0504 – the pebble in the shoe is worse than a rocky road

Woke up pretty late today after a long night shooting video game villains with my friends. Had a nice afternoon coffee with my wife and then spent the day together in the study. I was reading my old vomits, from 0051 to 0100. What have I learnt?

The first thing is that a lot of it was drivel. Which is totally understandable and to be expected. Not every word was going to be a gem, and it was going to be especially bad in the earlier vomits when I was still really self-conscious about what I was doing. I kept explaining myself, and I kept second-guessing myself. I do that less now, and I think that trend will continue as I keep moving.

The second thing is, thankfully, that there are definitely some gems in there for me to unearth, polish and revisit. There were moments in which I was honest with myself in ways that I probably wouldn’t be able to replicate on the spot, unless I experienced the same mental state that I was experiencing then. This excites me, because this means that I will be able to better prepare for the future. The better I understand how I am when I’m down, and the better I understand how I make mistakes, the better I’ll be able to take corrective and preventive measures moving forward. I’m talking about everything from the way I manage my time and energy to my own thought patterns.

What’s changed? There was definitely more of a focus on external events before. I was talking about things like going to space, and making a difference to Singapore, grand things like that. Those are still things that I care about, but I’ve stripped away a lot of the details and reduced it to “unlock these challenges when I have crossed the necessary thresholds”. I’ve come to realize that the external reality is a manifestation of our inner realities.

Let’s unpackage that and explore that a little more closely. Obviously it’s a lot more complex than it sounds. External reality is always a limiting factor. But internal realities (my own psychology, my own beliefs, my thought patterns, my decision-making system, my energy levels, my tactics and strategies and how I impliment them) are ALSO a limiting factor. And we have far more control over our internal realities and immediate circumstances than the bigger, broader external realities. [1]

We can and should modify our immediate environments to suit our desired end-states better. I’ve always been a little slow to do this– the biggest thing I’ve done recently is modify two of the rooms in my house to become a study and a gym respectively, which has in turn changed my behavior. I’m going to hit the gym again tomorrow morning.

But beyond that I think the main things to worry about are my internal thought patterns, my habits, my routines, my limiting beliefs, my priorities, my decision-making. It boils down to Covey’s Circle of Influence vs Circle of Control. Or as an SMBC comic put it recently, Power vs Responsibility. The higher your power-to-responsibility ratio, the more comfortable you are. And we’re talking about TRUE comfort, not a soft bed. A hard bed with no debt brings better sleep than a soft bed with debt and unfulfilled obligations.

My immediate goal in life right now is to get on the other side of obligations– to fulfill all my obligations and responsibilities so well that I get excess capacity to then TRULY take on things that I want to care about, and make a difference in those as well. Of course it’s not a perfectly impermeable membrane, and we can still volunteer and help others every step of the way. But I think there’s an underlying truth about self-sufficiency that I have been slow to embrace. That is, that we’re ultimately well and truly alone in the world. We are patterns in space-time that are just trying to persist, to feed ourselves, and doing that requires interacting with all sorts of other patterns and all sorts of contexts and environments.

So what are the next steps right now? Today I spent some time with my wife, and I spent some time on my personal writing project. Tomorrow I’m going to hit the gym, and then I’m going to do some work, and then I’m going to meet some old friends. And the day after that I’m going to go back to work and continue the battle.

What else? I should keep writing as much as I can and not let this slip, because regular progress on this makes me feel like I’m fulfilling my obligation to myself.

I’ve been thinking about the next steps for my writing. I’m going to restart my main blog, as well as my marketing blog. The first went into hibernation once the word vomits started going into overdrive, while the second never really got a chance to take off because I wasn’t managing my time effectively enough to carve out space for it. What’s changed? My blog used to be about local Singaporean issues (and I also have a SG blog, but I’m not too concerned about that– I’ll only use that if I really feel a need to), and then I got a little confused and didn’t know what I wanted to write about. I know better now. I want my blog to be a distillation of the lessons I’ve learned over the process of growing up, of things that I’ve figured out through these vomits and beyond. I want them to have useful, well-edited summaries and cleaned up essays of thought. Some research and citations will be necessary, but I can handle that. As for my marketing blog– I’ve been doing some writing on the side, on Reddit and Facebook and so on, and I feel like I’ve crossed some invisible threshold that was limiting me. I used to feel that I wasn’t quite qualified, wasn’t quite ready to blog about what I knew about marketing. But I think after attending a couple of events and talking to a bunch of people, I’ve come to think that I DO have something useful to say, and I’m going to say it.

These 3 projects– the main word vomit project, the “what I’ve learned” blog and the marketing blog– will be my main priorities after work, fitness and my relationships (marriage, quality friendships). It’s about as simple as that. I’ll play a bit of guitar once in a while to relax, and I’ll be learning more about nutrition and exercise. That pretty much covers everything.

The goal is to get all of these engines running simultaneously, and to require as little energy as possible, so that I can then focus on dealing with external realities. But until then, I’ve got to get this stuff sorted out.

Oh, I almost forgot the quote that I wanted to include in this post: I’ve put it in the title. Internal realities. Pebbles in shoes.

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[1] I’m lucky, first of all, to live in a place and context where I don’t need to worry too much about things. Security, shelter, food and such are all well-taken care of. I get to worry about more fragile, ephemeral things like “how do I improve my peer group”. But even then, the highest order bit there is to improve myself so that I naturally attract quality peers to me.

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