Villians and a new word

If you do not know the cinema-history relevance of the movie, Rashomon—no, not Rushmore—please check out the Wikipedia article. I’m not suggesting you watch the movie; You will not like it. (If you are the sort of person who would enjoy the movie, then you have already seen it!)

The villain in Rashomon is humanity’s craven need to present itself in a positive light, even if it must perjure itself shamelessly to achieve this.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2019/01/kurosawa-on-villains/

That is the greatest one sentence summary of Rashomon I have ever seen.

Unrelated, that piece by Pressfield talks about how villains may have evolved in the past to become who they are, but that they certainly are no longer changing.

Question: Does that make me a villain if I am no longer changing?

Also, new word [to me], “helpmeet”— No, there is not a missing space there.

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but- ima- gah- werds-

Let’s consider another story, this time a tale of science fiction.

~ Stephen Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2018/08/ins-and-outs-part-two/

“Ins and Outs.” That piece is short. It’s insightful. …and it’s about two movies that would definitely make my top 100, so there’s that.

Two things: The more I read from Pressfield, the more I want to open a bottle of scotch and weep that I will never write anything good.

And also, the more I read from Pressfield, the more hopeful I become that maybe something will absorb through my thick skull and mabye one day, just maybe, I’ll write something good.

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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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The dots

This is what great artists do. But in order to connect the magnificent great big idea dots, they have to have boatloads of smaller idea dots.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2017/06/the-professor-the-artist-the-writer-and-the-dots/

Sometimes I don’t have a single, specific take-away to share. Sometimes there are one, or two, things which strike me as being related; I just toss these posts up as a, “Hey, did you see…” for the world.

But in the case of this little missive from Pressfield, I lost count of the things this is related to in my personal thinking. It’s apropos of a personal conversation I had the other day about feeling a general malaise around doing things. It’s apropos of trying to find a mission. …of trying to get bored enough, to do random, deep-enough work, to create space for one’s brain to have fresh insights. However the final straw was stumbling upon something written in 2017 which has a frickin’ Sarat reference, after I was just recently using Pointillism as a metaphor.

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Professional

This, in one sentence, is the difference between the laborer-for-hire and the entrepreneur. This is the Professional Mindset.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2017/02/tk-ths-job-n-shove-it/

Pressfield’s example—I’m always assuming you’ve clicked-thru and read—is oversimple: the factory worker. But that laborer-for-hire mindset is real. The shift required is real, and really difficult. Hard like: This is the air I’ve always breathed. …and I want to be a fish, so I need to grow gills, get in the water and learn how to swim in water without seeing the water—in the same way I used to be oblivious to the air. That is to say: Impossible.

Morning friends! How’s the air?!

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Common Sense

It’s easier for Artist Today to post to Medium than it is to build her own site so Artist Tomorrow has a place to live when yet another publishing platform dies or becomes watered down by crap. It takes hard work and conviction to build your own thing — and it takes relationships, which are greater investments than ad dollars.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2017/01/common-sense/

I’m nobody. Nobody’s asking me why I’m not posting on Medium. Although, come to think of it, people do ask me why I don’t post on LinkedIn, and some people ask why I left Facebook… Anyway, you didn’t ask, but you’re still reading.

Truth be told, all the problems come from you, the aggregate readers (viewers, etc.) on the Internet. You have avoided doing the slightly-harder-than-droolingly-easy work of finding and following the things you care about. It’s easy to open an account on feedbin.com and to start following what you want to read. (And if something doesn’t play well with FeedBin, then it’s not actually on the open Internet and I encourage you to shun and shame it.) If you actively follow the things you care about, (using the Internet and software of course,) then you don’t need the middlemen; you don’t need the search engines and the social platforms.

Aside: Exactly ZERO percent of the stuff I share and talk about on this blog is discovered by search engines or social networks. (Just checked, and I have 485 things queued up as “that’s interesting, I should read it more carefully and look into it.” It was 486, until I created this post.) The kernels are found through my actively following many hundreds of different things. I receive exactly ZERO email newsletters [that’s a lie, I route a precious few into FeedBin :] Sure, I may go down search engine or social network rabbit holes learning more. But the things I care about I follow intentionally.

Once you start following things, you might even grow to love those things. One day you’ll realize that you even value those things so much that you voluntarily throw some money at them to support their work.

