0321 – move fast and break things

I remember reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done a few different times, and I’ve come to realize that for something to stick with me, I need to reread it multiple times, practice it multiple times, reflect on it over and over, try it again, try differently, and so on. I think at its most simplest, GTD is about having an inbox where you throw in all your tasks. Then you do the quick-and-easy ones as fast as possible. Then you prioritize the important stuff and do that, delegate what you can delegate, and get rid of whatever you can get rid of.

In this vomit I want to think about that last one– getting rid of things.

I have a silly habit of trying to come up with loads of tasks, and then holding on to them for really long, allowing them to fester in my mind and make me feel really guilty and incompetent. I once wanted to make 100 videos of myself playing guitar. I uploaded the first video in February 2012. It’s now April 2015, and I find that I had stopped halfway at video 43. It shouldn’t be too difficult for me to just quickly do another 57 videos. What’s stopping me? Well– I guess at some point the habit I was sustaining collapsed. I was using a webcam and making those videos at my parent’s place. I moved house and didn’t know where that camera ended up. And I think my guitar was falling apart. I’ve since gotten a new guitar, and I can record videos on my macbook air. So what’s stopping me? Inertia, I guess. The idea of picking up where I left off… didn’t even occur to me for the most part.

At the same time, I had been thinking of vlogging on YouTube for a very, very long time. I think since I ever even started my YouTube account, which was way back in 2005. (It’s been a decade, wow). I finally got around to doing it a couple of days ago, after years of deliberating. The videos aren’t anything special– I can recognize that they’re rather mediocre. But I’m really happy for having gotten the balls to just sit down, record them and upload them. Now that I have something shipped, I can review my work and attempt to do better next time. This is something I’ve learned from doing my vomits– and I had been getting multiple signals from several videos I’d watched (Les Brown, Alan Watts) and several things that I had read about simply feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It was getting to the point, I guess, where having the fear around was just limiting and annoying and I decided I was just going to do it.

As I write this, I’m playing videos of myself playing guitar in the background, in another tab on YouTube. I can hear all the weaknesses in my singing and playing– I play too fast, I sing without breathing deeply enough, all sorts of little errors. But I find myself grateful for having put my work out there. I feel the same way about a lot of my writing. I’m much more grateful for having published imperfect things than for having thought about things but ultimately not doing anything about them. I suppose a day might come where even the undone things are worth being grateful for in some way that I can’t quite perceive right now… but I think even there there’s some complexity that I haven’t fully considered. I think Antifragile principles come into play here. If there is limited downside (public embarrassment, usually, at the worst, and rarely are things so horrific that you can’t recover with a simple apology and doing better the next time). The value of having an additional data point to work with is tremendous. It compounds. Two data points are more than twice as valuable as a single data point.

It’s kinda humbling to realize how little “personal will” (in the straightforward, simplistic sense) seemed to factor into that decision. It was more of an environmental, contextual thing. And yeah, Personal Will is what changes the environment– it’s like seeking help, you still ultimately have to be the one to do it. But the fact that help– well, HELPS– that’s really humbling, I think, and people don’t talk about it enough. Or again, maybe they do, but I was just never quite listening.

Which brings me to a sentence that’s been in my mind for a while– the idea that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. We shouldn’t be looking for better teachers, then (figuratively speaking), rather, we should aim to be better students. But that just begs the question- what does it mean to be a ready student? As a student, how do you ready yourself?


I realize I diverged a little there. Let’s recap what I’m talking about so far– collecting tasks and discarding them in a GTD context, confronting fears, and readying yourself as a student. I’ll explore the student bit in the next vomit, let me finish up my thoughts about discarding tasks.

Simply, I have a whole bunch of old junk that I’ve never gotten around to finishing. And I agree with what some writers have said about the value of finishing things even if they don’t seem like things that are as important or relevant anymore, because the habit of finishing things is a useful one to have. I’d like to finish these vomits. I’d like to finish my 100 guitar videos, even if I’m never going to be a musician. Just because I said I’d do it. And finally, there a bunch of tasks about things I want to write about, etc that I should simply delete, because I don’t feel very strongly about them, and they’re just sitting in my task list looking all sad and unloved. I should shed them from my brain because they’re distracting me from the fewer things that I really want to do. If they’re really, really important, they’ll turn up again.

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