I am the elephant

Ever since I first read these words, they stuck with me as useful for understanding the working world in particular. The whole edifice that we now call “productivity advice” distills, I realized, to instructions for cajoling the elephant. If you’re not firm, it’ll do what it wants to do.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2014/12/07/deep-habits-never-plan-to-get-some-work-done/

Plan? Do? Chaos? I get so swept up in systems that sometimes I just bridle and rebel. I think the problem comes up when I have too many systems that don’t have an end goal. My systems are supposed to make the space for me to get real things done. But if all I have is ongoing systems of the busy-work that’s supposed to make space, then I rebel. Because I also need real projects. I want to spend as much of my time as possible getting real things done. Real things for which I have real reasons for wanting to do them. And those real things require real planning.

Generally, I don’t have a problem with over-planning; I can do a tremendous amount of planning, but experience shows that I always do better if I resist the urge to begin… start now! Take action! It’s always better if I resist action, instead doing a brain-dump session and then setting the whole thing aside. When I return later, more ideas flow and more planning ensues. Maybe a third session. Maybe even a fourth.

Meanwhile, the elephant dozes as I plan surreptitiously.

Ever notice that the “doze” in bulldozer is the exact opposite of the elephant’s? Eventually, the planning reveals a beautiful domino setup, and it’s time to awaken the elephant who easily bulldozes them one by one.

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Bias to action

The full definition of leadership that Badaracco gradually unfolds through literature in the course is: “Leadership is a struggle by flawed human beings to make some important human values real and effective in the world as it is.”

~ Martha Lagace from, https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/machiavelli-morals-and-you

I’ve mentioned bias to action previously, but I don’t recall having every connected it to one of Machiavelli’s best-known quotes, that fortune favors the bold. (Click through for more context.) Here I’m struck by Badaracco’s choice of, “effective,” as a critical feature of leadership. Certainly without action, there can be no efficacy. (And, yes, using my words totally counts as action, thank you.) Leaders are by definition out in front. That means acting first, and that presumes being capable of acting. If my bias is towards inaction, (gather more data, think about it more, however you want to mince those words,) I cannot be a good leader.

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Crystalizing experiences

It’s important to be aware of our own crystallizing experiences and how they affected us. I’m curious about what crystalizing experiences you’ve had, and I’m thinking beyond just moments, to books, people, videos, discussions, whatever left an impact. What stuck with you and changed the way you thought about things? This could be in any area of your life: work, learning, movement, writing, any hobby. What was the experience, and how did it change your practice?

~ Melissa Way

The Movers Mindset team has an internal project management system. (Basecamp.com in case you’re still mysteriously using something dysfunctional, like Slack, to run your team.) Each week, in a sort of loose rotation, we take turns kicking off some discussion by posting something—anything, whatever interests us when it’s our turn.

I’ve been coming back to this post from Melissa for nearly two weeks, trying to figure out where to start on a reply. Each time I start thinking, my mind wanders down a seemingly endless sequence of formative experiences; I can’t even begin to list them as they’d sound like an intolerable bragging-list. There are some unbelievable experiences ranging from, “been there,” to “done that,” and careening between, “literally cheated death,” and “hfsyesagainplease.”

Instead of trying to pick just one, tell the story, and pull out how the experience changed me, I’m going to ask, and attempt to answer, a meta question: Is life a journey of becoming, or simply a journey?

If it’s the former, then I should be paying attention for—perhaps even actively seeking—crystallizing experiences my entire life. I should be continuously repeating the process of asking myself what I should change or improve next, and then seeking out the experiences or knowledge to achieve that change. But having bashed myself on that cold anvil, incessantly seeking change and improvement, I’m now convinced that it’s the later.

Life is simply a journey.

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100 days of trying to train every day (2020 edition)

(Part 1 of 5 in series, 100 Days of Training (2020))

The goal is to do something—some sort of activity, even just a good long walk—every day, for 100 days. The gallery just below updates automatically as I add posts to this series.

Background

My life is cushy. If I really wanted to be in good physical shape, I’d change my life to something involving physical activity. Meanwhile, back in Reality World, if I want to get into shape, that’s only going to happen if I set out intentionally to work on it.

Back in August of 2017, right after I returned from a trip to England and France for a couple of Parkour and Art du Déplacement events, I took on a 100-day challenge. At the time I was still on Instoejam, but I had the foresight to also put all my photos on my blog. (The 2017 version of this challenge has its own series.)

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The clock of the Long Now

There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years.

~ Kevin Kelly from, http://longnow.org/clock/

The Long Now Foundation was started in 01996. They always include the leading zero in years as just another subtle way to get one to think long-term. I can’t say for sure that I’ve been following them since they started, but it’s got to be darn close. I will be going to Texas, (and to Nevada if I live long enough to see the second clock built,) to visit.

The 10,000-year clock is just one project. Grab your favorite beverage, put your phone on do-not-disturb and go spend an hour or so reading what the Long Now Foundation is up to.

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The web is like water

There is no question that apps are here to stay, and are a superior interaction model for some uses. But the web is like water: it fills in all the gaps between things like gaming and social with exactly what any one particular user wants. And while we all might have a use for Facebook – simply because everyone is there – we all have different things that interest us when it comes to reading.

~ Ben Thompson from, https://stratechery.com/2014/web-still-matters-writing/

That’s from 2014, and holds up pretty well I think. That the web, “fills in all the gaps,” is insightful. Sure,the technology that defines “the Web” drives an enormous amount of stuff other than written content. But even just the smaller portion that is the written word is a huge swath of time and attention. That speaks well for us in the aggregate.

I still believe that the problem, currently, is simply that people rarely bother to figure out how things actually work. People don’t tinker and change things. Once someone gets the bug of curiosity, it’s a slippery slope from poking and prodding, to tinkering and experimenting, to building and creating; It’s a slippery slope lined entirely with reading.

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