awareness

I’ve spoken at length about feedback loops and the benefits of processing it productively.

But sometimes, you just can’t.

Like too much of anything, feedback can become a burden if our focus is on generating lots of it rather than specific feedback of high quality.

An embroider might glance over thousands of lines in the making of a piece, search for the slightest of imperfections to be mend. When he spots one, he examines the line thread by thread, learning what he did wrong, fixing his mistakes and making adjustments for the next time he picks up the needle.

Another embroider of similar skill makes the same piece. But instead of glancing line by line, he examines each stich closely and carefully, immediately after making it.

Both fix their mistakes, both are better embroiders by the end of the piece, but the first finishes his piece in one sixteenth the time.

Even if he misses a mistake which the meticulous second embroider notices, the first embroider gives themselves sixteen more projects to learn it.

Too much feedback is poisonous. We can’t let ourselves get caught up in the illusion of perfect improvement.

There’s no doubt that making ends meet, taking what you can get and doing what’s in front are all worthwhile and necessary things to be able to do.

However, we’re good at tricking ourselves into thinking that just because we did something yesterday, we should, or must, do it again today.

Which isn’t true.

If you can do the kind of work you want to be doing and still generate enough to survive, even if it means having less toys than your neighbour, why shouldn’t you?

The only way anyone makes a living from writing, music, surfing or Jiu-Jitsu is by showing up constantly, even though to begin with, the time they spend isn’t earning them a dime (and usually, costs them a lot).

After some time, they become good enough to earn a little, then those who continue to turn up and are adept at processing feedback get good enough to earn a lot.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s still hard work.

Tomorrow, commit to showing up.

Here’s the deal: we live in a strange, rapidly changing, hyper connected world which is making some of us intensely miserable in ways we don’t fully understand. 

Our ability to control our own attention is diminishing at an alarming rate.

Technical monoliths are making us feel exposed in ways people never used to have to worry about.

And our opportunities, while still limited, seem limitless in the face of everybody else’s success.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. We are sensationally adaptable creatures.

Brilliant people all over the world are constantly discovering fascinating things, many of which can inform our way forward through this jumbled mess.

Whenever it gets too much, remember that all you can ever be held accountable for is everything you do.

If the world outside is so overwhelming in scale and implication, how tiny our own short lives must be.

And if the prospect of being responsible for your every living breath is so overwhelming, how small and insignificant the rest of the world must be.

The world, and your roll in it, is neither too large or too small.

It just is.

Realise this and you might just do away with half the troubles our new world brings with it.

If it feels too good to be true, it’s too good to be real.

There’s always a catch and the grass is cut from the same roots.

But that’s okay.

It might not be as good as the person who’s trying to sell it to you says it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Sometimes the things people tell you are life changing are just good enough to change the course of a day.

And a day changed for the better is not insignificant.

Not every deal which is too good to be real is a bad deal.

Just ensure you know what you’re giving away.

Was there a day this week where you went to bed dissatistied with the way you spent it?

How many days was that the case?

If that number is hard to deal with (which at times it most certainly has been for me), one of two things are wrong.

Either the way you’re spending your time isn’t aligned with the stories you want to tell about yourself, or your expectations aren’t in line with what’s reasonable.

This worst is when it’s a combination of the two.

We all deserve to love what we do.

But sometimes loving what we do requires us to work hard at loving it.

We’re great at categorising things.

It’s how we stay organised. It makes us feel productive.

When we categorised tasks, our natural instinct is to give them an order or a sequence.

But sometimes the rules we make up stop making sense.

Sometimes our orders limit us.

“I’m going to do the dishes then mop the floor.”

Is different to,

“I have to do the dishes before mopping the floor.”

Sometimes the floor just has to be mopped.

Be careful of pigeon holes, especially those you make yourself.

Only a fool ends up washing dishes while standing in broken glass.

“Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

James Clear

People say you are what you eat, but I’m more inclined to believe you are what you do.

Make good food decisions, you’ll be a healthy eater.

Juggle every day, you’ll be a juggler.

In many ways, we are all of the things we’re performing in each moment.

Which is why it’s so important to optimise yourself in the immediate term.

Long-term goals are great, but they have no relevance to who you actually are outside of the effect that have on focussing your immediate goals.

Dreams are so fun to imagine because they skip all work required to realise them and get right to the reward.

For them to come true, a through line must be forged which connect the dream to the now.

People who lose sight of this live in a world of constant inaction with distant goals which will sadly never eventuate.

Every action, every second, is a vote for the person you’ll become.

Vote wisely.

It’s uncomfortable to realise that we choose to endure some of the worst circumstances we deal with.

When we feel like we can’t do something, it’s rarely true. More often than not the alternatives are just inconvenient.

This truth is uncomfortable because it makes us complicit in the majority of our suffering – even more uncomfortable because not all people are born with equal quality of options.

Every choice comes with a cost. The cost of quitting your job, selling your house or distancing yourself from someone close to you all come at huge financial, environmental and social cost, so they’re options which are rarely opted for when the stakes are low.

This isn’t to say that you should quit your job the first time you encounter a frustrating co-worker or start chowing down on camembert if you’re lactose intolerant, only that you could.

Continuing to show up to work or avoid dairy is an active choice, not one you have to make. As such, we must accept the (sometimes unfortunate and unpleasant) things which come along with each of our choices.

And if you can’t, if the weight of a choice which you continue to make brings you nothing but frustration or despair, consider making another.

For every choice you’ve ever made, there was the possibility of inaction.

If something isn’t working and you’ve exhausted the choices you’re willing to make to mend it, perhaps it’s time to walk away.

Peace doesn’t always mean everyone agrees with you or does what you’re comfortable with them doing.

Sometimes peace means walking seperate and opposite paths to those with which your path is incompatible.

It’s the crossing of opposing paths which breeds disdain.

Peace isn’t a lack of disagreement. It’s a lack of conflict.

In his worthwhile book, The Hapiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt argues that the advantage optomists have over pessimists naturally compounds.

It’s true that the world is structured such that the rich tend to get richer as the poor get poorer, but it’s also true that the happy are likely to grow further happier than the sad.

When it comes to dealing with circumstances which are making them unhappy, “optimists expect their efforts to pay off, [so] they go right to work fixing the problem.”

Even when things fail, they have an inherent understanding that things tend to work out for the best.

When things go wrong, optimists naturally seek out the potential benefits buried within misfortune.

The narrative optimists write for themselves then, is one of constantly overcoming adversity.

Pessimists, on the other hand, live in a world with more apparent risk and less confidence to deal with it.

From the pessimist perspective it’s natural to feel trapped within a narrative wrought with hopelessness; one where bearing the consequences of injust circumstances seems more natural than attempting to change them.

Optimists and pessimists can be dealt the exact same adversity and each write opposing translations.

What’s frightening is that the way each retells the events in their own internal narrative has ripple effects on the remainder of their narrative.

Optimists are more likely to grow from adversity because they can antipate rewards for their efforts.

Pessimists are more likely to be enslaved by adversity because they spend more time managing their pain than resolving their adversity.

This doesn’t mean pessimists can’t grow from adversity. It just means they find it more difficult to do so on average.

“The key to growth is not optimism per se, it is the sense making which optimists find easy.”

Optimist, pessimist or anything inbetween, find a way to make sense of adversity. Come to terms with it. Relish it. Grow.