Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A More Glorious Failure

I was in a jam last Friday. The middle part of "Unproven" (the new book I'm writing) still wasn't working. So I sat down to try to sort it out.

I wasn't actually intending to write anything. I was just going to type out my thoughts, on what I was trying to say, to try to get it into some kind of order.

But the funny thing is, whenever I do that – let go of intending to write, that's when the words start pouring out. Over the course of two hours, I wrote a ton of material that started looking like a new chapter, and maybe a nice blog article spin-off as well.

I quit when I got to the end of my workday, knowing I still needed an ending, but I figured I'd get to it Saturday.

It took maybe 20-30 minutes to finish it up the next day, and then I read back over it.

But my heart sunk.

This chapter/article thing, suffered from the exact same problem in miniature that I'd been having with the book. There were too many ideas trying to fit in too small a space. Two different metaphors, one at the beginning, one at the end, with awkward glue in between. On the one hand, lots of hints dropped to be picked up later, and on the other hand, various conclusions drawn without showing how they were gotten to.

It was going to need some serious work.

So I set it aside, thinking, "okay, I think I need to mindmap this or diagram it somehow, so I can untangle it, figure out what to move to other chapters. Maybe I can still turn the rest into an article or something."

But somehow, I never got around to it. Sunday and Monday came and went, without me getting around to even looking at the piece again, let alone diagramming it. There was always something more urgent or more attractive that needed doing "first".

It wasn't until Monday night that I finally realized what the problem was, while doing some mindhacking on something unrelated.

(Explaining that "something unrelated" would sadly take too much space here – it's actually a core concept within the same set of things that I'm still having trouble explaining in the middle of "Unproven"!)

Anyway, what I realized was this:

I am totally unwilling to lose.

To fail.

To make mistakes.

Like, intellectually, I know that it's the only way to learn, builds character, blah blah blah.

But, in practice, I am totally not willing to experience it.

For example, even if it's some silly little project like hanging a picture on the wall, I don't want to start it unless I'm sure I have everything I will need in order to complete it, and that I will have enough time to complete it no matter what sort of problem might come up.

And if, despite all that, I still don't complete it in time, I feel awful.

No matter how stupidly unimportant the project is!

(This, by the way, is an important sign of something that needs mindhacking: the fact that you respond with the same intensity to a certain kind of situation, regardless of how big or small the actual consequences are in that specific situation. When you respond, as it were, to "the principle of the thing"!)

To Be Vulnerable

Now, one of the big themes in the middle part of "Unproven" is vulnerability. It's the idea that, in order to actually live our lives, we have to be willing to experience certain states of mind that we'd rather avoid. Natural struggling is in fact the result of organizing one's life so as to avoid these states of mind. (Like, "not knowing" as I described in a previous excerpt/blog article.

And even though, while expanding on that theme in the book, I thought intellectually about how that related to mistakes and failure, I hadn't made the specific emotional connection to what I was doing with my own mistakes, whether actual or potential.

This is a great illustration of another basic mindhacking principle: action is not an abstraction.

Merely intellectually knowing about a concept simply will not change you, until and unless you can connect that idea on a concrete, emotional level to specific situations and actions in your life.

In other words, it's not enough to realize that "mistakes are good" in a general sense. You must realize they are good for you. Like that mistake in particular. And that other one back then. And so on.

It Has To Be About You

Without this specific connection to people, places and things in your life, your emotional brain simply doesn't take it seriously. It's just a random factoid, another answer on a test with no connection to the "real world" of your actual thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

And making this work is a conversation between you and your emotional brain: co-operation, not dictatorship.

You can't browbeat yourself into believing that failure is good; that's just starting a new argument with yourself.

However, if you ask yourself questions like, "How do I act when I think failure is bad?" and "What would it be like if I believed failure was good?"...

And if you actually give yourself time to reflect on these questions, not just spit back out a canned answer...

Then you will find that you can begin to actually think and feel differently about something, in a way that never would have changed without that reflection.