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Quitting at quitting time

The best thing you and I can do at the end of the writing day is to stash our work gloves in our locker, hang our leather apron on a hook, and head for the workshop door. If we’ve truly put in our hours today, we know it. We have done enough. It won’t help to keep at it like a dog worrying a bone.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/08/the-office-is-closed/

…and similarly: https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2012/07/24/perfectionism-is-a-losers-strategy/

I’ve recently learned that “inertia” as a word, was first applied to the cosmos during a fairly recent philosophical shift in thinking. People like Copernicus were looking at the cosmos and used “inertia” to point out the universe’s inherent, not-alive property; as in, the cosmos possesses inertia, the property of being inert. Newton’s idea of inertia, in the sense that slow moving dump trucks have a lot of inertia, aligns with the idea that the inert cosmos resists. It resists starting and it resists stopping. Newton’s equation, “F=ma” is a result of inertia; If (F)orce is zero on the left, then (a)cceleration is zero on the right. If acceleration is zero, then velocity remains constant.

Aside: “velocity” is speed, “how fast?” and direction, together as one property. Turning a corner in a car, at the same speed, is a change in velocity. To do so requires force from the steering tires of the car. The steering wheel is simply a well designed control for applying lateral force to the front of your car to control your velocity without changing your speed.

Where was I? …oh, right! Inertia. The cosmos. Back to it…

The inert cosmos resists starting and stopping. But I am not inert! I long ago recognized that when I was not moving—figuratively speaking, moving by being engaged making progress toward some goal… When I was not moving, then I needed to do something to get moving. I needed to start, and realizing that I was bad at starting, I needed to practice starting. Okay, did that.

Unfortunately, I have created a new problem: I don’t know how to stop. It turns out one really needs to also be able to start and to stop. Now that I’ve mastered starting, I can finally begin to learn to stop.

<sarcasm>And surprise!</sarcasm> F=ma. Starting and stopping are equally difficult.

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Redefining our mission

Our assignment, like that of any new boss or coach, is to overhaul the organization (i.e., ourselves), strip it down to its basics, redefine its mission, its goals, its virtues and its vices. We have to fire every part of ourselves that can’t or won’t get onboard the new mission and we have to achieve buy-in from all the other parts that we have allowed to remain with the franchise.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/10/why-the-raiders-suck/

This exercise always proves beneficial for me; systematically going through everything that I’m doing, my habits, my friends—everything. Take the time to assess, and in particular to consider: Knowing what I know today, if today I was offered this “opportunity” to allocate my time or resources, on this thing, would I take it? It’s a powerful way to work around our inherent tendency to fall for the sunk cost fallacy.

Here I have 500 books on my “read this” bookcase. Picking up one book, knowing all that I know today, would I read this book? Considering all that I know today, would I buy a TV, subscribe to Netflix, and arrange my living room in this fashion? …would I call it my sedentary entertainment room instead? Knowing what I know today, would I agree to have dinner or drinks with this person who I currently have labeled [in my mind] as a friend? How does each of these things move me forward?

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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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It’s really hard to see from another’s perspective

In such a simple situation, I placed a message in what I thought was the best position: The door knocker.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/10/stick-it-to-the-doorknob/

It used to be that when someone asked me to look at something, or for feedback, I took it very seriously. Not “gravely” serious, but appropriately serious. I allocated what I felt would be sufficient time to give the task my undivided attention. I gave the whatever-it-was a deep thinking-through and tried to melt my mind into all the nooks and crannies(*).

No more!

Why? Because what do I desperately want when I ask someone for feedback? I want their fresh perspective.

I’ve already thought about it six ways to Sunday—I don’t even know what that means. I’ve a reason for every minuscule feature, every character, every color, … I don’t want you to ask me what sort of feedback I want… I don’t want you to get a pencil and pad out to write an outline… I don’t want you to think about what would be he best feedback to make the thing better… And these days I’m figuring that’s what everyone else wants too.

Just my first reaction. If I’m on my game, maybe my first few reactions; bonus points if I can muster a few positives and negatives. But either way, just *pow*, no holds barred. RFN (right now). As Pressfield said, hang the note right on the doorknob: “Your baby is ugly.” “That’s the most elegant Rube-Goldberg device I’ve ever seen.”

And then maybe ask a question or three once I’ve done the hard work of doing what I was asked.

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* Anyone else always associate that phrase with butter and Thomas’s English muffins?