted it entirely.

…aaah, yes, the power of “no” when you have a bigger “why” burning inside you.

When’s the last time you punted on something?

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Being present

When we work out while listening to a podcast or checking messages, we lose out on being present with our bodies, feeling the experience of moving, exerting ourselves, being in nature.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/meticulous/

I try to walk as much as I can. Usually I make it out to walk every day for about an hour. For years I was simply walking in nature with myself and my thoughts. A few years ago, when I got really into podcasts as a listener, I started listening while walking.

But about a year ago—after noticing I’d stopped writing things down about my walks—I realized that I had lost something valuable: My time alone with my thoughts. So I cut back to listening to podcasts for about half the walk.

I’m often asked if I meditate. Yes, particularly in the past year, and it looks a lot like walking.

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Willful ignorance

Now when I pass the sign, I try and think of at least one thing I do myself that willfully ignores truths I’d rather not accept. Things I know I should change about myself that I choose not to.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2015/01/willful-ignorance/

On one hand, I disagree: The sign’s purpose is to save ducks; it was not created “for everyone.” In that sense, the bad grammar of the sign makes it work better. But, the ducks sign is simply an example. Pressfield’s point about willful ignorance is clear and—at least for me—on target.

A question I like to reflect on periodically in my journalling is: What habit did I curb [today or yesterday]? Also, reflecting on what parts of my behavior I dislike—which was a huge part of my initial journey rediscovering movement 10 years ago—gives me specific things to work on. I think it’s a deeply useful practice to ask oneself difficult questions and to reflect on the answers, (or lack of answers as the case may be.)

Are there any questions you ask yourself on a regular basis?

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Check yourself

But in order to be to be self-aware, first one needs a self to be aware of.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/12/05/check-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself/

I see what you did there, Hugh. But aside from the clever word play, there’s an obvious level to “having a self.” Everyone certainly has a self, so this just seems banal.

But I see this as a reminder that self-awareness of a static self is not good enough. I need to be aware of my self, and constantly working to improve my self.

How do I do that?

Chop wood; carry water. Write. Read. Seek out challenges great and small.

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2020

My touch-phrase for 2019 was, “no.” In terms of self-imposed stress and crippling depression, 2019 was the worst year ever; I’ve more than 10 years of journals and I’ve checked. 2018 was bad, but 2019—the year I set out specifically to reduce the problems—was definitely and significantly worse than 2018.

I remain convinced that it is not possible to optimize one’s way out of burn-out. If I have 500 things I want to get done and I’m burnt-out, the solution is to reduce the number of things, not get better at getting things done. I’m speaking from personal experience, not from theory.

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

In 2019, the “no” touch-phrase was meant to guide me to developing the habit of saying no to things coming towards me. A huge amount of ideas and opportunities come at me, and I’ve gotten much better at saying, “no.” (I’m not quite ready to say I’ve gotten “good” at it; but I’ve definitely gotten better.) I’ve gotten better at evaluating Big Asks from the world, and saying, “no.” A textbook example of that is people/groups which reach out to me, asking for my input or participation.

“No, I do not have the time to do that well.”

“No, I cannot to do that the way it deserves to be done.”

…and so on. Note particularly the absence of the societal lubrication, (a.k.a., the usual lie,) “I’m sorry, but…” Because, I’m not sorry. I’m defending myself, and I’ve reached the point where if my candid, timely, and honest response feels like a wack on the head… Bummer. Life’s hard; get a helmet.

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

In a previous post I mentioned the idea of leverage; positing that I should focus on asking myself, “how much leverage does this opportunity afford me?” This still doesn’t feel quite the right fit for 2020 because leverage per se isn’t a value I’m interested in maximizing.

So that leaves me where?

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

GLD — Get less done.

Maybe that’s the touch-phrase for 2020?

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One more walk

A few years ago, I started walking to Mordor. Based on my counting and tracking, I’m at walk number 499 and I think I can finish the mileage in the final walk.

…but I’ll cover the details when I’m done. Today I want to linger on the feeling of knowing that the end is nigh.

My motto for 2019 was, “no.” It wasn’t intended as a sour-puss negativity sprint, but rather an attempt to get myself to be mindful about what I commit to. As the year closes, and my walking goal nears completion, I want to think very carefully about what I expect to feel and experience. Where did I first hear of the goal? Why did the goal call to me? What did I want to accomplish by setting out on the journey? What will change when I finish the goal? How am I different?

Most importantly, I want to not replace the goal—and the work, and the time investment, and the mental energy—with another thing. Am I able to have a little less daily work? Am I able to have one less project in the works? Am I amble to have one less thing on my mind?

…or am I going to scurry back to the comfort of “busy” and add something?

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Humility

The artist and the entrepreneur (and all of us on the soul-level) live in an uncertain world. Our trade is in ideas, but who can say where the next one is coming from—or even if there will be a next one?

There’s a wonderful quote from John Gardner or somebody that, alas, I can’t find. The bad paraphrase goes something like this: …

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2010/08/humility/

Yes, I left out the best part to make you click through to his site.

It seems there are three choices:

  1. be a braggadocios asshole, “I am the King of Awesome!”
  2. be faux humble, “little ‘ol me? …I’m nobody, I’ve not done anything.”
  3. be actually humble, “I’m in love with this idea, and I’ve over here quietly working on it.”

Of course, there’s an infinite range of coloring on those axis. But I think my point is clear. I spent a lot of time over in zone 1; that didn’t work out well (for me or anyone else.) I’m disqualified from zone 2; there are simply too many things I’ve done.

Which leads to the problem: Over in zone three, one would necessarily want to sacrifice everything else to nurture the idea. That way lies madness, I think.

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