An Act of Rebellion

Now today (Tuesday), I started writing this, without being sure if I would have enough time to finish it before I have to leave the house this evening. It's just one of a dozen small steps I'm taking now, tiny acts of rebellion against my previous patterns of protection, my firewalls against failure.

Because I reflected last night on what kind of life I want to live, and how failure-proofing has kept me from really ever living at all (entirely aside from the procrastination aspect!), I am now seriously looking to expand the number of things that I am (potentially) failing at.

The funny thing, though, is that actually failing is harder than it looked! More often than not, the "attempted failure" seems to succeed anyway.

Because I wasn't just avoiding failure, I was trying to avoid the mere possibility of any imaginable failure.

And so there's a big gap between how difficult things actually are, and how difficult I was making them.

(Again, a classic mindhacking principle at work: our brain makes us think our limitations are out there in reality, when in reality, most of our limitations are only in our minds!)

And so, once you are actually doing things, instead of thinking about what kinds of awful things might happen, well...

Things seem a whole lot easier!

It's kind of a paradox: most of our limiting beliefs and feelings convince us that they are giving us something positive... when in fact the only way to get that positive thing, is to give up the belief.

Because all that time I was protecting myself from failure, it didn't make me feel strong or safe.

It made me feel weak and scared!

Yet now, as I find myself taking these "risks" (that aren't really risky at all)...

I instead feel strong and courageous.

And the possibility of "failure", feels nothing less than glorious.

Fail on!


P.S. If you want to learn more about the trick of "not intending to" do something as a way of getting into "flow" states where you can effortlessly do all kinds of stuff, check out one of my newer books, "What Happens Now: How To Enter A Timeless, Effortless Space". It's free for Effortless Way subscribers and Mind Hackers' Guild members to download this month.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Duckling's Dilemma

All my life I've tried to learn discipline, focus, rigor. To have routines and stick to them, to work patiently and gradually towards well-defined goals. And I did this because I thought it would be good for me, that it would help me reach my potential.

And, up to a point, this was maybe even true.

But because I felt like I needed to be that kind of person, I never noticed when I passed that point. The point where it changed from being good for me, to being bad.

Five years ago, when I tried to write the book, Thinking Things Done, I fell into a trap of trying to drive something forward even when I didn't believe in it any more, for the sake of focus and discipline and all those supposedly-wonderful things.

And it simply didn't work.

Click here for the rest of the article

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Experience of Not Knowing

Often, I tell myself that I don't know what to do.

And then, I feel bad about it.

In my mind, I call this experience "not knowing what to do".

But that is wrong: that is not what this experience really is.

This experience is just me telling myself a story, so I can avoid the actual feeling of not-knowing.

I am berating myself for not knowing, and feeling bad because I don't know.  "I should know", I think.

  • "If I were an organized person, I would know what to do next."
  • "If I were decisive and bold and courageous, I would just do something."
  • "If I were a leader who got things done, I would have done everything already!"

This is the experience I have labeled in my mind as "not knowing what to do", and it is awful.  No wonder I don't want to do anything that involves "not knowing what to do"!

But this is not the actual experience, of actually not knowing.

The Place Without Protest

The experience of not-knowing is something else.  It's just sitting here, not knowing.  If I feel anything, perhaps it is wondering, perhaps a bit of curiosity.  "What will I do?"  That's an interesting question.  What if I did this one thing?  What about this other?  What would happen after that?

Not pushing for the answer, not needing to know.  Not desperately trying to figure it out, not demanding a solution to some imagined awful problem of not-knowingness.

I am just not-knowing, and it is surprisingly peaceful.

The state of actually not knowing, of accepting the simple fact – the truth that I do not know – is profoundly simple and free of stress.  In order to be upset, I have to enter into an argument, a protest against the fact.

By telling myself things should be some other way, I create a tear in the fabric of my inner reality, a rift between the truth of not-knowing, and my objection to that truth.

It's okay to not-like not-knowing.  I can dislike the facts all I want!  What doesn't work is to fight the fact, to insist that it should be some other way than it actually is.

