0293 – get better at estimating (start small)

I would like to do 9 more vomits before I go to bed tonight, though I recognize that that’s probably not very feasible. I suppose this is a part of my regular overestimation of myself, which is I think going to be the subject of this particular vomit.

I have always been very bad at estimating things– particularly at estimating my own capacity for doing things, because I tend to assume that I’ll be completely productive the whole time I’m going to be doing something– writing at full steam for hours and hours without having to break to rest or sleep or anything of the sort. I also tend to underestimate the complexity and difficulty of tasks. I want to say this is because I’m used to being able to do things, but really I’m not sure.

To get a little meta about it, it seems like I’ve basically settled into this comfortable-uncomfortable system where I just make inaccurate projections about what I’m going to do, and then I miss these projections and then I self-flagellate whatever seems to be a reasonable amount, and then I perpetuate a sort of stasis within this little loop. If there is growth, it feels like it’s not very much. It feels like… if I can resolve this problem of estimation and subsequent flagellation, I fell like I’ll be able to grow and learn and serve others at a much better rate. [1]

I recognize that there’s a certain hedonic treadmill aspect to this, but I don’t think I’m anywhere near the obsessive stage where it’s clear that I’m grasping at the straws of diminishing returns. I might seem like it because I’m writing about it so much, but I’m writing about it primarily because I’ve committed myself to writing as much as possible about anything at all, and for the most part I’ll write about whatever’s on my mind. So this writing project at the time being is an overplay, an overdoing of sorts. I’m taking far more effort than reasonable to represent something at much higher fidelity than “necessary”. If my only goal in life was to resolve the issue, I’d probably just shut up and spend all my time working on resolving the issue. But my main goal is to write, and so resolving the issue is something I do as part of the process of writing. It’s the subject matter I just happened to choose. Or maybe I’m rationalizing right now? Now that’s a recursive rabbithole that’s not worth getting into.

If it’s not worth getting into that recursive rabbithole, what should I be getting into? I guess just reminding myself of this should suffice. I feel like the first thing that needs to go is the self-flagellation. It’s part of the equation that maintains the unpleasant stasis that I have grown to dislike, and it also feels like the “simplest” thing to eliminate. Simple conceptually– all I need to do is recognize when I’m self-flagellating, and stop.

And ask instead, okay, what stopped me from being able to do what I set out to do? What do I need to change so that I can improve my odds of getting it right the next time? How can we try better? Was it unreasonable to hope to do 15 vomits in a day? I don’t think so. I think the problem was that I woke up late, and that I got distracted at several points, and I hadn’t paced myself, hadn’t set targets, hadn’t been more rigorous. But hey, as a consolation, I’ve still done more vomits today than on most days. I did 10 yesterday, and 10 again a few weeks ago, and today I’ve done like… 7? I’m just going to keep going until I get sleepy, and then I’ll go to bed. But I’m not going to feel bad about it. Shipping is shipping.

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[1] This brings me to some side thoughts about what it means to be growing at an optimal rate, and what optimal means. I was also just watching a talk by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who wrote Team Of Rivals– an excellent tome about Abraham Lincoln’s life and his Presidency. I read it because Barack Obama mentioned at some point that he was reading it, and it was totally worth it. Great book. Anyway, Doris’s talk was about life lessons from the Presidents she had studied (Lincoln) and interacted with (Lyndon Johnson), and she talked about how there are 3 parts to life that you’ll want to invest in– work, love and play. So I think… as long as you’re making an effort on all 3 counts, you’re probably going to have a reasonably rich and fulfilling life.

Now, I don’t think it makes sense to be constantly obsessed with trying to optimize things– I think when you do that, you might be happy WITH your life, but it’ll be hard to be happy IN your life. That’s the problem of being obsessively perfectionist, for example. You get all these achievements that you can be proud of, but you’re never happy, never satisfied. And I definitely want to be happy and calm and fulfilled and magnanimous and laughing and all that. I don’t need to be the King Of The World or anything like that. I’m happy to pass that glory on to others. What I do want is to be able to say that I gave myself a good shot. And right now I still don’t feel like I can say that.

Some of my friends might say some things like, “Yeah, don’t push yourself too hard, man.” Which is a valid concern, and something that I might be guilty of from time to time. THAT SAID, it’s entirely possible to push yourself too hard sometimes, and then not push yourself enough at all (the term isn’t as accurate as I’d like but I’ll just use it for now). The idea is to find the happy middle– where you’re pushing yourself the appropriate amount and enjoying yourself while you’re at it. It’s quite tough to really dissect and unpackage that because it’s very multi-faceted and multi-layered– probably best to start from first principles. I think I’ll write my next post about this.

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