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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.
As you might expect, I'm a huge Android fan. I think that what you can do with an Android phone is spectacular, especially a rooted one. There are still some big apps that make it to iOS first, but there are also a huge number of apps that only make it to Android because iOS is too locked down for them.
After finding a really cool app unexpectedly, I thought it might be cool to share some of my favorite Android apps that you probably don't already have.
It was midnight, I was visiting family in Boston, and I decided to upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu. My laptop has a few strange quirks with linux, and one of them is that when you install a new version of linux, you must boot with a bootable USB disk to do something.
I'm in New York right now visiting my family. I love spending time here. Today I taught my cousin some programming, she actually did some real work for Cruise Sheet, and we only took a break to do our language tapes. As we drank tea together, she did my Chinese flashcards with me.
I tend to be a combination of excited and stubborn about things I want to do, so I end up advocating for them. Who wants to learn programming? Let's have tea! What language do you want to do the tapes for?
What would they be deing, I wonder, if hurricane Tynan didn't sweep through?
We make a lot of conscious choices that have a meaningful impact on our lives, but how much happens just because it's what's available? When I'm here, my activities become more available than others, so that's what my cousins do. And vice versa-- when they're around, they influence my activities, too.
It's midnight and I'm on my cot in a tent on the island. It's quiet now, just small waves slapping the rocks and jokes between me, my cousins, and my friend Nick, When we wake up, it will be very windy and possibly rainy. There's a hurricane en-route, which is expected to weaken to some less impressive category of storm.
Installed on my phone now is a tide app, which always strikes me as bizarre when I'm walking around the city at home. But here it's part of life. When it's high tide it's easier to boat back, and possible to carry heavy loads in the boat. At low tide boating requires a lot more precision to find the deep water channel, but we can circumnavigate the island easier on foot.
I like having to think about the weather a little bit. It's a connection to the real world from which we've largely insulated ourselves. Most of the time that's a good thing, but tradeoffs hide behind convenience.
Our island has no luxury, other than that of time and space. One of the luxuries lost is the luxury of being fussy. One of my cousins runs inside when mosquitos come out, and another is inexplicably scared of butterflies. But the island trails were flooded with tiny white moths and the constant whine of mosquitos is the soundtrack of the deep woods.