If I want to get to the place on my map marked "knowing", I have to first pass through the place called "not knowing", because that is in fact where I am!  Insisting that I am supposed to already be at "knowing" or "doing" or "done" will not move me one inch from this spot.

The Story of Suffering

I spend a ridiculous amount of time in this sort of self-caused suffering: complaining to myself about a fact, as a way to avoid experiencing that fact.

I tell myself all day long about what I haven't done, still need to do, and don't have time for.  Trapped in this tragic tale, I do not notice that I am not actually doing any of the things I am complaining about and berating myself for.  I am not really paying any attention to them at all!

If I were really paying attention, I would look at the undone task.  See the empty cereal bowl on my desk in front of me, and the keyboard drawer I have yet to assemble.  I would experience those things, in the present moment.  I might do something about them, or I might not, but either way, I would be seeing the truth, and be at peace.

The truth is, I have not done them.

The truth is, I may or I may not.

The truth is, I haven't decided.

Each of these truths is simple, and peaceful.  Unhurried, and without stress.  It's only when I lose myself in a story, in the idea that these facts mean something – about me, or about some awful future which will befall me – it's only then that I grow angry, afraid, or depressed.

I have been lying when I say, "I don't know what to do".  Because I say that, and then I do nothing.  Or I find some way to distract myself.

Clearly, I do know what to do!  First, I know to make myself feel miserable, and then I know to run away from that feeling.  If I actually didn't know, I would spend time wondering, imagining, reflecting!

This Very Moment

The experience of not knowing is profoundly simple, and profoundly free.  When I step into just that moment, take refuge in that simple truth, I feel more free than I have at any other moment.

Because if I truly don't know what to do, then that means I could do anything.

Anything at all.

And I wonder, how many other experiences are like this?  How many things am I dreading, avoiding, trying to run or distract myself from?  How many am I telling myself are awful, when in fact they are awesome?

(And not just "awesome" as another word for "cool", but "awesome" in its original definition: something that fills you with a sense of awe!)

Sometimes, I read books or see movies whose theme is that you should get out there and live your life.  What they usually don't tell us is that this "living" is right here in front of us, in this very moment.

Unlike in the movies, it's not something we have to win some championship to get, travel to exotic lands to obtain, or win true love to find.  There is nothing to win, nowhere to go, and nothing we need to prove to anyone – least of all ourselves.  The most awesome, awe-inspiring experiences of our lives are right here, where we are now, in our day-to-day existence.

Smack dab in the middle of what we're running away from.

The above is a brief excerpt from a working draft of my next book, "Unproven: The Secret Source of Your Lifelong Struggle", which will be released to Mind Hackers Guild members and Effortless Way subscribers in early 2014.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How To End Your Sentence

Say this with me now, "I have a lot of work to do."

Then sigh.

Or, if that doesn't make you feel bad, try some other statement.

Like, "I can't lose weight."

Or, "I don't know what to do."

Or anything at all, really. Just say (or think) something that makes you feel bad.

Now, change the sentence. Add, "...and that's bad" to the end of it.

  • "I have a lot of work to do, and that's bad."
  • "I can't lose weight, and that's bad."
  • "I don't know what to do, and that's bad."

Embellish on it. Elaborate. Get more specific about how bad it is:

  • "I don't know what to do, and that's awful. I am so f***ing stuck!"

And get more specific about what makes it bad:

  • "I have a lot of work to do, and it's going to be exhausting and take forever and I'll never be free to do what I want and people will be hounding me and I just can't take it anymore, and that's why it's bad!"

Good! Just remember to keep some sort of "and it's bad" (or awful or whatever) at the end of the sentence.

And now you can question that thought.

Is it true? Is it actually going to be bad? Or does it only seem that way, because you're thinking it will be?

And if you have a list of reasons, you can question the reasons.

  • Will people be hounding me? Is that true?
  • I can't take it any more: is that true?
  • I'll never be free to do what I want: is that true?

One by one, you can break the thoughts down, questioning them to discover what your real truth is. Take them through all four of Byron Katie's questions and turnarounds, and set yourself free.

