We’ve all been there. Forming sentences is hard. Particularly the start.
It’s a struggle for me now and I have the benefit of deep thought, first drafts and revisions. When I overheard this^^ attempt from a table to my back, I felt it an appropriate start to examine patience in speech.
Talking is like computing. We, with our hardrives of knowledge, experience and memory, take time to spit out the things we want to say. We have to attempt many combinations of colloquial language codes (sometimes clichés) to get across the right feeling, direction or thought.
We can cmd-alt-dlt 100% of the like, anyway and um‘s that enter our speech by taking a minute, and finding our footing before jumping into expression.
People are far more impressed by exact speech than rushed stumbling.
The third stage of cultural evolution came in 1974 when Bill Gates began work on the world’s first computer.
The Information Age began, and the digital world was born.
Fast-forward 40 years. One-twelfth of a year’s waking and sleeping time is spent browsing. Social media, our fast-food information stop, has now become a larger advertising channel than print.
You would think we would bore ourselves to death with this level of consumption rampant, but instead, online courses and education have become a leading method of learning. “Instant Activism” through online campaigns allow us to research an organization, join their movement, and give our time or money to make a change.
Moore’s Law says that computing dramatically increases in power, and decreases in relative cost, at an exponential pace. In 40 years we won’t be spending two-twelfths online. Try six-twelfths. Half.
Is that really where we’re headed?
Cultural evolution no. 1, drawing, bled into digital form with visual effects, while eloquent no. 2, writing, was aided in reproducibility by word processors. Is “stage 3” the paragon that conforms all others to itself? If we’re seeing the height of cultural revolutions that all future ones learn from, we need to be cautious of its control. “…Great responsibility“, the old man said…
This shift necessitates organizations like The Center for Human Technology who are pushing Silicon Valley to reintroduce ethics into their software design.
If we are headed for a future where innovation is propelled by those who have the resources to adapt to a digital world, education and moderation are vital. Technology and social media come without “Drug Facts” labels despite having deeper addictive and detrimental effects than most drugs (The CHT created a “Ledger” of sociological effects for public awareness).
It’s revealing to discover that we no longer choose companies like Apple or Google to be “crucial” to our lives. They choose us. Or, more accurately, they choose our culture.
For better and worse, we are inundated in an “ecosystem” (a term actually used by technologists to refer to the phones, wearables, and other tech that a company employs to create an echo chamber of self-affirmation for their brand), and our maneuverability out of this system is dependent on our awareness of its existence.
We can play into a system profiting off attention or we can take steps to craft an intentional life.
My core thought is this: can we choose more of the things we bring into our lives instead of having them chosen for us?
The first hour’s work of writing done, I throw away.
I don’t mean editing or reworking words results in the “throwing away” of my original work. Nor do I mean the pages (as first drafts are always done on paper at my desk, a practice from writer Sarah Wilson) are merely discarded for future references or citations. I literally throw first drafts of multiple thoughts into the trash, never to be used again.
My reasoning is threefold: First, I need the liberty to make huge literary blunders. When aware of the limited destination of work (the trash), limitless potential activates. Novel ideas and approaches can spur from this practice that allows for mistakes because of relieved social pressure.
Next, failure is a muscle often forgotten. A fledgling writer prepares for the eventual publishing process by a practice of discarding a thousand words or an hour of work each week to build an aegis of endurance for trial.
Finally, this reinforces why I write– to develop and share avant-garde insight.
Avant-garde (adj/n); people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It is frequently characterized by aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability.
Adam Grant culminated research in his non-fiction work, Originals, on “how non-conformists move the world” and act within it to create massive change and success for their organizations. His thesis within the book is that “the hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.”
“Originality is an act of creative destruction”
Economist Joseph Schumpeter.
Adam Grant actually threw away 103,000 words (near 90%) of his first book, Give and Take. Most wouldn’t write the book anymore. Grant did. A true ‘Original’, Grant knew he had an idea within his 103,000 words of garbage that could become another book’s gold.
The saying is backwards. The two steps back are what propel us three steps forward. Don’t forget to take those steps in your work.
the minutia of a life make it whole. the little things we do complete the big things. the biblical book of Acts describes a vocation, saying, “The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day (2:46).”
2018 revealed to me a niche within Lifestyle and Business learning: ProductivityandHabit Change. As a keystone (albeit unconscious- we’ll get to that) part of my life, it is inevitable we dig in. James Clear’s, Atomic Habits, and Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habits have brought change within reach by simplifying tenets and methods. Here, we examine Clear…
start small and build
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
The journey is long, the skyscraper tall. We can try to take a giant bite, but the elephant won’t be eaten unless you take it one bite at a time.
Habits are the tool to parse change. The thesis of Clear’s bookis this: “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick to them for years.”
This is the basis of Malcolm Gladwell’s, 10k hour rule (the minimum quota to become an expert in something) and a key factor in creating change.
prep your environment
One of the easiest steps in habit change and pursuing a life you really want, altering the space you occupy can be a massive change that rewires your neural pathways (the roadways of our brain that become ingrained with patterns- called habits- that we follow routinely and effortlessly).
Moving your phone charger away from your nightstand (or, dare I say it, out of your room) and leaving a book in its stead can begin a reading habit.
Clear talks about how environment is the “invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” He writes, “the most common form of change is not internal, but external: we are changed by the world around us.”
Jerry Seinfeld notoriously popularized the practice of marking each day on a calendar with an ‘X’ to track, and continue, a writing practice. This is an internally motivating way of forcing a habit, and one that works for certain people.
