0634 – strive to be sensitive, smart and strong

I wrote a tweetstorm a while ago (two years ago, wow) saying that “a man should be sensitive (to inputs from reality), smart (at making sense of reality) and strong (to effect reality)”. I rediscovered it at some point and I found myself rubbing my chin at it. It seems like quite a full picture, and I’m wondering how I measure up to that statement.

I like to think that I’m smart (at making sense of reality), but I’m not very sensitive and I’m not very strong. Those are my constraints, my bottlenecks. [1] They limit the impact of my smarts. Of the two, which is the bigger constraint?

My impulse is to say “it must be strength, I want to be stronger, I don’t feel strong enough.” But if I’m really paying careful attention, I think sensitivity is the greater constraint. [2]

I believe this to be true. I can think of more instances in which I got myself into unpleasant circumstances because of a lack of sensitivity, rather than because of a lack of strength. There are some situations in which having more strength would’ve allowed me to better handle said circumstances, but practically all of them could be averted with more sensitivity.

So – how do I become more sensitive to inputs from reality? How do I get better at knowing what is real and what’s not, what’s correct and what’s not? How do I get less quick at jumping to conclusions? I’m thinking now about @buster’s ‘thinking is hard‘ posts. I guess I just need to do all of the things that are listed in there. That’s all, no big deal 😛

Where do I start? How do I implement this? What I’ve learned personally is that you can’t do everything all at once, the way to do it is piecemeal. The way to do it is in a simplified, small, MVP sort of way. Little things that technically count in the grand scheme of things.

Where do I start, goddamnit? I think I’m making some progress just by writing a word vomit every day (or almost every day) – I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the year now. I’ve also been doing almost-daily self-reviews on Evernote, which I should then use to do weekly roundups and then monthly and quarterly roundups. It’s important to me that I get this done, because this would be the first time I’ve ever really properly done it in a consistent way.

I need to see more clearly that being more sensitive to myself and the people around me means that I’m going to become smarter and stronger in a practical sense. Which are all things that I want to be.

“Start with Why” – what’s my Why? I’m thinking now about my “boy and his puppies” short story that I once wrote. It’s silly, I’m not sure if I even have a copy lying around any more, but it drove me to tears when I wrote it while sitting at Starbucks in the central business district on a Saturday (so it was empty). I wrote it after reading a bit of Ray Bradbury’s Zen In The Art Of Writing, and something about something he said in there compelled me to just start writing something without overthinking it – and I ended up with the boy-and-puppies story. The puppies were a metaphor for my own mind – ego and id, conscious and subconscious, Me vs I, however you want to frame it.

The wolrd has disappointed me a lot in the past year and the past few years. But do I even have the right to say that? The world is simply being itself. I can only focus on myself. Have I disappointed myself? A little bit in some ways, but I have also surprised and challenged and inspired myself in other ways. I still have a lot to give, and I intend to give it. I’m thinking now about how inspired and excited I was when Obama was first elected President. The world seemed to have been just brimming with possibility and hope, that we were at the dawn of a new age, a more perfect union, and everything was going to be just dandy.

And I was of course going to be one of the benefactors of that. How nice it is, to be able to do nothing and yet enjoy all the benefits of other people’s labor – to be able to get new iPhones and Macbooks and wireless bluetooth earphones. What do I have to give in return for all of this? Just money, it seems – which I get for participating in the capitalist system that I was born into and had effectively nothing to do with.

At this point I find myself thinking – okay, so how can I give back? How can I create something? How can I do something that is useful and good? Writing is one thing that I do, but it seems woefully inadequate, at least at this juncture. But I also feel like I’m kind of ‘working blind” – I’m in a very narrow context, I’m not seeing all of the good that my work could be doing. I do believe that I have useful things to say. I just need to clean all of it up. This needs to happen in the next couple of months, and then I can publish, clean up, tidy up, freshen up, recalibrate, reorient, start over.

I just gotta be sensitive to everything.


[1] Without sensitivity, you’re wasting your smarts processing contaminated data. Without strength, your smarts get stuck in elaborate loops and cycles – right now I find myself thinking about that guy who wrote a massive, sprawling book to justify why he was going to commit suicide as a sort of public spectacle.

[2] At this point I wanted to make the case that there are ‘strength cults’ and ‘smarts cults’ but no ‘sensitivity cults’, when I realized that there are – mindfulness / meditation junkies. It’s a strange-ish thing to contemplate, because can there be such a thing as too much meditation?

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