But first, you have to blurt them out. Feel them. Don't logic your feelings away or try to hide them. Don't dismiss or argue with the first thought that comes to mind. Don't even try to make any of it better.

Make it worse, instead. Throw a (verbal) temper tantrum or pity party, expressing just how awful it is, and why.

Then, and only then, question the other bits. The bits at the end of the sentence. The bits after the part that sounds like a depressing statement of "fact".

Because it may be true that you have a lot to do or can't lose weight or don't know what to do, after all.

But what probably isn't true, is that it's as bad, awful, no good, and can't-take-it-any-more as your brain is telling you it is.

And when you take off those bits at the end of the sentence, you'll also be taking off bits from your own sentence:

The sentence that's keeping you in a prison of suffering.

The above is a brief excerpt from a working draft of my next book, "Unproven: The Secret Source of Your Lifelong Struggle", which will be released to Mind Hackers Guild members and Effortless Way subscribers in early 2014.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Moment of Choice

Last night I stayed up late.

Like, 5:30 in the morning, late.

I was tinkering on a little programming project, that sort of got out of hand.  I kept feeling like, "I've almost got it...", only to find one more little problem.  The kind of thing that usually happens only when I'm stretching, learning something new, like I was last night.

And the next thing I knew, it was 5:30.

So of course I slept late, too.

And now, this morning -- well, afternoon, really -- I find myself in bed, still thinking about the programming project.  I'm so wrapped up in it, I'm about to get out of bed and go work on it.

But what about my decision to spend the first two hours of each day on what's important to me?

This project is urgent, but it's not important.

But I want to!

But if I start now, I'll spend all day on it, maybe all night again too.

But I've got all these ideas!  It's going to be awesome!

And so the conflict goes, back and forth for a couple minutes.  Something's got to give.

I decide to question both sides of the debate.  Is it true that I shouldn't work on the project instead of what I've decided is important?  No, not really.  Is it true that I should?

Hm.  Doesn't feel like a "should".  Feels like, "I want".  I want to work on the project.  Is that true?

I'm not sure.  I want to say it's true, but I sense a couple of reservations.

First of all, I'm not sure I know what "want" really means.  Sure, Robert Fritz says the question is, "If you could have it, would you take it?"  But for me, there's a bunch of other stuff tangled up in it.

My parents always acted like wanting was something you chose, or committed to.  As in, "are you sure you want that?"  And there's another sense of "want" I'm concerned about, which is that...

My wants can be pretty darn fleeting at times!

In fact, at one point this morning, I reached over beside the bed to grab my tablet and check my email and Twitter, which led to reading a linked article, and that few minutes' distraction was enough to knock out most of the craving to continue my programming project.  It wasn't gone entirely, but it reduced enough that I was no longer in a "Now now now! Wanna wanna!" place about it.

So, what does it even really mean to want something?  Do I count every fleeting desire or craving as wants?  Or should my long-term desires -- like my choice to work the first two hours on important/not-urgent stuff -- count for more?

Second, even if I do consider myself to really want to work on the less-important, but more urgent-feeling programming project, does that necessarily mean I ought to do that?

It takes a bit of soul-searching, but I soon see that the problem isn't that I want two different things, it's that I have a "should" about it.  It was something like, "If I want something urgently, then I should give it to myself", but at the time I had a devil of a time putting it into words.  I did try using a "turnaround" from The Work, though, rephrasing "I want to work on the project" to "My thinking wants to work on the project."

And I feel oddly happy at that.  Like, "Yes, that's right, it's not actually me that wants that.  It's just my thinking that wants it.  I was thinking about it, so of course I wanted it.  Checking email, I thought about it less, so I want it less.  If I keep thinking about other things, I'll want it even less."

So, is a true desire one that you have without thinking about it?  One that comes to you consistently?

I don't know, and I'm starting to think the question doesn't make any sense.  It's in the nature of wants to come and go:

Only our choices have any chance of staying true.

And the funny thing about choice is that it isn't really about what you "want", in the visceral sense of feeling an urge or desire.  It really is more about what Fritz says, as in, "If you could have it, would you take it?"

