Not everybody truly lives

Reflecting on recent conversations with close friends, I suddenly felt like Santiago in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

What is it that I feel called — called away? — to experience?
What am I trying to prove to myself? What must I know?

Why does it feel so important to chase the edge?

What does it mean to lean into fear? And why does it matter so much?

Why do I feel I have to brave pain to grow? Fear and pain and discomfort in the face of uncertainty, at the brink of change.

What does my heart know that my brain is working to articulate? How do I put it into words — or better yet, into emotion+feeling that can be conveyed to those who matter?

What do I fear?

Why is what I have not enough?

All I know is that this tension is the good kind, the tough but ultimately necessary conflict that our heroes must face each and every time they reach the limits of their achievable possibilities.

Stretch, love. Stretch and let the shards of our former world crumble forgotten around us as we rise to the heights we were born to explore, until we touch that brittle sky and break through anew.

Nothing to be done?

I learned a lot over dinner tonight, some of which was surprising but useful and some of which was a bit disappointing but unsurprising. I also found my reactions to it all interestingly positive; it’s been a while since I’ve heard an implicit “Here’s what’s wrong with you/things” session, and today I felt…okay. Good, even curious. Here were things to be tested, verified and improved. Here was a snapshot of the state of the union, as it was. And I wrote things down so I won’t forget.

TONE / ATTITUDE
Problem: It seems like I haven’t made as much progress as needed in terms of improving my “tone” around my family; extrapolating from feedback, I’m getting the sense that something about my tone with them is often abrasive or aggressive. Similarly, it was noted that my tone sometimes has a “superior” feel to it when explaining/teaching.
Thoughts: This is an interesting one. This particular problem is my greatest recurring one, and I thought I’d actually made some progress on said tone and attitude. Now, I do realize that I can’t discount my progress on the basis of the viewpoint of two people. One issue, though, is that I don’t have a way to tell how much of a problem this is. I didn’t record my voice so I can’t recall the tone; the people providing feedback couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the issue was, only that it had to do with tone. The reason I don’t just disregard this feedback is because I’ve recently become more aware of issues arising from misunderstanding tone. So I’ll be doubly careful when speaking with family, and I’ll work harder to be respectful towards all things.

TENACITY IN PURSUIT OF ANSWERS & UNDERSTANDING
Problem: This is the first I’ve heard of this, that a parent dislikes my tendency to pursue an issue or topic to completion, my tendency to continuously clarify until an understanding is reached. The question posed here was, “Why not wait until tomorrow? Sometimes keeping at it can make things worse.”
Thoughts: While I use the word “dislikes” in the first sentence above, the more accurate meaning is, “is uncomfortable with”. This was a reminder to me that many people are quite uncomfortable with discomfort, with ideas that they’re not familiar with, with ideas that sound like they might run counter to prevailing thought/wisdom. I also saw that it was less important to my family that a problem be resolved, and more important that they be (mentally) comfortable; at consonance. I see that any further initiatives to help my family will be very incremental, where I’ll likely need to have them experience the benefits of a new thing first. I’m getting the sense that in some cases it won’t be worth the investment of time it takes to pursue an issue; and for those issues that require resolution, I’ll have to do something more ingenious, or at least more palatable. I don’t plan to change my inclination towards clarity and understanding; instead, I’ll exercise more restraint in when I choose to pursue ideas. I’m getting the sense that there are a few lessons here around why I might want to start developing skill in persuasion.

“沒辦法” TYPES OF SITUATIONS
This item doesn’t have to do with me directly, but a situation was being discussed involving fathers with anger issues were negatively affecting their family and how said behavior was outrageous/unreasonable (“不象話”), and despite how “不象話” it was, it was a “沒辦法” situation—translated, “nothing to be done” / “one can’t do anything about it.”And I wondered if maybe, there are actually few true “沒辦法” situations—just people who don’t know what to do with their problems.

As much as I learn about myself and human behavior from my family, I’m again reminded that it may not be the most optimal or supportive environment for pursuing my current endeavors. It’s still a great environment to practice crucial conversations and improving my tone/attitude, and I believe that I’ve been taught some important ideas about responsibility and family, but the difficulty remains in separating true wisdom from untested beliefs—perhaps something that I’ll only learn with experience.

How do I become indispensable?

Earlier tonight I was listening to the gf as she described a few things that weren’t quite optimal, having to do with the communication between higher-ups and some general management of activities where she’s working part-time.

I felt a part of me surge eagerly, wanting to bring up ideas about making the choice to make a difference in our positions, about picking ourselves, about taking steps to become indispensable. I let the surge rise, and pass. My improved social radar hinted that this was a case where my SO wasn’t looking for solutions; she wanted to ‘vent’ or at least have a sympathetic listener. So I listened and felt a few interesting uncomfortable feelings rise up–uncomfortable because as I listened, I felt full of ideas that sounded so useful and beneficial and empowering, and yet I couldn’t escape the reality that I wasn’t yet living those ideas, that I’ve been settling for mediocrity, been taking the easy path of following directions instead of enough initiative, been struggling against myself to live the ideals that I dearly want to be true. I thought a bit about how this felt very much like a writing moment, because it’s helped move my mind to the pensive state that comes perhaps all too seldom. And that brings me to here.

I began listening to the audiobook version of Seth Godin’s Linchpin just today on the drive from work to Hoboken. Familiar Godin themes quickly emerged and I was reminded of just how influential Godin’s ideas have been in changing my mental diet over the last year, and how much, I think, I wanted to live those ideas, to take the steps to do work worth doing, make human connections, make a difference in a world where mediocrity is the too-easy fallback choice for people who haven’t been taught any better.

