Friction and process

Picasso observed that, “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Inspiration has to find you in the midst of your practice.

Let’s say that I enjoy painting. When I find myself painting, I usually find myself happy. I love the feeling of setting down my brush after having worked out some little problem in a painting. And so, I decide I’m going to paint regularly.

Or let’s say I enjoy sailing. I love the adventure, or the wind in my face. And so, I decide I’m going to sail regularly.

Or, running, writing, movement, music … your choice.

But without concrete plans, and clear processes, I will never actually do the practice. Friction, followed closely by excuses, will sap my momentum. If I’m to be a runner, my shoes, clothes, music or whatever I need— Those things must be in place. For any practice there are some things which you will feel must be in place.

The processes that I’m imagining, which remove friction and enable my practice, have a steady state. For my process, what does “done” look like? It looks like me sailing so often I can’t even remember not sailing all the time. Or it looks like me running and jumping and playing so often that my body is a comfortable place for my mind.

Matthew Frederick, the author of 101 Things I learned in Architecture School, makes this point:

True style does not come from a conscious effort to create a particular look. It results obliquely—even accidentally—out of a holistic process.

This point about a holistic process—the idea that mastery isn’t some higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of throwing things together—is an idea I’ve held dearly for a long time. Every single time that I’ve decided to take a process, and repeat it in search of understanding, the learning and personal growth has paid off beyond my wildest dreams.

I’m a process process process person. The second time I have to do something, I’m trying to figure out how to either never have to do that again, or how to automate it. (And failing those two, it goes into my admin day.) Random activity, powered by inspiration works to get one thing done. But inspiration doesn’t work in the long run, and it won’t carry me through my practice.

Instead, I want to know what can I intentionally do to set up my life, so that I later find myself simply being the sort of person who does my chosen practice? I want to eliminate every possible bit of friction that may sap my momentum.

There’s a phrase in cooking, mise en place, meaning to have everything in its proper place before starting. The classic example of failure in this regard is to be half-way through making something only to realize you’re missing an ingredient and having to throw away the food. Merlin Mann, who’s little known beyond knowledge workers, has done the most to improve processes for knowledge workers and creative people. I’m not sure if he’s ever said it explicitly, but a huge part of what he did was to elevate knowledge workers and creatives by cultivating a mise en place mindset.

And don’t confuse “process” or a “mise en place” mindset with goals. Forget goals. Focus on the process, and focus on eliminating friction.

To quote Seth Godin:

The specific outcome is not the primary driver of our practice. […] We can begin with this: If we failed, would it be worth the journey? Do you trust yourself enough to commit to engaging with a project regardless of the chances of success? The first step is to separate the process from the outcome. Not because we don’t care about the outcome. But because we do.

And I’ll give my last words to Vincent Thibault, author of one of my favorite books:

That is how we are still conditioned socially as adults: Do, achieve, produce results, instead of be, feel, enjoy the process. Quantitative over qualitative. We are obsessed by performance and “tangible” results. But that is one of the great teaching of Parkour and Art du Déplacement: That the path is just as enjoyable as the destination; That sometimes it is even more important, and that oftentimes it is the destination.

ɕ

Quantitative versus qualitative

That is how we are still conditioned socially as adults: Do, achieve, produce results, instead of be, feel, enjoy the process. Quantitative over qualitative. We are obsessed by performance and “tangible” results. But that is one of the great teachings of Parkour and ADD: That the path is just as enjoyable as the destination; That sometimes it is even more important, and that oftentimes it is the destination.

~ Vincent Thibault

slip:4a704.

Ignorance

One can’t learn something new without first admitting one’s ignorance. No matter how great a tea is, none can be poured into a cup that is full of water or turned upside down. There is no trying without being ready to fail. […] Some people, out of pride, exclusively want to achieve; Some others are willing to learn. Guess who gets most done in the long run?

~ Vincent Thibault

slip:4a699.

Dignity and potential

Acknowledging our fundamental dignity, recognizing our potential and actively working towards its blossoming with sincerity, patience, and integrity, is what makes a life worth living. There will be challenges, and new gaps will constantly open, but recognizing and closing these gaps will make a difference in absolutely everything we undertake.