Only, it's not "if you could have this one thing right now, would you do whatever it takes right now"...  It's more like, "In the overall scope of your life, considering all the things you want, which things are more important to you?"

And in the past, I fell into the trap of defining "important" too narrowly, of only considering things that could be justified to others as being important, rather than actually considering what was important to me.

So it was only natural that I'd end up divided: one part of me pushing towards "important" things, the other expressing pent-up cravings for the important-to-me things I was leaving out of the picture.

(Like time to tinker and learn new programming stuff, for example!)

But lately, I do include those things, and it's a lot easier to do them in a guilt-free way, if I spend those first two hours on writing, or working on my business.

Last night just got a little out of hand.  ;-)

And now, minus the belief that "If I want something urgently, then I should give it to myself", and seeing that "I want to work on the programming" is really, "My thinking wants to work on the programming", I can actually make a choice about what to do.

A choice that's focused on everything I want, not just whatever I happen to be intently focused on at the moment.

And when I ask, "Who would I be, if I didn't believe I needed to do whatever I was thinking about?", I discover something else: that my desire to rush blindly into whatever seems interesting, is actually a kind of escape.

An addiction.

When I rush into "flow", it's a way of getting out of the present moment.  A way of not having to decide.  A way to avoid choice entirely.  My day gets away from me because I want it to, because I don't want to have to be the one managing and structuring my time -- a reflection of patterns learned from my parents.

It's an issue I've actually just been working on a few nights earlier, in a very intense Work session that revealed those patterns, showing how my parents' high expectations combined with lack of guidance repeatedly set me up to fail...  and how I've kept doing the same thing to myself, my entire life.

At the end of the session, I realized that if I wanted to succeed, I'd need to actually be clear with myself: not only about what I want, but also about how I'm going to get it -- including making time commitments...

And sticking to them.

And as I remember that, I reaffirm the choice: I'm going to give myself guidance, not just expectations.

And then it's okay.  Better than okay.

In fact, it's a blessing.

Who I would be, without always needing to be doing something, is someone thoughtful, and capable of actually making decisions about my day, even as the day goes on.  It feels like I could actually choose and reflect, instead of quickly jumping into something so I don't have to think about how much time I've already wasted, how poorly I've lived up to my unrealistic and guidance-free expectations.

And so now, I'm back to making a conscious choice about what I'm doing today.

Like writing all this, instead of programming.

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Root of Perfectionism

I'm a recovering perfectionist.

Not the wanna-be kind, that says they're a perfectionist because they have high standards.  No, I'm the kind that always feels bad about what they've done, because it's not quite as good as it could have been.

Worse, I tend to criticize what other people have done, on the same basis.  Get tangled in internet flamewars over minor things that, again, could be better than they are.  And I don't give people nearly enough positive feedback for the things that they did do, that are in fact better than they could have done, or how improved things are over how they were before.

At one time, I used to think that my knack for seeing how things "could be better" was a gift: it offered the possibility of continuing improvement, and certainly it has been commercially useful at times.

But what I didn't see, is that this knack was really not the root cause of my perfectionism.  Seeing how things could be better, is not perfectionism.  Aspiring to a high standard, is not perfectionism. Even wanting to be the very best you can be, is not perfectionism.

No.  Perfectionism is just:

Feeling bad when something isn't perfect!

But where does that feeling come from?

Recently, I've been delving again into The Work, which I'd only played around with a bit in the past.  At the time I first learned about it, I was looking at it only as a directed mindhacking tool, aiming the questions at specific blocks or issues...  and mostly finding I could invent better tools for the purpose.  (Ah, perfectionism!)

But recently, I've looked at it again, and noticed that its overall philosophy of questioning "shoulds" fits quite well with the other tools in my toolkit, and that it's actually a very quick and easy way to rapidly troubleshoot bad feelings about almost anything.  And as I've been getting into the habit of questioning every bad feeling, my skill at finding what it is I think I "should" do is improving.

