“These actions are not essentially difficult; it is we ourselves that are soft and flabby.” — Seneca
The Human Distillery
you take a step back, the greatest of people in history are a
distillery. The most talented and hard-working of people often produce
only a handful (or even just one piece) of great work or events that are
noteworthy. The rare and devoted few actually go
through a great person’s minutiae — hundreds of thousands of small
pieces that were completed daily to work towards that great work.
is a deep conviction required for this. To spend hours per day working
towards something bigger, something that might instead fail quietly. As
well as the remarkable forethought to understand what needs to be worked
on, and in what order.
Though, perhaps there isn’t such planning. Rather, these great works instead are conjured up organically by a repeating persistence and habitual work. Regardless, the conviction is still there.
Getting back on your horse, no matter how many times you’ve fallen off.
Project Journal Bar
In my last post,
I talked about the struggles and failures I’ve faced the past few
years. I’ve been thinking about how to tackle my short-comings and
problems to solve a single, relatively-simple issue that’s plagued me
nearly my entire life: consistency in my work ethic.
needs to be more hand-holding involved — change does not come quickly
nor simply. So I’ve devised an entirely new project for myself: Journal Bar.
This is a new blog that I’ve made where I’m going to be posting about
the progress I’ve been making weekly. The (very simple) ingenious part
is that I’m tracking the posts I write.
So, this is a sort of meta-accountability
experiment. Having a goal that’s in charge of making sure I keep
on-track with all of my other goals. The idea behind this is so simple
that I’m kicking myself for not thinking about it sooner.
idea and the progress I’ve made is very new, but I feel as though I’m
going slowly enough to ensure that I don’t fizzle out quickly and lose
interest or energy for it. In addition to keeping track of my progress,
I’ve also elected to use the blog as a space to write rough ideas that
I’ll want to implement into articles later.
Going through the whole Beeminder process again opened my eyes to a few things that I believe will be helpful regarding perseverance with long-term results:
A post-capitalist critique on boiling frogs, minimum-happiness, harmful-easy things, and lists.
Over two years ago, I wrote The Tao of Bees, where I dutifully explained the differences between commonly-used to-do lists and the more long-term, uncommonly-used system thinking as a method to maintain and accomplish your goals. In my second article, The Sting of Work, I delved deeper into the ideas behind setting better goals and maintaining them.
What has happened in the time since then? There is a rich irony in this — A schadenfreude that can be had over the fact I failed to eat my own dog food.
can be chalked up to a multitude of reasonings: No longer finding
interest in Beeminder, having a change of direction in my life, hitting a
deep episode of depressive thinking, general sheer laziness and
hypocrisy, et cetera, et cetera.
After reviewing both my minor successes and major failures over an extended period of time, there are more mature conclusions on the idea of system thinking as a way of living that I can share. This is in sharp contrast to the more idealistic and frankly naïve explanations I had a few years ago.
Stop being easily swayed by anything that’s in front of you. Start living a value-based lifestyle.
When you wake up in the morning and get out of bed — or even before you get out of bed — what’s the first thing that grabs your attention? Whatever it is, it’s going to be responsible for your first thoughts of the day. Throughout the rest of your day, you’ll be faced with a bombardment of distractions that will grab your awareness away from what you’re doing.
We live in an attention-based economy. Companies and people can only sell you products and services if they first have your attention, after all. This is nothing new, but with the rise of clever marketing statics (ex. Data-collection, branded content, personalized advertisements, etc.) most people are often being sold things without even realizing it.
By way of technology, there have been privacy tools and blockers created as a way to negate these tactics. However, this is a band-aid solution to a deeper, fundamental problem of society.
This goes beyond the exploits of current revenue models. People easily get caught up paying attention to things that just drain them of their energy. Time and energy wasted on toxicity — reaction instead of action. It is easy to blame advancements in technology and platforms for this, but the uncomfortable truth is that it is a human problem.
There is little we are able to control in life. We cannot control the behavior or actions of others — and we cannot control what’s going to be in today’s news — but we can control ourselves.
If attention is the currency of our modern economy, then our pockets are full at the start of each day. Absolutely nobody can dictate what you spend your time thinking about — no matter how hard they try. Bringing power back to the consumer, then, is simple. The solution is to stop consuming.
This is, of course, far easier said than done. There is a heavy weight of responsibility on our collective shoulders — but it is not an impossible burden to lift. The ability to overhaul this system will come from forming a meritocratic community. To begin our dialogue and actions on the basis of a value-based philosophy instead of an attention-based one.
What does this mean, exactly? Start with the fundamentals — what do you value in life? What is your self-imposed purpose? These are not easy questions to answer, but again, they’re not impossible. Often times, exactly because of the everyday distractions and white noise that nags at us, we find ourselves too busy to stop and think about these kinds of questions.
Contrary to what you might think, things become far simpler when you truly know what you want out of life and yourself. When you raise your expectations and cut out everything that isn’t actually necessary for you to be happy.
Forge an identity for yourself out of your passion and who you want to become. Use your attention for good — learn new things, create something, help your community, spend time relaxing by doing things you truly love to do instead of mindlessly scrolling through the Internet for a lukewarm buzz.
There is beauty in getting used to the uncomfortable. People constantly search out entertainment simply because we’ve become so unused to boredom and being bored. The modern mind is restless and uneasy — always looking for a distraction — and this is explicitly why the attention-based economy has been able to do so well.
In all honesty, this approach to life is far more difficult. The human brain is designed to sleepwalk into habits and routines and to tread the path of least resistance. Mindfulness needs to be developed, as well as gratitude — we’re conditioned to think we don’t have enough and need to seek out more — even though we most often already have everything that we need.
With the sheer pace of advancement in technology and the changing tides of the world at large, nothing comes close to being predictable anymore. It’s honestly a scary thought to think of the path we’re headed down if people continue to allow themselves to be easily swayed and dependent on entertainment. A serious and long pause needs to be taken. By everybody.