For those habits (or people) that require flexibility, Minimalist filmmaker, Matt D’Avella, simply created a rule of habit that allows a break, misstep, or cheat-day in your rhythms. Requiring that you never miss 2 days in a row creates a sense of urgency and activity for your habit after missing a day. This can be paired with negative reinforcement when missing consecutive days and can lead to great success for those calendar-minded many!
change your mindset
While Clear’s following statement is true, another precept stands: “The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.” Clear refers to outcome-based habits and identity-based habits.
Focusing on what you want to achieve (outcome) will lead to “behavior that is incongruent with the self”, while finding who you want to become (identity) will make change that is intrinsic and permanent.
A last note about the indomitably optimistic: we can never discount the power of positive thought in behavioral or organizational change. Expect to fail, and failure comes knocking. See change, and you can create a tidal wave.
This is not an original or breathtaking idea, but an inspiring one. One I hold close.
Look in the city sky. A tree of man’s creation sprouts. Grown from rubble and the din of an emerging city to the height of a snow-capped mountain. Its design is intricate, lacing numerous materials, laws of physics, and sweat equity. Its purpose, to some, is awe. It is a monolith to the prosperity of a nation- a testament to its bravery. Filling a city, it is a finger on a dozen-digit hand that holds safe the hope of millions.
We all have a skyscraper to build. A small seed in our hearts at a young age that is either nurtured or extinguished. You recognize this dream by your fear of failing it. Or you don’t know it and need a return to the grassy hills of wonder-years. Fear and blindness prevent us from manifesting our greatest ideas. We are coddled and bullied by our own psyche to stop the Work.
But building a skyscraper is a war. It’s constant struggling against the forces of nature. As gravity and winds threaten structural integrity, so self-doubt topples creation.
Many of us reach troughs or setbacks with the complete opposite mindset to what those who succeed have. Our culture has reinforced this shame in things like moving back in with your parents to save on rent or making a lateral career move to a company more aligned with your values.
Shame isn’t spent only in the big things. Failure in workout regiments, relationships, or spiritual disciplines tend to spiral us to compoundingly negative paradigms.
Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.
Alfred (Batman Begins)
Foster a paradigm that is resiliently compounding positives.
If we see every fall as a chance to rise stronger and smarter, we grow a rare mindset that is self-affirming and independent (two proven qualities that lead to great success in business and in life). Every tech mogul in Silicon Valley circa 1985 working twenty years later had this mindset to carry them through adversity.
Steve Jobs was abruptly thrust into the spotlight, battered out of the company he built, and brought back as a herald of a new revolution. In the 90’s, the public saw that, “Jobs does nothing in half measures and so seems to reap his rewards in abject failure and stunning successes.”
“Stunning successes” merit “abject failure” at times, and when we don’t enter “overcome mode” we can be torn apart, ripped, broken, and chewed up by our own thinking.
Life is hard. Trials come; failure happens.
It’s always our response that dictates what happens next.
How can we be certain that our voice is our own? Not the frequency we speak at or the timbre of our voice, but the way we craft sentences and use language.
As a writer, I have clear evidence of my most recent readings affecting my prose. It’s barely conscious in the moment. It doesn’t make for terrible writing. But it’s not my true voice.
Some spiritual and meditative gurus talk of finding our “true selves” through practices of self-reflection. One of the things that interferes with this discovery is the consumption of inputs created by anyone other than ourselves.
Without a true voice, we are more likely to be swayed by popular action or character. We find it easier to sound like the crowd and shape ourselves to what they say. A writer without his voice becomes a parrot of other works, endlessly regurgitating the same style, words or symmetries
“Eschew all diversion.” Seems a bit extreme- necessary at times maybe- but not long-term. This route suggests “dopamine fasts” to cut all connections to stimulating distractions, hence restoring our focus, clarity and ability to sit with ourselves.
The answer to finding our “true voice” lies in our passions. The things we love are the things we cannot be dishonest about. Find that and you’ve found your voice.
The Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Richard Powers has been described as “a fable”. Fable means truth. From the Latin, “that which is told”, and Webster, “a narrative intended to enforce a useful truth.”
A useful truth says we need to stop. Stop and consider. Stop and consider and protect.
Powers intertwines the lives of eight human’s in his narrative, telling their stories over a span of decades of connecting branches. This alone would be a triumph endowed, but in this homo sapien overstory there are swelling roots and towering trunks of a tale of arborescence supporting humanity’s grasp at life.
A literary sentinel stands to secure circulation of a message that has dire need of delivery and, more importantly, action. The reason for Powers’ message:
The world had 6 trillion trees, when people showed up. Half remain. Half again will disappear, in a hundred years.
The effects of the maltreatment of our planet do not have distant ramifications. We see collapse in our ecosystems now in Puerto Rico, California, the Arctics. You can’t be enraged for these crimes without seeing the damage and understanding the root sin in man’s actions.
I’ve begun rereading Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art, at the beginning of each week in sections to remember the reason why I have taken on some of the challenges in my life. Reflection can incite advancement in ways that keeping our heads down on the grind never can.
I once had an English professor who began every class forcing a paper and pen into our hands with a prompt and orders not to let the pen leave the paper. For 10 to 15 minutes, 3 days a week, with our coach hovering past tables with encouragement and admonishment, we wrote 500-800 words.
He believed if you can do a thing, everyday, consistently well, at the start of your day, you can do any other thing.
This is the guiding principle behind keystone habits.
I’ve decided to write everyday (Monday-Friday) for the foreseeable future to prove to myself that I have this muscle and can sustain the practice for a long period. My eventual hope is to have a body of work that I can enjoy, gain insights from, and develop a compelling narrative around.
Small steps are how mountains are climbed. Incremental revision is how change is made. Daily habits are how lifestyles are built.
Find the mountain you want to climb, encourage the change you want made. Then build.