So this morning, when I found myself mentally critiquing something my wife had done, I decided to actually do something about it.

And as I put together my weekly vitamins, I kept asking, "What was I thinking?  What do I believe that leads me to critique in that way, and feel bad about not saying anything?"

At first only a vague sense of unease came up, but it gradually refined into a general sense that, well, things were "supposed to be different".  That if, well, things could be better, then they should be better.

Aha, I thought.  A "should".  I can use The Work on that.  "Is that true?"

The answer comes back: no.

And it's a wave of relief, washing over me.  It suddenly makes sense to me how other people can even see that something could be better, and yet not seem to care about it as much as I do, or feel an urge to do something about it.  I mean, just because something could be better, that doesn't mean you have to do something about it.  It makes total sense.

But somehow, I don't feel finished.  It's like the urge to critique has diminished, like it's not quite so actively evil not to denounce things as imperfect when they are, but it's still sad.

And as I'm mulling over the phrasing of "things that could be better, should be better", it occurs to me that there's a part I haven't questioned:

The part where things could be better!

And I have to ask myself, "Is that true?"

And in a flash, it comes to me: no.  No it's not.

The thing I was critiquing, could not have been better, at the moment I was critiquing it.  How could it possibly have been?

In fact, how can anything be better than it actually is?

Taken literally enough, the very idea is absurd.  Whatever is, is.  Unless you actually have a time machine to go back and change everything that led to it being that way, it is a literal and physical impossibility for something to be better than it is!

What is left out of the idea that "things could be better", is the dimension of time.  You can improve things so that they are better in the future than they are now.  But you cannot improve things backward in time, so that they are better now than they are now.  What would that even mean?

You can't change what is.  You can only change what will be.  So the error in my thinking is not that I imagine how things could be better...  it's that I'm imagining that better tomorrow, today.

Instead of in the future, where it actually belongs.

But the even bigger wave of relief that follows this realization is not really driven by all this logic of time and cause-and-effect.  It's mainly the feeling, the visceral gut-level feeling, that imperfection is no longer a tragedy to be grieved, or an emergency to be fixed.

Because things aren't supposed to be any more perfect than they already are.

And so, if something isn't exactly as I imagined it, or as I could imagine it...

It doesn't mean I've already failed.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Don't Want, Doesn't Matter

While it's certainly good to get away from the things you don't want, in the scope of life as a whole, what we don't want doesn't really matter.

Because avoiding what you don't want will never bring you happiness, or peace, or joy, or even a sense of accomplishment.

It will never bring you happiness, or even contentment, but at best, only relief.

But that relief will never bring you any lasting peace, because your mind will always be on guard, waiting for the thing you don't want to come back again.

And it will never bring you any joy, because only the presence of a good thing can bring joy to your life.  The absence of a bad thing brings only emptiness.

And that emptiness will never bring you any particular sense of accomplishment.  What have you accomplished, after all, by avoiding something?  You have successfully remained exactly the same, that is all.

Avoiding what you don't want is a nothingness, a non-event.  You didn't lose, but you also didn't win.  You are running out the clock, but not scoring any points.

Is your life already so good that it's worth running out the clock on?  Are you really winning that much?

In the end, the only way we move forward is by confronting -- or even embracing -- those things that we don't want, that are required to obtain the things we do.  And while I have never been a fan of jumping into cold water, preferring to wade in a little at a time, it is nonetheless true in the general case, that our suffering is shortest when we treat obstacles as if they meant nothing.

Grasp a thistle gently, the saying goes, and its thorns will prick you.  Grasp it boldly, and its spines crumble.  To be bold, to be courageous and unhesitating, means only one thing: to treat what you don't want as if it is of no importance to you.  As though it does not matter.

Ah, you say.  But not getting hit by a car matters.  Not losing my job matters.  Well, duh.  Of course they matter, on an absolute scale.  But what are you not getting hit by a car for?  What are you not losing your job for?  Those are the things that really matter, and you can see them if you can only stop staring at what you're trying not to lose.

