I'm exhausted. I took a red-eye from Las Vegas to DC, which is a bad idea to begin with because the flight is only four hours long. Even if you sleep the whole time, you're still exhausted. I didn't sleep, though, partly because it's hard to sleep on planes, and partly because the largest airplane neighbor I've ever had was pressed up against me and threatening to engulf my thigh in hers.
So I didn't sleep at all, and I'm exhausted.
I can't really afford to be exhausted, though. If I go to sleep at noon, which I desperately wanted to do, my schedule would be shot for days. And I have to do a touch Sett, do a language tape, and write a blog post.
It's so easy to push that burden to your future self and suffer later. I'll just write two blog posts tomorrow. I can skip a day on my language tape and leave it up to my future self to pick up the slack. Sett stuff can wait. And, hey, why not sleep now and fix that sleep schedule later?
My sister, who I'm immensely proud of, is launching a career as an interior designer. She studied it in school and rose quickly to the top at the firm that hired her right out of college. When it became clear that there was no room for growth there, she decided to find a job in New York..
She's gotten a bunch of interviews, but hasn't landed a job at a company yet. She did, however, manage to get a high end client of her own, whose home she'll be starting work on in a couple weeks. In her spare time, besides job hunting, she paints and scans watercolors to turn into fabric patterns. She's industrious, optimistic, and hard-working. I have no idea whether her own company will take off or if she'll get a great job somewhere, but I know that she's going to do well.
Today we arrived at our grandparents' house in Boston to visit for a week. This is a tradition that we've had for at least twenty years, maybe forever. She couldn't wait to tell our grandparents about getting her own client, or the other independent work she was doing.
My grandparents, like most grandparents, have been around a while. They grew up poor but worked hard, started a business, and become successful. Many of their descendants are entrepreneurs, and we can all certainly trace some of that back to them.
Workwise, I had a bad Saturday. It was my first day back in the RV, away from family, and I had psyched myself up. The plan was to work the entire day and knock out a big Sett task, plus the little cruft that had been building up on my schedule. Very little of that happened.
It's been a long battle with procrastination, but I do well with it these days. I see it coming, bob and weave, and usually come out ahead. That's not to say I'm perfect, only that I waste a very small amount of time compared to the amount of time I used to waste. But Saturday was tough, and I got almost nothing done.
Every day I have a few little daily things. I write a blog post and I listen to a language tape. Combined those two things take less than an hour. Recently, though, I've been pushing them to the end of the day and doing them while tired. I'd rather spend my best hours on Sett, so they get the dregs at the end of the day.
On Sunday, the day after my high-procrastination day, I did those things first. For some reason I had a hankering for an extremely difficult Russian tape, so I worked through it. Then I realized that if I wrote my blog post, I wouldn't have either little task looming.
I'm aware that everyone, including myself, is probably a little bit of a hypocrite. What irks me the most is when I do something, say wear a chain with my name on it, think it's cool, and then see someone else do it and think it's lame.
So when I hang around self improvement fanatics and find their quest for self improvement to be a little bit annoying and selfish, I'm horrified. Maybe I'm just as self indulgent as they are.
A good chunk of my friends are on perpetual quests for self improvement (Leo Babauta and Sebastian Marshall to name a couple), and I don't find it annoying at all. It's the opposite, actually; it's inspiring.
What's the difference, and how can I make sure I'm on the right side of it? The answer I've come to is that self improvement demands an outlet.
I like the idea of parallel universes. There's legitimate scientific research that says that there are infinite universes existing simultaneously in different dimensions, maybe even one for each possible outcome. So in some parallel universe, maybe I'm the king of Norway. It's nice to think about, anyway.
That theory may not be proven or disproven in our lifetimes, but in a way we're already living in parallel universes here in this reality.
In high school, I had a strange arrangement with a couple of my friends who were dating. When things weren't going well in their relationship, they'd take me to Bennigan's restaurant, and each tell their side of what was going on. I'd try to mediate as best I could.
Things didn't always go so great for them, so we did this a few times.
I have this rule for myself that if I say I'm going to do something, even if it's only to myself, I do it. My overarching principle is to always to do the best I can, but sometimes my best is not very good. Maybe I've told myself I'm going to go to the gym, but I'm exhausted and have to rush my workout because of an appointment. I'll go, but it's not going to be good.
