Deciding versus doing

Doing a pushup isn’t that hard, and with a fully defined program, once I’ve decided to go with it, a pushup is all I ever have to do. Push the floor away, and I will get there. On the action level that’s all I need to be thinking about. Trying to do a pushup while you’re simultaneously deciding whether it’s worthwhile is about ten times harder than just lifting your body off the floor.

~ David Cain, from

Hear! Hear! and once more, louder, for those in the back!

I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, the desired ratio for the time spent deciding versus doing is infinite. I strive to spend all of my time deciding. I try to never do anything. I try to always sit with the thinking and the deciding. …stay with it. …wait. …keep thinking. …no, I’m not yet done deciding. …no, do not initiate action.

Because no matter how hard I try to stay with the deciding, my urge to do eventually forces me into action. I never have trouble shifting from deciding to doing.

This is very closely related to my touch-stone phrase for 2019, which is, “no.” In 2018 I tried the classic, “HELL YES! …or no,” and I still said yes far too often. So for 2019 I’m trying to always say, “no.” I’m trying to spend all my time deciding.

Halfway through 2019 and I’m still getting far too much done.


Are you self-aware

The following is from Bruce Lee’s hand-written essay entitled, The Passionate State of Mind, which I discovered in the Artist of Life by J Little.

To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. Whether being different results in dissimulation or a real change of heart—it cannot be realized without self-awareness. Yet is is remarkable that the very people who are most self-dissatisfied and crave most for a new identity have the least self-awareness. They have turned away from an unwanted self and hence never had a good look at it. The result is that those most dissatisfied can neither dissimulate nor attain a real change of heart. They are transparent, and their unwanted qualities persist through all attempts at self-dramatization and self-transformation.

~ Bruce Lee

I wish I had read that 20 years ago. But I suspect I wouldn’t have understood it the way I do now. I only understand because of the path I’ve taken through my life.

Bruce Lee was not an Exceptional Philosopher; Please stop quoting, “be water my friend,” as if it’s the ultimate grain of wisdom for the ages. Rather, I suggest that Bruce Lee was an Exceptional Person because he asked questions and he followed those lines of enquiry wherever they led, often inward into his thinking, beliefs and goals.

Are you self-aware enough to ask, “am I satisfied with myself?” and what are you going to do with the answer?


Feeding the mind

I wonder if there is such a thing in nature as a FAT MIND? I really think I have met with one or two: minds which could not keep up with the slowest trot in conversation; could not jump over a logical fence, to save their lives; always got stuck fast in a narrow argument; and, in short, were fit for nothing but to waddle helplessly through the world.

~ Lewis Carroll

What an interesting metaphor! Can a mind be overfed? Can a mind undergoing regular, additional exercise require more feeding? Are there different diets—composition of the nourishment, not strategies to lose weight—for the mind?

Am I the sort of person who takes seriously the specifics of nutrition and exercise of the mind?

What would “junk food” be for the mind? What would “comfort food” be for the mind? What’s the equivalent of quadrupedal movement for the mind? What would over-training be for the mind?

…and why do I have the urge to dump out the “cabinets” where I store my mind’s nourishment in order to reboot my mental diet?

No answers today. Only questions.


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.


On not letting go

I experimented by letting go of goals for a while and just going with the flow, but that produced even worse results. I know some people are fans of that style, but it hasn’t worked well for me. I make much better progress — and I’m generally happier and more fulfilled — when I wield greater conscious control over the direction of my life.

~ Steve Pavlina

“Letting go” of my structures and goals is good for short-term health. I do this when I’m traveling, or when something unusual happens, (such as having a house guest for a weekend.) Letting go enables me to see if my default habits have changed, as I’m often working on some goal or project that involves habit change. Letting go creates space for serendipity.

But letting go does not get things done. My mind is meant to have ideas, not to hold them. Systems (a grocery list, a todo list, plans for projects, and so on) are how my mind creates the changes I want to see in the world.

Letting go certainly recharges me. It’s the restorative yin to my personality’s default yan.


I don’t scale

No matter where your adventure takes you, most of what is truly meaningful is still to be found revolving around the mundane stuff you did before you embarked on your adventure. The stuff that’ll be still be going on long after you and I are both dead, long after our contribution to the world is forgotten.But often, one needs to have that big adventure before truly appreciating this. Going full circle. Exactly.

~ Hugh MacLeod

I like this idea because it means that today, things are as bad as it can get.

I’m already super-busy, super-stressed, super-anxious, super-self-critical and super-distracted. I’m pretty sure that finishing another project—just. one. more!—is not going to magically fulfill me. Somehow this lesson is easy to understand but hard to know… hard to integrate.

But “scale”? That’s something I really understand. I understand what happens with something that can scale, and something that cannot scale. So if humans—i.e., me—don’t scale, why do I keep trying to make me scale?


Inspiration is for suckers

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.


Why do you?

Theoretically, if you know what you love, then every time you make a decision you’ll have a pretty damn clear idea if it’s taking you closer or further away from what you love. You’ll know the right thing to do. So self-love is a moral issue. It consists of doing the right thing, and nothing else.

~ David Cain


If you put it that way, that would me that all of my problems are my responsibility. There is, after all, nothing in my power beyond my reasoned choices.



Keeping a notebook

(Part 73 of 74 in My Journey)

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

~ Joan Didion

I have no idea who my 16-or-so-year-old self was. I recently found myself telling a long sequence of stories from that era. Who was that person? What were they thinking? …I have no idea.

And I don’t mean that looking at the facts, things don’t make sense. As in, “why would someone do that, in that situation.”

I mean: I have no recollection of what it felt like to be that person. That person—those experiences—don’t even feel real. It’s like there’s not even the least certainty that those memories aren’t just something loaded into my brain before it was booted up a few years ago.

Going back ten years—maaaybe 15 at most—I feel like that is still me. It’s like there’s a horizon and once an experience disappears over the horizon, all that’s left is a story.