I wish that when I was a child, someone had taken the time to explain this to me, in a way I could understand.  Because I've spent pretty much my entire life, till now, becoming ever more focused on the things I don't want, as I learned more and more ways for things to be wrong or imperfect or unpleasant.  As my body has grown older and less capable, my responsibilities greater and my personal time less and less available, the ways that life can give me something I don't want have only ever increased.  And there is so much, so very very much that I would have done differently, if I could change only this one, tiny thing in my past:

To know, to have learned at an early age to focus on what I did want, and let what I did not want fade from my mind, as long as I knew how to handle the worst that could happen.

To know that what I did not want would, in the long run, amount to nothing, and less than nothing.

And that my efforts to avoid it would be nothing more than a black hole, a giant sucking sound, swallowing hours and days and years of what might have been.

But that whatever I truly wanted, and chose for myself, and set out to do without questioning my motives or ability or the worth of the doing...

Would matter more than I could ever imagine.

And that I would be far, far better off with less of the first, and more of the second.

And so I say to you, at whatever age you are now: don't wait.  Don't hesitate.  If you are not now a reckless person blindly risking your life or health or finances, then you can only gain by becoming bolder.

Say it with me now: what I don't want, doesn't matter.  Say it when you are afraid.  Say it when you are in pain.  Say it when you don't think you can go on.  When you don't know what to do, and you don't even know if there's any point.  In the end, you're going to feel pain and die anyway, so why pretend that a lack of fear and pain can ever last?

Indeed, I came by this insight myself, only through sickness and pain and fear of prolonged suffering unto death.  Because if you're in pain for long enough, you may eventually realize that trying to avoid the pain isn't helping, and you need to have something more important to you than staying out of pain.  And that if you want to move on in the face of death, you had better have something more important to you than just staying alive.

Nothing isn't something, and what we want to avoid is nothing.  What we don't want, doesn't really matter.

But what we DO want, makes all the difference in the world.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Building a Dream

Have you ever had something you wanted to achieve, that always seemed just out of reach?

Every day, every month, every year, you think, "this is it, I'm finally going to do it..."

And then you don't.

Why is that?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reclaiming This Space

So, this is an article all about how, life got flipped turned upside down...  No, wait, nevermind.  Bad idea.

Seriously though, I was about to try and put some preface onto this to take the sting off, so I can tell myself that people were warned and if they unsubscribe then that's their deal, not mine.

So forget the preface, here's the deal: I want my blog back.

Six years ago, I started this blog after being laid off and confronting a life-changing hurricane challenge.  Not to be a business, not to teach anybody anything, but just to say random stuff.  Talk things out.  Explore new ideas, new lifeforms, and new ways of getting things done...  to boldly go where no split infinitives had gone before.

And because nobody was reading the thing, and because it wasn't connected with a business, I felt free to rant about whatever I wanted, make stupid jokes about random stuff, and even review funny reality shows.

And most importantly, I didn't feel like something had to be awesome before I posted it.  That I didn't need to have some kind of Important Point to make or Principle To Teach.

Back then, this was just a place for me to type my thoughts into the computer, so I could see what I thought about something.

Somewhere along the line though, I started getting popular.  Or at least, people were paying attention to me.

And in retrospect, it's kind of surprising (and sad) how much I let that affect me.  Pretty soon I'd plugged that into half a dozen or so of my neuroses about Not Disappointing People, and needing to be Taken Seriously as an Important Person, and, well...  the actual blogging part of things just kind of up and died.

On top of that, I piled even more "shoulds" about how I should be doing marketing the way I learned in the classes I paid many thousands of dollars for, and trying to sell something in every post while being both Brief and Awesome at the same time.

Which, rather than encouraging me to be either Brief or Awesome (let alone Selling), discouraged me from posting anything at all.

Worse yet, it stopped me from even writing things in the first place.

When I started this, my blog was just how I thought things out, how I reflected on things.  So I didn't need a polished article to post: I just needed an idea (or a vague hint of one) to start typing with.

