40 knots in the freezing Atlantic

The point is, you’re basically this walking, lumbering habit machine. And these habits — a.k.a. your identity — have been built up over the course of decades of living and breathing, laughing and loving, succeeding and failing, and through the years, they have built up a cruising speed of 40 knots or so in the freezing Atlantic. And if you want to change them — that is, change your identity, how you perceive yourself or how you adapt to the world — well you better slam that steering wheel to the side and be ready to hit a couple icebergs, because ships this big don’t turn so well.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/be-patient

I’ve been saying, “big ship, little rudder,” for a long time about my own attempts to change course. I’m certain I’m right about myself, but it’s reassuring to hear other people say they see this about themselves too. Wether or not Manson is your cup ‘o tea, it’s nice to hear things that confirm your assessment. “That looks like a shark, right? That’s a shark; we should get out of the water, right?”

The reason—not “one of the reasons”, but the actual, single, I’m-not-kidding, this is really why, reason—I tell the truth is that it helps other people form a good model of their world. Sound bonkers? …try this:

You know what it looks like, and/or sounds like, when a car is approaching along a roadway. You have a model of your world that, I hope, predicts that being struck by said car would be Very Bad. So you instinctively adjust your actions—get out of the way that is—when you see or hear a car approaching. That’s you using a model of reality; in this case a really good model that almost always works. Your model isn’t perfect: The driver could swerve to avoid you, and end up hitting you. In which case your model of the world has failed; you should have stood stationary, in the street to avoid being hit.

Where did you get that model?

What if I had arranged it so that every car you encountered as a child was driven by a confidant of mine. I had them all swerve to avoid you, and I taught you that cars will avoid you. You’d have a very different model! …and you’d agree I had done some SERIOUS lying to you!

Does my definition of True make sense now? I’ll say something if it will help you build a better model of the world. One can try this test on everything; it always works perfectly to tell you what is morally correct [in the context of speaking]. Anyway, I digress.

So I’ve been saying to myself, “big ship, small rudder,” and here I have an external bit of evidence from Manson that my model is correct. *shrugs* Sorry, this is what happens when you peek into my head.

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blog by a Stoic

Stoicism has long surged in times of difficulty—the decline and fall of Rome, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Civil War, depressions, and periods of strife because it is a philosophy designed for difficult times. It says, in effect, you don’t control these alarming events going on in the world, but you do control how you respond. And in fact is a framework for responding with courage and virtue, and with the good emotions that accompany and sustain them: joy, caution and well-wishing. None of these inspiring figures were guilty of emotionless acquiescence.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/secret-singular-philosophy-todays-politics-desperately-missing/

I’m certainly not going to transform my blog to be entirely about Stoicism. Not because others have already done so—others have, and have done it better than I could—but rather, simply because this blog doesn’t actually have a specific purpose. It’s simply one long stream of consciousness where I’m leaving a breadcrumb trail of my thoughts. That being said…

Stoicism is turning out to be a powerful toolset; an excellent fulcrum for leveraging change in my personal life. Over several years, I’ve become increasingly interested in it, and have read slowly, but steadily. Very recently, I started a morning practice I’ve labeled “philosophical reading.” It’s simply some time set aside in my mornings to read and reflect on philosophy.

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Your model of the world

Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you’ve lost the source of. It works, but you don’t know why.

~ Paul Graham from, http://www.paulgraham.com/know.html

I deeply love the concept of having a “model” of the world. I’m also deeply interested in having a correct model of the world. The model enables me to understand the world, to move through it, and to create the changes I wish.

I used to try to carefully create my model; for each question I encountered, I would try to learn everything that was important to determine the best answer. But that is an endless fool’s errand. The whole world become an endless field of rabbit holes. Each rabbit hole is wonderfully interesting, and it is immediately clear that exploring even a significant number of them is hopeless in one lifetime.

Instead, I learned to follow my curiosity—which is the recipe for rabbit-holes ad nauseum—but to stop when I’m no longer curious. Piece by piece a model of the world is assembled. Want to build a great model? …don’t focus on building the best model. Instead focus on this next piece of the model—the next thing you read, the next person you interact with, the next thing you do, the next thing you explore.

You have a model too, and you use it constantly. What are you doing to build your model?

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Lying to children

The first step in clearing your head is to realize how far you are from a neutral observer. When I left high school I was, I thought, a complete skeptic. I’d realized high school was crap. I thought I was ready to question everything I knew. But among the many other things I was ignorant of was how much debris there already was in my head. It’s not enough to consider your mind a blank slate. You have to consciously erase it.

~ Paul Graham from, http://www.paulgraham.com/lies.html

Sure, there are lies of expedience. (“What is thunder?” “It’s clouds bumping into each other.”) But it’s a water slide of lies when you start thinking about it. I know I never really thought about it; I certainly wouldn’t have expected a quick summary of the issues to be 5,000 words.

But there it is none the less, well done by Graham. It contains a litany of ways we all lie to children, (including those of us who don’t have or care for children in any way.) Frankly, some of the ways we all lie seem like an excellent thing to be doing. And if that’s the case, then we all have the we’ve-been-lied-to baggage Graham is describing.

