Starting

The tendency to put off difficult tasks that we don’t want to face is almost universal.

And it turns out, the moment of starting a task is often so much harder than actually doing the task.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/starting-task/

Tom Petty’s lyrics not withstanding, I agree with Leo. Starting is definitely the hardest part. Unfortunately, I don’t understand why it is so difficult for me.

Take this blog post. It’s 9pm. I go to sleep at 9:30. (Why, is an entirely different story, see, Sleep.) I’ve a long drive tomorrow, and I’ve a few things left to stuff in my overnight bag. I’ve waited all day to do this small task. Writing these blog posts is straightforward; I have a well-oiled process for dropping into the right mindset and dipping into a fertile sea of cached ideas to find one to inspire. Invariably, a few minutes into the process, I’ve found an interesting thread to pull on. This is so much fun, I could—quite literally—do this all day. So why then do I wait until 9pm?

Because you see, it’s not just writing this blog post. I feel all the things on my to-do lists—both literal and in my head—are like writing this blog post: Straightforward, self-chosen, in line with my priorities and goals, inherently interesting, generally worth doing, immediately rewarding in most cases. And yet, the proverbial 9pm rolls around before I feel enough pressure to start.

The only thing I can think of is that some part of my mind just knows that the list will never be done. No matter how many times the “let’s get stuff done” part of my brain were to rise to the occasion, there’s some other part of my brain that will roll Sisyphus’s rock back to the bottom. Maybe this is all there is to it? Is the problem, not the “doer” side, but the “setter upper of things to do” side? Is the problem that I don’t know how to simply be?

Have I, perhaps, only learned instead how to be a human doing?

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Something different

https://writings.stephenwolfram.com/2021/04/the-wolfram-physics-project-a-one-year-update/

I think you should click through on that, just to see the really really long amount of text. You’re back? …good.

I have no idea what he’s talking about. I mean there are large sections of it—to be clear, I did not read all of it—that I understand what it’s saying, but I cannot follow the discussion. But he’s quite literally talking about how their research project (it’s computing software they’re running simulations within) is apparently making steady progress towards solving all of Physics. My undergrad degree is in Physics, I was a Physics grad student (but didn’t finish my Masters, to be fair about it.) This stuff from Wolfram—his writing, the software, physics research—is my wheel house. Or it used to be. I haven’t been in the wheelhouse for a while as I’ve been working on much other stuff for decades.

My reaction to this sort of research, (from Wolfram and other soruces,) is always to get sucked into it; Drawn in to try and understand how and where mankind was pushing back the curtains of the unknown. It’s exactly the sort of thing I always lived to deep-dive into. “Understands, and is into, Physics,” was a big part of my identity

Why is this post titled, “Something different?”

It was a big part of my identity, until—so it seems—one day it was no longer. My reaction is now different.

I’ve got all these other cool projects that light me up, but physics? meh.

And that made me think: That’s something different.

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101

It’s a small thing, and it was really really difficult. But I did it.

Instead of sticking to my “publish on Wednesday’s at 10am”… like I did for the first 100 episodes. 101 was published Tuesday around 7pm. I know that sounds dumb—but I’m not be sarcastic or hyperbolic. Over the years I’ve gotten really adamant about that publication day-of-the-week and time-of-the-day. Sure we weren’t able to do one every week… but I kept trying to keep things neat and tidy. “Wednesdays at 10am” was that one little bit of structure.

But really, who cares. Any structure you’re clinging to?

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The challenge

The process isn’t overly complicated or hard. The challenge becomes moving through it at the right pace in a way that aligns with your principles.

~ Farnam Street from, https://fs.blog/2015/11/how-people-make-big-decision/

This is the exceedingly rare case where what I really want to quote is a small graphic from the site, and I simply don’t feel like copying the image and uploading it, just to include it here. (You’ll have to click over.)

I found myself thinking about the little graphic, which has an outer circle describing a process for change. Starting at the here-and-now called, “doing,” forward over a “Rubicon” and then full circle to a new here-and-now of “doing.” There are several ways to fail at changing, by short-circuiting through self-defeating statements. And that’s what I’m thinking about today.

What self-defeating stories am I telling myself? Why?

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You learn who is invested

You learn who is invested.

You learn what they want.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2018/05/mistakes-are-opportunities/

Recently I’ve been trying to do some fresh self-evaluation. I happened to be thinking about, and talking to others about, how I handle mistakes. I was thinking about it from the obvious point of view of self-perception. What is my behavior? Is that good? Can I make a change that would be better? How does my behavior affect others? (All in the context of when I make mistakes.)

…and then I fell over this great post by Pressfield from 2018. (My “website serialize” tool is the second-most useful piece of software I have ever written. It is an endless source for me of terrific things.)

Woa. I hadn’t thought about using my own mistakes as a way to gather information about other people. “How do others react?” is a pretty clear line of investigation. But the idea that who notices a mistake, and how they react, tells you that they are in some way invested in whatever it is… ok, that’s pretty light-bulb. Who’s invested? Why are they invested? What’s their interest? …and so on.

Exercise for the reader: All of the above, plus, what types of mistakes does one make?

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Note from future self

In a weekly team discussion, where we start with someone leading with a prompt, we were asked what we’d like to tell our past self if we could pass a note. My response was…

I think I’ll go with a short note intended to shake my foundations, rather than convey particular information. Presuming I’d be certain to believe the note was from future-me, please pass this note to ~18-year-old me:

There are no perfectly correct answers.
There are, however, perfectly wrong answers.

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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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