I feel like I should quickly expand on the previous vomit, which I started without an end in mind, and summarized as “my feelings are often unreliable and wrong”. It occurs to me that– I’m always going to be feeling things, and it’s going to be important for me to know when I can trust my feelings and when I cannot. When I’m feeling tired, for example, I should trust that feeling and stop whatever I’m doing. When I feel like running away and hiding from everything, that’s probably an overreaction, and I’d probably be better off reaching out to people and telling them the truth about whatever’s going on. In the long run, that’s the person I want to be.
So, how do I figure this out? I’m thinking about Antifragile– it’s usually much easier to know what is wrong than what is right. You can know what is wrong with much greater certainty than what is right. So if I want to troubleshoot my feelings, I should write down all the feelings that are wrong.
It’s wrong when I feel like I can do many things at once. I can’t. Important, difficult things require focus. Steve Vai says this and he’s successful and he knows this to be true, and I’m willing to defer to him and countless others who say “How good you are at something is a function of how well you were able to focus on it.” I have many examples of me trying to multi-task and failing– in fact, that’s the default state of my existence so far. I’d like to change that. I have to pick one thing at a time and do that one thing.
It’s wrong when I feel like I can do something easily, or I can do something later. I systematically overestimate what I am capable of doing, and the feeling there is always a lie. I can’t trust my later-self to do things, I’ll be tired later. I’ll have other commitments later. I’ll get interrupted later. If something needs doing, I should do it now.
It’s wrong when I feel like I need to do something entirely on my own. I can delegate and share. I can ask other people for their opinions. Life can be wonderfully collaborative and it should be. I used to feel a general sense of disdain and unease with commitment devices– maybe because I just have this aversion to being accountable– but I’m finding it to be generally speaking one of the most useful tools I can use for self-improvement. Work with others, Visa.
It’s wrong when I feel like I don’t need rest, or I don’t need breaks. I am not a machine. “Hyperfocus” works for video games maybe, but those things don’t have real stakes. For things with real stakes I need to pay attention to body and prepare in advance. I realize– if I don’t take the time to take breaks for myself in advance, I’ll have the time made for me when I get sick or injured or burnt out. And those breaks are nasty, they just feel like shit and it’s a terrible way to live. Why not charge in advance, instead of running around like a headless chicken? Why not be early and prepared instead of late and anxious? It doesn’t cost much. So I’m not evaluating the cost/benefit when I’m making these decisions. I’m just sort of ignoring everything because I’m afraid to act. I should act. I should realize that I’m responsible for my life whether I act or do not act, so I can’t pretend that it’s somehow not my fault if things get broken or damaged or otherwise end up suboptimally because of my inaction.
It’s wrong when I feel like everything will be fine. Yes, it can and will be but only if I make it so. Only if I decide so, where decision involves action. I have to act, only then will there be progress. Good, useful things don’t happen by themselves.
It’s wrong when I feel like I’m in paralyzing danger. Nothing is actually that terrible. It’s weird and silly that I get caught in this mix of “everything will be fine and everything will be terrible”– both seem to be very unthinking modes of being. They’re probably lizard brain / amygdala-type reactions and responses. And I can’t rely on those gut feelings to navigate the modern world. The modern world requires rational thinking and careful assessments of costs and benefits. That’s just the way it is. And I can train myself to do it, just as I trained myself at everything that I’m good at today. The only things I can’t train myself in are things that are incredibly extreme– I probably can’t be a concert pianist (actually even this is probably debatable– the problem is that I don’t fundamentally feel excited or interested about the prospect of learning the piano). I probably can’t be an Olympic athlete. But any person can reach peak physical condition for their own body type. I can probably learn to do backflips, learn to bench press 100kg. These are achievable things. I can learn to code. I can learn to draw. I probably won’t be the best in the world at either because those places are reserved for people who were passionate about it from young, practiced it their whole lives, etc. But I can learn it to be good enough to please me and to serve my own simple needs. I was singing and playing guitar for a while in my room earlier. And that brought me a lot of pleasure even though I’m technically just a hobbyist.
It’s wrong when I think that the main changes in my life are over and now I just have to optimize what little I have. That’s bullshit. I can still learn. I can still grow. I can still become much more skilled and refined than I am. I can still increase my power and influence by 2x, 5x, 10x, 20x, 50x, 100x, 500x, 1000x. I believe that it’s possible. The higher scales require using technology and working with other people, and there are a bunch of assumptions that go into that.
But I can definitely 2x myself. I can probably 2x myself multiple times, entirely by myself. The only thing stopping me is fear, inertia, lack of structure, lack of focus, lack of discipline. And that fear is something that’s definitely wrong. I am impoverishing myself and this does not need to be my reality any more. Okay, now I’m done for real and I’m going to do some work.