Tomorrow I'm going to go check out some granite slabs so that I can replace my particle-board RV counters with granite. In preparation for the new counters I've ordered a new sink and faucet, and will be taking a look at a stove on Friday.
The faucet came in today. I got home at midnight, well after my usual computer off time (11pm), I set down my backpack, and started opening up the faucet box. You know, I thought, I may as well install it now just to see what it looks like.
Fifteen minutes later I was reading assembly instructions and poking around under my sink with a flashlight to see what sort of connections I had down there. I thought about how ridiculous it was to be installing a faucet that I would just have to remove and reinstall a week later. I thought about how crazy it was that somehow this totally useless faucet installation was taking priority over writing a post.
I realized that if my father, my usual home-on-wheels-improvement-guru, was here, he'd point out how ridiculous this whole process was. "Ty, don't do that now. Wait until you get the new counter."
And I'd heed his obviously logical advice and stop trying to monkey with the faucet. But in his absence, I found myself in a state of willful ignorance, trying to shove the faucet tubing through the base of the unit.
I stopped for a second and thought about it, and then packed the faucet back up, turned on my computer, and started writing.
We all have this perverse allegiance to authority figures. Some have our best interests at heart, some don't, and some just aren't considering our interests one way or another. But we're predisposed to obey. We're so predisposed, in fact, that a number of great pranks (and crimes) have been perpetrated thanks to this principle. When people think of hacking, they imagine fingertips dancing across a keyboard at three in the morning, but in many cases it's just someone calling up the right secretary and demanding that she give them the password. It works.
On the other hand, we have ourselves. It's not a matter of whether or not we're selfish, it's just a question of the degree. Putting aside the debate on whether or not that's a good thing, it's clear that if anyone has our best interests at heart, it's ourselves. And it's true that sometimes friends can point out parts of our personalities that we don't see, but no one truly knows us better than ourselves.
Yet we don't listen to ourselves.
New Years resolutions are coming up soon, and everyone knows that their success rate is abysmally low. Few people expect to keep their own resolutions, and no one expects anyone else to. When someone tells me that they're going to eat healthy in the new year, I may as well order a giant cake to their house on January 7th. They'll be back on it by then.
The bottom line is that we don't take ourselves seriously. We know that while the consequences for defying an outsider could be big, and could be embarrassing, the consequences of disobeying ourselves are different. They're small, cumulative, and easy to push aside temporarily.
Learning to listen to ourselves can be a slow process, but it's an important one. It's fundamental to any sort of self improvement, if only because habits are so important. How can you implement a habit if you can't trust yourself to stick to it?
So how do you start trusting yourself? The first step is to realize how urgent it is. If you have the habit of not following through with things you tell yourself to do, then you have a bad habit that is getting strengthened every day, just like any other habit.
You need to break that chain immediately. Pick something that you know you can do no matter what, like drinking eight glasses of water today or getting into bed by midnight or not watching TV. Then follow through no matter what.
No matter what. That's the name of the game. I'm exhausted right now and would love to finish this post tomorrow, but I told myself that I'd write a thousand words every day no matter what. My subconscious pops up with ideas like, "Hey, you did a lot of design work on your blog today, so that can count as writing".
Nope, it doesn't count, because I said I'd write no matter what. Every day, decide that you're going to do things and do them. Build up to difficult decisions, even things that you're not sure can be done. When you have the habit of following through no matter what, you get really resourceful.
You may never rid yourself of that urge to let yourself off the hook, but you can constantly make yourself stronger and stronger at resisting that urge. And once you get to the point where you know that your word to yourself means something, you've done something important: you've learned to listen to yourself.
This was written before putting the counters in the RV... I don't have amnesia!
Heading to Japan tomorrow with my Japanese teacher and friends. Really excited!
Picture is Todd with a backwards listening device on. Seems appropriate.
"It's not a matter of whether or not we're selfish, it's just a question of the degree."
Suggestion: Tynan's quote area.
I started trusting myself when I was English Teaching one class, and I was tired as hell. Another teacher who was really good at English suggested I join the class, but she was doing nothing. Something shifted, and I realized I have to take charge and be responsible for everything and not look to other people. I've been making a lot of other changes since then.
How long you gonna be in Japan for? I live in Gunma, not far from Tokyo. I'll be in Yokohama tomorrow.
I'm still trying to figure out what a "backwards listening device" is. Need more explanation please!
p.s. I'm still thrilled about the long awaited RV post. Thanks!
One can also recognize that there are many selves contained within the self. Sometimes these aspects are opposites and just recognizing them and allowing them to dialogue can be beneficial. There are times also when we can challenge whose "voice" is speaking to us. Often times these are the voices of an "authority figure" from our past and the messages received may have been negative. Very nice post!
Particularly liked this observation.
'When people think of hacking, they imagine fingertips dancing across a keyboard at three in the morning, but in many cases it's just someone calling up the right secretary and demanding that she give them the password. It works.'
It really is difficult to fight this human impulse to obey authority. So many time I've gone along with something I knew in my gut was wrong just because of this impulse.
Anyway - very, very insightful post. Thanks Tynan.
Your father reminds me f my father.
The thing about authority figures is that at a certain point in life, it's best for their authority to become symbolic in our minds, not real.
A friend of mine founded a company with another guy. When they started out, their lives and ambitions were very similar, even if the principles bubbling below the surface weren't. One thing they both had in spades was hustle. They did what it took-- no matter what-- to keep their business going forward.
Over time, their motivations diverged. My friend stayed on his grind and pushed the company forward because he liked producing excellence. His cofounder, on the other hand, became enamored with the money the company made. Not enamored enough to keep it, though-- he spent liberally and foolishly. I once saw him use company money to pick up the tab for thirty people at an expensive restaurant.
Nothing is entirely black and white. Although it was obvious that the spending was excessive, he was also contributing to the company at the same time. I don't really know enough of the specifics to know whether he was taking more than he was putting in, or vice versa. What was clear, though, was that it wasn't a great situation for my friend. He was the heart and soul of the business and the fire in its engine.
I asked him once why he didn't quit. Early on, he could have very easily quit and started his own company. He was the brand. Later on it would have been more complicated, but still doable.
I'm reading The One Thing by Keller right now. It's a little too pop-science and a little to fluffy rah-rah speech, but I do like many of the themes. However, there is this ridiculous chapter on habits.
You've read those self-help blogs that promise you that any habit will be forever ingrained into your personality if only you keep it up for 21 days? Fight for three weeks, and you'll never have to fight again! It'll be so easy!
Bullshit, says The One Thing. It's actually 66 days.
There's of course the one anecdotal example, this time it's Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps swam 365 days a year ever since his 14th birthday. He is very good at swimming. Therefore, habits are true!