Suddenly! (“It didn’t stop. It didn’t stop!”)

…I feel like I need to toss out the closets of my mind.

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What versus how

When you find yourself stuck on some decision, figure out if you are stuck on the ‘what’ or the ‘how’. Every situation is different, but here are some examples:

Thinking about marriage: You’re likely to be stuck on the ‘what’. Should I get married? Should I marry this person? You’re stuck on what should I do. If you decide to get married, it’s quite simple. You probably need a marriage license and a simple legal ceremony. The how you get married is almost always very easy.

Thinking about quitting college: You’re likely to be stuck on the ‘what’. Should I quit? Should I continue? How you quit is very easy; go to the Registrar’s office, and they’ll give you a form. (Actually, you could simply walk away and they’ll do the quitting for you.)

Thinking about changing jobs: You’re likely stuck on the ‘how’. I don’t like this job; I’d like that other career. Straightforward what I should do. But how do I do that? Existing family commitments, monetary support, contracts with your employer… So how you change jobs is hard.

Side hustles: I want to start a side-project working on my passion. How do I do that in my spare time? How do I create a business? How do I find some funding. Again, the what is easy and the how is hard.

It isn’t that being stuck on one versus the other is better or worse. But figuring out which you are stuck on—hopefully it’s one and not both—will clarify your thinking and will show you the type of help you should seek.

I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it.

I don’t know what I want to do, but I know how to do it.

When you’re stuck, figure out where your “don’t” lies. Then figure out who you can ask for guidance to help you remove your “don’t” so you’re left with:

I know what I want to do, and I know how to do it.

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Mindless or mindful?

Have you noticed how often we all repeat what we say?

Too many people simply begin talking at another person, before having obtained their attention. This happens all the time! Once you start to notice it, it’s everywhere.

Too many people aren’t paying attention. Although, I suspect it’s partly in response to too many people [and computers and phones and our entire culture] clamoring for their attention, that they’ve stopped paying attention as a self-defense mechanism. Withholding attention shifts the default setting of how attention-getting something must be to actually get their attention.

Many years ago I made a house rule that we would not talk to each other unless we were in the same room. It took a long time until it became the norm in our house. No shouting from one room to another with a question, or an order. How often do things like, “Hey, could you…” travel from room to room in your home? The rule forces us, when I want your attention, to go to you. This puts some actual effort onto me, where it belongs. No one is permitted to call from the living room, “Hey, can you bring me…” when we both know full well we should get up and get it ourselves.

Settling into that rule was tough, but part two was far harder. The other side of the exchange. The person who is interrupted, even if it is ever so politely, by a demand for attention. Having reached a point where we each travel to the other, (the first part,) we then had to learn to treat the arriving person with respect, (the second part.) For example, when I’m knee-deep in computer work and she arrives, I had to learn to pause from my work and turn my full attention to this person who is vastly more important than anything happening in my computer. Frankly I’m still working on this.

So meta. She arrived to talk about something as I was typing this… ;)

…anyway.

After a few years of all of the above, I noticed my attention was becoming a much sharper tool in my interactions out in the world. Some of this was surely due to years of martial arts training, but much of the change was due to my intentional practice described above.

(Then I realized just how much of my attention my phone was demanding, and I fixed that shit right quick. Then I threw my participation in social networks under the bus.)

Now, I see countless examples of mindlessness any time I venture out into the regular world. But I also see examples of mindfulness. They’re not as common, but some people I encounter are awake. Some people I encounter are interested and interesting. Some people’s presence make the immediate area a better place.

Which are you, mindless or mindful?

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The calling of what could be

The best way I can describe it is a “calling.” I see something—something being done in an inefficient way, a question asked, a powerful tool not being used—and I see possibilities. Ways to combine things, to expand things, or a small bit of connection that would make two things vastly more powerful. It’s a flash of opportunity.

The urge to drop whatever it is that I’m currently doing, and jump on the new opportunity is irresistible. Not quite absolutely irresistible, but it’s close. I don’t get distracted so much by things, but rather by the opportunity for me to take some action to create, integrate, combine, smash and rebuild better, rearrange and permute. Oh yes, it’s a calling. It’s almost an addiction.

Actually, maybe it is an addiction. An addiction to action?

Certainly, I’m biased towards action. That’s a good thing. As an agent—emotional too of course, but as a being who has agency—being biased towards action is a necessary component of being able to consistently affect the world.

However, I’ve come to believe that there’s such a thing as too much action. It’s completely possible, (exhibit ‘A’, me,) to attempt too much action, to do too much, and to lose oneself in a flurry of activity. I’m beginning to suspect that, now that I’m a master of taking action, I need to work on assessing leverage. Feel a calling? How much leverage would that action generate? How much good/benefit/creation/change would that action generate? How, as it were, does it multiply the actions of others?

That might be a theme for 2020: How much does it multiply?

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§18 – Start where you are

(Part 30 of 37 in series, 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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