I was about to write “I used to think that developing discipline would cramp my improvisational style”, but then I had to stop myself. I took a dive recently through my old blogposts in 2007, and they revealed that that actually isn’t true. I’ve actually always been writing about how I think I ought to be more disciplined.
Why is that? Why do I keep writing about how I ought to be more discplined, yet never get around to actually being discplined?
The pragmatic, realist answer (which is a little unkind, but valid and important) is that I don’t actually care about discipline at all. I just want to talk about it. It’s far less effort to talk about discipline than to actually buckle up and get around to doing it.
I think there’s truth in that, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that, too. If I really didn’t care about discipline at all, I should’ve made my peace with it and just said fuck it, this is who I am, this is how I’m going to spend my life and I’m fine with that. And I’ve tried that on for a while. That didn’t sit easy with me either. I know that you can’t achieve greatness by bumming around, and I know that I want to do great things in my life. Just for the fun of it, just out of curiosity. Not so much to “prove things to people”, but more… to experience greater and more beautiful and interesting interpretations of reality.
searching in the light when you lost it in the dark
So why not develop discipline after talking about it so much, if it wasn’t purely fiction? I think most of it was that I just didn’t really know how to start. So writing about “how I used to think” is a familiar point to return to and circle around, like a drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight even though he lost his keys in the dark. I return over and over again to what I know. I regroup after being slightly lost. I start over at the starting point. I’m really, really good at starting over, it seems.
Re: learning discipline. I couldn’t follow instructions in the abstract, and I couldn’t follow instructions to do something that didn’t deeply feel important or meaningful to me. If I am to develop discipline, I think, it can only be in service of goals that deeply move me.
And these can’t just be nice-sounding goals, like “oh, let’s get disciplined and study hard and get a degree so that i can make lots of money”- I don’t give a shit about money, I can synthesize happiness without it. It’s far easier to synthesize happiness than to work towards material things that would make me happy.
So why bother then?
Why not just sit on my ass and synthesize happiness all day? Because I’ve tried that, and it’s not enough for me. It doesn’t work well for me. I have to bother because there are times where I am pained, disgusted and frustrated by injustice, or by my own inability to do anything about a situation. This is exercabated by the fact that I’m short-sighted with regards to time- if something really upsets and bothers me, I tend to rationalize it away very quickly. And then I get upset and bothered again the next time that happens. And this happens over and over again. It’s a kind of super-mild Alzhiemers, almost. (I hope that’s not insulting or demeaning…) Or some sort of groundhog day. I go through the same thing over and over. Eventually the pattern becomes undeniable, untenable, and just ugly. I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I don’t want to be that way into my late 20s, into my 30s. 24 is old enough.
I can synthesize happiness for most things and deal with most nonsense… but I guess it doesn’t work when other people enter the equation. I can’t synthesize happiness for other people. I can delude myself, but I can’t delude other people. One shitty solution is to surround yourself with other delusional people (I think this is what alcoholics do, too? and smokers)- you ‘fix’ the problem by entering an environment where it’s no longer a problem. Which would be fine, if it didn’t have long-term health repercussions, if it didn’t limit you in some other way that you’d like to express yourself.
What do I really care about? What do I want to do that deeply moves me?
I want to help smart, talented people (who don’t believe in themselves) do great work.
Because they’re everywhere around me. I’ve had this conversation with many, many people over the years. I joke that we’re neither eagles nor pigeons. We’re like, the middle child of the developed world. But I realize I can’t give them confidence by talking to them. I have to demonstrate by example that it’s possible. And even then I won’t get all of them. But I want to try. I want to inspire my wife. I want to inspire my friends. I want to inspire my colleagues. I want to see what we’re capable of.
I want to see more beautiful art in the world, or to flip that on its head, I don’t want to die without seeing the amazing work that I know my wife and some of my friends and millions of people around the world are capable of. All we have is this brief moment, and then it’s all gone. Let’s have some fun while we’re here. Let’s make something beautiful and amazing while we’re here. Life is one big trip. If the trip’s not working out, we just need to change the set and the setting, and focus on different things… we can get more out of it. And we ought to. <3
Needs more details but I’m tired and we’re over 1100 words… will followup in the next one, maybe.
 This reminds me a lot of my talk about studying, my talk about work, and my talk about smoking, most of all. I used to talk about quitting smoking, yet I didn’t quit. I kept smoking. And I’d write blogposts about what cigarettes taught me, and I’d write about how much I enjoyed cigarettes… and yet I’d also write about how I wish I could quit, how much money I was going to save, what a great plan it was to quit smoking. I finally stopped about 16 weeks ago. Over 110 days smoke-free. Can I do the same for discipline? I believe I can. I just need, theoretically speaking, another Jason Mraz + Easyway instance. Maybe? We’ll see. I’ll just keep that in mind.