The Wander Notebook

A personal journey of lifelong learning, sharing resources, creating things, and trying to be better.

Tag: Motivation

The Way of Work

Untitled | Source

Understanding discipline for doing difficult tasks.

Awhile has past since my last post on Medium, I’ve been contemplating what I think is important, and what’s important to write about. This post is more of a reminder to myself — a reminder of why I do what I do, especially when I don’t feel up to it.

1. Hard Work

First, how do you make hard work starting working? How can essential tasks transition from unlikeable to exciting? Personally, the answer to this question came from the revelation that life is work. There is no way around this. Trying to put things off, in reality, only adds to the amount of work that will need to be done in the future.

Many people enjoy waiting until the last minute to begin — narrowly avoiding a deadline can build pressure and be motivating — but what if there’s a task with no fixed date? What about all the things in life you want to start, on a mental level, but never do because you get so preoccupied with what you need to get done in your day-to-day.

This is where balance is essential.

The neuroplasticity of our minds only diminishes with time. Our ability to learn new things declines with age. Each day we waste is a day we cannot gain back. As cliché as it is, you cannot wait for someday to arrive. You need to begin today.

2. Self-forgiveness

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” 
— Chinese Proverb

You may have been putting a lot of things off. You may have wasted a lot of time so far. That’s okay. The worst thing that people do is harbor guilt and self-deprecation due to the fact they’ve been neglecting to start what they’ve always wanted to do.

Shake off the dust, and start right now. Time is an arbitrary thing — it’s irrelevant if today is — the important thing is you start today. You figure out what the first step is and you take it.

This doesn’t mean you immediately plunge head-first into something new, as tempting as that might be. We are creatures of habit, and as such, we fall back into our regular routines after the novelty of a particular stimuli diminishes. The faster you try to commit to larger things, the faster you will inevitably burn out and become demotivated once again.

This is where balance is essential.

So begin today, but start small — baby steps. Think of what you can do not just today — but what you can repeat doing tomorrow, and the next day. What’s an activity that would only take fifteen to thirty minutes per day?

The hard part is doing it every day, the task itself gets easier, but you still need to do it every day. That’s what remains difficult.

3. Lack of Purpose

There are many of us alive today that have a radical amount of freedom, the kind that would be unimaginable to most people throughout history. As glorious as this can sound on an idealistic level, the reality is that most people find anxiety with this radical freedom, and will distract themselves from it.

People often create arbitrary restrictions around their life to avoid the lack of comfort there is in having so much choice in navigating it. With this freedom, they are also rarely prescribed any sort of purpose — or in other words, any sort of reason to do hard work in the first place.

We are all Sisyphus — forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down at the end of the day, for us to start our work again tomorrow. With this, I choose happiness, out of spite for the task ahead of me.

Any motivation, or purpose, for doing hard work can be ever-fleeting. You may never get the deserved recognition or money, you may never even become that good at something. But if you find peace with doing a task simply for the sake of doing it, you’ll be unstoppable. No amount of lack of results, or exhaustion, or criticism will be able to deter you, because it’ll all be irrelevant.

Perseverance

Boy Running | Source

Talent doesn’t exist, only hard work does.

It should be no secret that, in order to get good at something, one must work hard at it. There are people, though, that will use the excuse that they’re simply not genetically or psychologically fit for things that they find difficult, whether it’s the abstract thinking of mathematics or the strict regiment of working out.

The myth that the differences of our baselines — where we start out — has anything to do with how much progress we’re able to make is powerful, but false.

We all start from different places, but we can all end up in the same place — at the finish line. And for some of us, that may take more work than others, and that is unfair, but it’s still possible. Anybody can become good at anything.

And as we progress, the universal standards of acceptance increase. Take this quote from author Anders Ericcson:

If you compare the kind of music pieces that Mozart can play at various ages to today’s Suzuki-trained children, he is not exceptional. If anything, he’s relatively average.

Passion

At the start of any project or journey, the beginner must be passionate. It’s near impossible to achieve anything if you don’t have drive from the get go. Of course, passion itself can seem elusive, as I’ve written about before. The best answer is to mentally build strength and flexibility, try out new things that seem difficult or outside what you usually do. There’s something out there for all of us.

However, another truth is that passion, once captured, just as easily can disappear again. When we find something that we enjoy, but then face a new wall of difficulty trying to become better at it, we can become discouraged and abandon it entirely. We move on to something else — something that is also easy in the beginning — and then abandon that, too, once we reach another difficulty.

This is where perseverance comes into play. To grow and nurture a love for something, the beginner must push past where most others decide to quit. Another myth is that once you find something you’re passionate about, all the hard work melts away into something fun.

This simply isn’t true.

There will still be plenty of hard work, and you will often times find yourself in places where you’ll want to quit. You’ll think to yourself that you hate what you’re doing, that you’re no longer passionate about it. But the high of satisfaction will be so much more powerful once you break through it.

Mindful Learning

Once you decide to dedicate yourself to something, you must apply force in the correct direction. Often times, people think that once they ‘perfect’ a technique, they can go on autopilot, mindlessly completing it over and over again to become better at it. This, too, is untrue.

One cannot improve if they only have a nebulous and large goal of improvement in mind. The only things that can be worked on are the small, concrete things. Deliberately work on each part separately, one at a time. Find ways to gain feedback after each attempt and push yourself to always do things just outside of where you feel comfortable.

Purpose and Hope

Why are you doing what you’re doing? How are you able to connect it to the world — for a higher purpose? Finding true meaningfulness in life has been a quest I’ve been embarking on personally for awhile now. Try to let yourself meditate — step back and understand the bigger picture.

But even more important than that, or anything else I wrote about above, is hope and optimism. It’s not possible to name someone that accomplished anything thinking they weren’t able too.

We were all randomly splattered onto this world without permission or choice. It is a beautiful chaos that, no matter what is broadcasted, we ultimately have no control over. We cannot fully control anything except ourselves, how we think.

The world doesn’t care if we choose to have a positive outlook or a negative one. The pessimists and cynics — those that decide to not bother trying, in assuming the worst — do not create a dent in the universe. Only those that decide they’re foolish enough to try do.

And this optimism cannot come from a safe and comfortable position, either. True optimism can only exist against hardships and improbabilities. You might have others around you that don’t believe in you — or even worse, try to shut you down — but only from their doubt can hope arise.


Writing

Recently, I’ve seen a new slew of posts on Medium decrying those who value marketing over content, or create shallow list articles. I’ve gone over these discussions in length three times already (1, 2, 3). But one thing that’s struck me is how ‘content creators’ are usually praised. Those that ‘actually write’ about ‘things’.

I do think this is the best way to fight back — which is why I try to write about whatever is on my mind that particular day, instead of writing about the state of Medium or it’s popular authors.

I am going to preserve, and try my hardest to write every day. Not for the sake of others, or as a way to market myself, but for it’s own sake. That’s what the Wander Notebook is about, writing for the sake of writing. To be open and vunerable enough to publicly display whatever unpolished ideas are swirling around in my mind. Try it, sometime.

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