~ Vincent Thibault

slip:4a694.

Opportunity in adversity

One of the most important factors, are we to be happy and whole human beings, is our ability to see opportunities in adversities. That is one the most powerful lessons in Parkour and ADD: Learning, whenever needed, to thrive on obstacles. Our discipline indeed tells us of the fundamental difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. The former believes, “I am bad at this,” the latter proposes, “I am better than this; I can learn something.”

~ Vincent Thibault

slip:4a689.

§19 – One word

(Part 31 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

What is it, in this sport or project, that moves me, motivates me, nourishes me—and helps me thrive and shine?

~ Vincent Thibault

What facilitates my flourishing? Today, I’m going to say it’s space.

Not physical space—although there’s a nice metaphor here about having things planted too closely in a garden and how that affects the plants’ flourishing. No, not physical space; I’ve plenty of that.

Perhaps not even mental space—I’m certainly buffeted about by the myriad winds of demands and responsibilities. But with very few exceptions, I’ve created all of those zephyrs. No, although I have left myself no mental space, I am able usually to create it on demand.

Most likely it’s emotional space. The idea that we need room to soak in the emotional experiences that go along with the reality of things, events, and people, and to do that with no specific “why” in mind.

ɕ

§16 – Don’t be that guy

(Part 28 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Serendipity.

I’ve been working on writing these thoughts for over three years. Without actually checking, I think it was the Fall of 2015 when I sat in Le Jardin Joan d’Arc and read my copy of Thibault’s book in one, all-day sitting. Almost 4 years ago?

I created this particular blank note for Chapter 16 in May of 2016. “16”?

As I’m writing, it is May of 2019. Another, “May”?

About three years ago I started the project which eventually became Movers Mindset. Two years ago the project grew to include a podcast.

This morning, I feel compelled to “finally” get around to writing something for Chapter 16. I open my digital copy, flip to Chapter 16, and I read, “Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat once wrote…”

Care to guess who I am interviewing for the podcast today? Yes, really.

This is sublime.

All those threads woven together lead to this moment of realization at 8:00 in a rented London flat, 6,000km from my home.

Critically, while I’ve known for months the exact date and time of Chris’ interview, I’ve not read Chapter 16 recently enough to have remembered that it starts with his sentiments. If I had, I’d certainly have made some complicated plan to co-publish this writing and the podcast, or something—but this serendipity would not have materialized. Energized by the jolt of adrenaline when I read Chapter 16 this morning, I now feel a renewed belief in the entire Movers Mindset project! (Which is good, because most days there’s more strenuous labor than love in the labor of love.)

But, serendipity and coincidence are bullshit.

It’s just my brain, (yours may be the same,) working its tremendous powers of pattern matching. This morning my mind found a slightly-more-interesting-than-usual pattern and screamed, (ala the old adrenal gland,) that it had found something that demanded much closer attention. I’ve been spurred to carefully read Chapter 16 about five times this morning, to mull over my thoughts, to spend an hour or so writing, and to think of all the people I want to share this story with. I was inspired to create a vision of how the interview will go, new questions have popped into my head, and I’ve thought of a specific person who I now realize I’d forgot for about two years!

I wonder: What would life be like if I simply paid closer attention?

What if—instead of needing a kick in the adrenals to be this motivated—I could begin to intentionally notice things a bit smaller than this morning’s coincidence?

What if!

…and of course, “don’t be that guy.”

ɕ

Quadrupedal Movement

(Part 72 of 73 in series, My Journey)

Quadrupedal Movement (QM) is a diverse collection of movements using both hands and feet on the ground to support one’s weight.

QM is almost always done using just the feet, and not the knees, since our knees are not capable of taking prolonged usage or impact. That said, there are some small-size, low-impact, movements using various surfaces of the knees, lower legs, buttocks, and thighs which integrate well with the usual hands-and-feet-only QM.

There are countless variations of QM. Many variations are physically demanding, but many are drastically easier than the more usual bipedal movements: Using a railing with your hands for balance and support as you ascend stairs, using walking sticks and canes, and “scrambling” on hands and feet up steep slopes, are all common variations of QM.