My thinking in doing these things is that absent of any other value, I want to train myself well. I know that I don't do great with gray areas or slippery slopes, so I avoid at all costs giving myself excuses to skip.
As I've committed to writing every single day, you can imagine that there have been throwaways from time to time. It will be right before I'm supposed to go to sleep, and all I want to do is splash down a big enough chunk of words to feel like I did my duty. This is especially tempting when I know I've got a backlog of a few good posts, so I won't need to rely on whatever I write.
Sometimes, though, these throwaways come out really well. Maybe it's random chance, maybe it's repetition, or maybe it's the unburdened context of writing a post that's just going to be thrown away anyway. Some of my favorite posts are those which I originally thought would be trashed. I'm getting the benefits of training my brain, but also high-quality output.
My cousins, who are mostly younger girls, and I just finished watching season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter together. My brother is a big UFC fan and bought the pay-per-view fight last Christmas between, amongst other people, Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate. That fight hooked all of us.
A lot of the show is real-world style nonsense that we'd sometimes talk over or fast forward through, but it had a lot of great fights and some insight into Ronda Rousey, who is really a remarkable individual. Her mother was a judo champion, she was a judo champion, and now she's the best female fighter in her class. Besides all that, she has incredible discipline and attitude.
My favorite quote from her was when someone, a favorite to win, was slacking off a bit. She told them that they weren't training to win this fight or even to be the best; they were training to be the best on their worst day.
Wow. Training to be the best on your worst day. A lot about this idea appeals to me. I like hardcore mindsets and the pursuit of excellence, and I'm a strong believer in the idea that your true measure is your performance on bad days.
Once upon a time, hundreds of years ago, there existed a species called homo sapiens. They had an enormous amount of processing power, an excellent ability to match patterns, and a level of consciousness and self awareness that had never existed before.
They understood many of the things they saw in the world, but others were mysteries. It wasn't that they couldn't process what was around them, but rather that they hadn't developed the context for it. Seeing giant bolts of lightning strike down from the sky must have been terrifying. Nothing in their experience could begin to explain such a thing.
If we can simplify a bit and say that scientists' jobs are to figure out all of the causes and effects, it could be said that we've always been scientists, albeit bad ones. Cave men started noticing correlations and assigned meaning to them. Maybe they saw a white bird, and the next day it rained. How could they know that the white bird didn't cause that rain?
Some phenomena didn't seem to have direct causes, or maybe sometimes the correlations spotted didn't line up anymore. It rained, but no one in the tribe saw a white bird. Searching for meaning, our ancestors imagined supernatural beings, and nonsense was born.
A situation I run into frequently, including right now, is being around people who would prefer that I not work all the time. They understand what I'm doing and are supportive of it, but they will make short term decisions to avoid me working. In other words, I'm visiting my family and if I were to ask, "Should I go get some work done or have fun with you?" the answer would always be fun.
This happens around friends when traveling sometimes, too. Maybe they came for vacation, but I travel so much that work has to be a regular part of my schedule, even when traveling. Whether with family or friends, it's a tricky balance. I'm not great at maintaining that balance, but I've been doing it for a few weeks, which has surfaced some thoughts on it.
One skill I've found to be really useful is to really be able to discriminate between things that must get done immediately and things that need to be done eventually, but not now. Right now we're moving Sett to a new server. I'm coordinating with Todd, and this is a high priority, so it has to be done now. Other things, like working on my habit book, can be delayed.
On the other end of things, I've been trying to evaluate family activities by a similar measure. Is this really quality time, or are we just sitting in the same room watching a movie? Is my participation central to this activity, or am I just another body in a room?
In poker there's an ideal called "tight and aggressive". The idea is to play a very small selection of hands, but to then play those hands very aggressively.
You play a small selection because many hands are statistical underdogs no matter how well you play them. You'll get lucky here and there, but in the long run you'll lose money on those hands because they're too weak compared to what others are likely to have.
You play aggressively because you need to extract as much value as possible out of the few hands you play. Besides giving your opponent more opportunities to give up, playing aggressively lets you milk the most out of each hand. You're betting and raising, not checking and calling.
It occurred to me today that, like many things in poker, tight and aggressive is a good parallel to real life. You feel like a champion when you play tight and aggressive in poker, and you also feel that way in real life.