But then later, with all my self-imposed demands, I'd actually interrogate myself into silence by wanting to first know whether what I was writing was going to be an email to my list, a newsletter to my paying subscribers, a post for the blog, an article for one of my other websites, and what was I going to sell in it, and what was the main point going to be and....


So these days, I've noticed that most of my best writing has been going into Mind Hackers' Guild forum postings, and my rambling commentaries on LessWrong.com.  Because in neither of those places do I feel like I need to already know where I'm going before I open up the window and Just Freaking Type Something Already.

Without having to first make it into some sort of Life Changing Lesson Of Supreme Awesomeness.

Because, you know, it's okay to just be helpful.  Mildly amusing.  Or to even just be offering myself as a Minor Example Of What To Avoid.

(Sorry about all the Capital Letter Phrases today; it seems to be a side-effect of reading lots of Fluent Self posts while I download and convert my Bloglines archives.)

Sure, it's true that I still want to be more than just slightly helpful or miildly amsuing.  I'm still totally into that whole insight thing, after all. Which is why this particular post has been trying to ramble sideways towards some sort of Actual Point, apart from just the bare facts of the situation, and my declared intent to reclaim this space.

I wanted to also say something here about the specific neuroses I had, and how they made me not just want, but need to be Serious and Important, not just here, but in my current work as a teacher of mind hacking things.

How that need made me set ridiculously high goals for my work, to not only be 100% Right and True from a scientific standpoint, but to also have utterly perfect execution from a practical standpoint.  (Both of which really meant, "good enough to not have anyone be able to criticize me, ever, without me having a good defense.")

How that need made me believe I had to have the Ultimate Methods™...  not only the perfect ways of changing minds and lives, but also the perfect ways of teaching those perfect ways, with nothing less being suitable before I would allow myself to sell anything to anyone beyond the tiny circle of highly-motivated people who were willing to jump over all the arbitrary obstacles I put between them and the chance to give me money.

Which of course, was all just bullshit.

Because it not only kept my business in guilt-driven mediocrity, it also means that the stuff I have developed isn't getting to a lot of people who need it.

And every time I developed a newer technique that improved on earlier ones, I had to stop pushing or teaching the older (but usually easier-to-learn and easier-to-teach!) ones...  even though it's usually way easier for people to learn the simple techniques first and then build up to the super-duper fix-everything ones.

And then, after getting to a point late last year, where the super-duperest techniques are totally awesome and changing me and my wife and other people in ways I'd never dreamed of before, I just switched over to having to have the most perfect ways of describing, documenting, teaching, and promoting those techniques!

But the hardest part of mindhacking is -- and perhaps always will be -- seeing through your own bullshit.  Seeing that what you're doing isn't really as necessary as you think it is.  That your so-called "musts" are in fact merely options...  and piss-poor ones at that.

And so, it doesn't matter if I do end up creating the most marvelous methods of documenting and training the techniques themselves, because the hard part will still be unique to the individual doing the learning.

So, good enough is good enough.

And that goes for this article, too, even though I'm still kinda feeling a little nagging pull inside, one that says, "But you haven't shared an Important Life Lesson, or explained a Powerful Principle Of Change yet!  You  haven't shown how you got rid of the neuroses, or explained how they arise...  you haven't..."

Yeah, and I ain't gonna, either.  (At least, not in this post.)

Because good enough is good enough.

And this is my blog now.

And it sure is nice to be back.

Here's hoping you feel the same way.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ending My Insight Addiction

There's an old story that goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was a boy who ate too much sugar.  His mother, who wanted him to stop, thought that if the boy wouldn't listen to her, then perhaps he would listen to his idol, Mahatma Gandhi.

So she walked for many miles through the scorching heat to ask Gandhi, "Would you please tell my son to stop eating sugar?"

Gandhi replied, "Bring your boy back in two weeks.  I will speak to him then."

Confused, the mother left, then brought the boy back two weeks later.

Gandhi looked the boy in the eye and said, "Stop eating sugar."

The boy nodded, and promised to stop.

His mother of course was grateful, but still confused.  "Why did you want me to bring him back in two weeks?  Couldn't you have said the same thing to him then?"