0389 – get your ass up and walk that tightrope, son

I find myself thinking about the balancing act that’s required in order to move from one level of functioning to the next. To be able to do more with the same resources, we need to use those resources more efficiently. That means using them less bluntly. More economically. With less wastage. That means identifying a more efficient path through the rope, so that less energy is expended in cutting it. This might mean taking an elegant swing instead of sawing in frustration. That might require a whole new set of practices and failsafes and other such things.

I’m on autopilot here but again I feel like I’m overdue for an upgrade. I feel like I ought to have identified some weak spots by now that need improvement, some opportunities for me to be more efficient. And well– I do know what they are. Sleeping and waking earlier. Reading and writing when I’m awake, instead of getting on Twitter and Facebook and what-have-you. Being focused on specific tasks at work, rather than just confronting a general miasma of work-ness. These are all opportunities for me to become more efficient, to do more with less. I haven’t made much progress on these fronts. I don’t want to waste too much time overanalyzing, but I have a vomit quota to meet (publish 1/day, as I was doing as a minimum before I fell sick) and so using this moment to think about it seems reasonable.

Either I get stuck in the familiar rut, the familiar grind, or I do something overly extreme and I fail. And the extreme fails tend to justify going back to the familiar grind, and I carry with me the obscure hope that “someday” I’ll figure it out, someday I’ll get frustrated with the cycle enough that I’ll do something altogether different. Well, someday is now. If I’m not actively working on figuring something out, it’s not going to get figured out. This, of all things, is something I ought to have figured out by now. But I haven’t, and the state of my life so far is a reflection of the fact that I haven’t yet fully internalized this. So I’ll ruminate on this fact. [1]

So I have fallen off the tightrope many, many times, and spent a lot of time not even trying, using the pain from the falls as justification for not trying. But I also really want to get to the other end. So I have spent long swaths of time just sort of idly hoping that someday I’ll figure this all out. Well that someday is now. I’m 25 years old. I am the man that the 17 year old boy wishes I was. And the hilarious thing is that I am hardly any different. I mean, now I might be selling myself a bit short here. I certainly think and act better than I did then. But it’s not like I underwent some sort of amazing transformation. It’s not like I possess any magical insight or perspective that I didn’t have access to as a 17-year-old, except maybe more data points telling me things that I already suspected or knew, but couldn’t quite prove. And that’s it, I’m not going to magically be different or more prepared at 35. I can’t put this off any longer. The longer I put this off, the more inertia I’ll have. The more my muscles would’ve atrophied. The more I’d have become tied up in my existing mental patterns.

So the big insight is this, younger self– you’ll never be ready. There will never be a sign. You just need to write in the dark. You need to work in the dark. You’ll fail, and it’ll hurt, and you’ll need to evaluate those failures and try again even though your gut tells you to give up.

Oh, and you’ll need to realize that your feelings are not a reliable indicator of what’s best for you. All that bullshit about following your gut doesn’t apply to you, it only applies retroactively to people who are already successful and want to further cement the myths that they are the chosen ones, that they possess passions and insights that the rest of us mortals aren’t quite blessed with.

Growing up is painful as fuck but I thoroughly intend to do it, and I intend to do it now since I can’t do it yesterday. That means publishing this vomit, showering and going to bed. It means meditating. It means reviewing my to-do lists and my obligations and making sure I make good on my commitments to people. I don’t feel like doing any of those things, but my feelings are broken, my feelings are inherited, and my feelings are subject to change. I’ve learned from experience that following my feelings typically leads to suboptimal outcomes. Yeah, I should listen to my body when it’s telling me that it needs food, or sleep, or rest– and ironically, those feelings I never seem to listen to. I only listen to things that say “this is hard, this is painful, let’s do something else, let’s distract ourselves, let’s play a game, let’s just keep switching between things and things will get easier.” 

Things do not get easier. Life does not get easier. Some problems do go away if you ignore them long enough, but the price is not worth paying because you wither away in the process.

Get your ass up and walk that tightrope, son.


[1] At this point I feel like it’s worth a gentle reassurance that I certainly HAVE internalized some of the thoughts and ideas that I’ve been repeating over and over again.

And yet, I’m still not fully breaking down every single task into its constituents and attacking them one by one, and perhaps the mistake there still is that I’m not changing my environment. I should do that next, I shall do that tomorrow at work and experiment with that. I am doing well with my basics, but I can still never shake the nagging feeling that I spend blocks of time sort of intellectually staring into space, and that if I used these blocks better, I could be twice as productive.

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