Start here https://gmb.io/locomotion/

…and then take a look at some advanced options, Two Hours and a Slab of Concrete.

ɕ

Meta: I’m retiring this series, “My Journey.” Over the years, my blog has changed a lot. In the beginning I had a lot of more random things here and I used this series as a way to highlight this aspect of my blog writing. Today, the blog itself is basically a record of my journey.

§15 – A great recipe to be stressed out

(Part 27 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Have you noticed: Once you know something, you see it everywhere?

Reading this section, I’m reminded of Joe Erhmann’s ideas from the book “InsideOUT Coaching,” and of Steven Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Both of which also counsel beginning with what’s inside; Beginning by taking a step back and noticing — perhaps _learning_ to notice is the first step — the broader context.

Over a decade ago, the previous-me was entirely focused inward, on myself, on the small picture. That previous-me molted as I managed to become self aware and began learning empathy. With empathy came the ability to listen and, most recently, the ability to communicate, “How can I help?”

And yet I still regularly find myself stressed out.

My impatience regarding…
fat loss
movement progression
the podcast
memento mori

…grows, and the things I appreciate– the things I have now which I have worked so vary hard for to this point– …well, I’ve grown accustomed to them and while I still internally appreciate them I’ve stopped showing that appreciation externally.

I need to shift my goals.

I need to move the goal posts.

I need to set milestones at smaller intervals.

When you make some new connection, one then suddenly sees it everywhere.

On a recent Saturday — a day I usually jam full of goals — I accidentally set so few goals for the day, that by 4pm I was completely done. Normally, I set my goals at “do all the things” [meme image omitted :], and at some point each day I surrender with a fatalistic, “that’s enough for today!” It took me a long time to get comfortable knowing I’m organized and motivated enough that I will make progress towards my long-term goals. But every day is either a day “off” with rest and relaxation with minimal work towards goals, or a day “on” where everything is ordered– flexible, adjustable, prioritized sure, but ordered none the less.

On this particular Saturday, at 4pm…

It was surreal. It was just a nice feeling, like, “Okay, what do I want to do?” I wandered around in this daze of, “Gee, the weather is nice,” “Wow, the feel of the concrete under my bare feet is nice,” “I’d forgotten to notice how comfortable this chair is,” and “Wow, this food is particularly yummy.”

What was different? Nothing.

I still had — still have! — an enormously-complex, personal productivity system which holds all the things I’m working on. That’s not bad; That’s good. It helps me greatly by remembering everything for me, so I can use my brain for having ideas and doing things. I still have a house with a sort of strange spot on one of the ceilings that I think means the roof might be leaking. I still have a leak in the shower that I haven’t figured out. There’s still some firewood to be split.

…but for one evening — a Saturday from about 4pm until I went to sleep around 9:30 — for one evening, I clearly forgot to put in one (or both!) of the ingredients that make up the recipe for being stressed out.

ɕ

§14 – Precommit

(Part 26 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The devil is in the details?

On one hand pre-committment gives you the power of hindsight; the power of having a higher view point– the executive-level view. You can sort out all the nuances and make an objective decision. But the downside is that you’re intentionally surrendering the ability to make flexible, quick decisions down the road when your day-to-day passions might lead off in a new direction.

Do I want to be sacrificing following my passions?

I’ve attempted — sometimes even “done” :) — big projects where I’ve invested a lot of time up-front thinking, planning, and then started off on the journey. But later, in the midst of the journey, I started to have doubts. Not small, nagging doubts, but well-founded, objective doubts. When that happens I’m faced with letting go of the sunk cost of the prep work that went into the pre-committment. I start thinking, “Look at all this planning I did. Look at how far I’ve come! This doubt must be unfounded.” And suddenly all my pre-commitment is working against me. Granted, the original intention of the pre-committment is to make it easier to achieve my goals, but it can pile on sunk costs, or worse, pile on guilt, which never serves me.

In the end, it seems I simply have to know myself: These days, a 30 day challenge is something I can probably do, but 100 days will probably become a drag.

The devil really is in the details.

ɕ