Listening to Godin talk about the choice to do great work, to be remarkable, I realized keenly that once again, I’d lost my way. Instead of doing great work, I was doing mostly good work, occasionally very good, and sometimes not enough. The motivation and inspiration feels like it’s often missing from my work, and I notice that I end up gravitating towards ‘default’ tasks that I’m responsible for instead of making the time to do and try things to really improve the department/company/product/myself. The idea of being a “linchpin” is in being the person in any organization who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced because no one else can do the great things they do. I buy into what he’s saying; I want to become a linchpin. I want to choose to do great work. And there’s some kind of gap I’m facing between the ideas that have already changed my life, and the fulfillment or perhaps achievement of even more completely changing my habits and mind and lifestyle until I can acknowledge that I’m finally putting in hard work towards the right priorities and making headway.

Another idea bothering me while I’ve been considering how distant I am from being a linchpin at my current position is that I feel like sometimes I’m doing some kind of pursuit of my friends in the grand endeavor to improve ourselves. I wonder if this idea is essentially complaining that “no one’s helping me”. I see that plenty of friends are fine with having fun, and have some degree more difficulty when it comes towards working towards things in life that matter and yet are difficult. I was thinking of how I’ve classically been seen as a more “serious” person in most groups, and I imagine it has to do with how I tend to stay on track and not lose sight of the goal. I have nothing against having fun–so long as it doesn’t detract from the pursuit of our goals. So I think about the last month or so and how it’s so easy to schedule in fun, and how I’ve strayed from my weekly planning process that I’d followed until late July, and how despite my desire for help in achieving my goals and despite a group of people being put together to aid each other in the achievement of our goals, people don’t seem to care, at least not enough to hold each other accountable beyond occasional exercises.

I think I’m disheartened to a degree because it doesn’t bother anyone in our group when we’re not making progress on each of our goals. When I’ve stopped making progress on my goals and no one helps to keep me to it. It looks like despite some of the fun and even useful things we’ve accomplished, we’ve most certainly not internalized a culture of mutual accountability. I appear to have been the driving factor in keeping the group organized and focused; what makes me think this is the litmus test of when my motivation wavers. My motivation has been wavering. And people are okay with that: one friend has attained one of the most important of his goals and is working in pursuit of other things. Another seems partly interested in the group’s cause and partly reluctant to participate. Another is involved but has no real stake in what we do. Perhaps that’s one of the issues–that really, no one here has a stake in what we do. I set a vision, moved us toward it, and when my motivation wavers, things begin to fall apart.

I didn’t intend to write this post to talk about the issues above; this post has gone on too long already about an idea not directly related to what I began writing about. No more for tonight.

Looking, seeing

On the drive home from Hoboken, I decided I wanted to try and really see everything that I looked at.

So for a few minutes while cruising on stretches of highway, I saw signs that I’d passed by many times and never noticed until then; I saw lampposts that I’d never paid attention to casting light I’d never noticed; and details in stores that I’d always looked over and never caught.

I wondered if this was another part of mindfulness training. That endeavor of really seeing things took a focused, deliberate and definitely not unwelcome effort.

I’d been thinking about Leonardo da Vinci lately–namely, his great skill at drawing and sketching those things that he saw–and on the same line of thought, I remembered reading about his tremendous powers of observation (in the fascinating book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, which I have yet to complete reading and after which I’ll most certainly include among my favorite books).

How much more nuanced the world must seem when one has trained oneself to see! I’d like to get there sooner rather than later; perhaps this can be another small side project that I can work on with interested friends.

Not biting the hooks

I can see why you weren’t interested in dissecting where miscommunication occurred or in trying to understand what led to our dissent. It’s late, you’re irritated at something that happened earlier with your phone, you didn’t take well to a comment of mine, and maybe more didn’t go right for you.

When is the right time to try to understand?

Having listened to the first of Pema Chödrön’s lectures about finding freedom from destructive emotions on the commute to work today, I was paying unusually close attention to the ebb and flow of my emotions and so I noticed keenly the moments when sparks of anger tried to ignite, the moments when irritation and impatience arose and threatened to color my actions. I thought about not biting the hook, about noticing and allowing those emotions and then trying to use them to understand and be compassionate instead of being irritated, angered, disappointed; my endeavor was to try to be patient instead of being addicted to ‘me’ and all of my troubles. It was an interesting internal struggle. I can see that really applying the audiobook’s ideas is going to be difficult, most especially in the framework of any relationship between people, and I can see that in the great challenge lies the huge potential for development.

We don’t really have to try to understand the source of any miscommunication, or dig into our problems in search of answers, or ask difficult questions of ourselves and of each other, or do the work to make things better.  Then I suppose I’d be living someone else’s life, delegating those things I’m afraid to face and letting life pass by.

If this is to be the reaction to the smaller concerns of daily life, can we expect a different approach when it comes to future challenges like the raising and education of children?

in an end, at a beginning

Maybe it’s a bit silly to the outside observer, but I felt like I should write at least a few words before “formally” letting go of a not-quite specter of the past. And of course it’s fitting that I can close this chapter using the same method that helped me make sense of the long dip that characterized the rough growth process.

There was a beginning to confidence
It began with hello
Laying cornerstones in my mind

Now,
While I’m a bit puzzled at this totally familiar void in response to questions, I’m not at all uncertain in my interpretation this time: message received! No hard feelings, just some amused disappointment at the way it was handled.

It would’ve been nice to share some of the goings-on in 2013! So many ideas learned, so many projects to start, so many new ways to do more, to build things, to help people, to help ourselves.

Still, I’m glad I tried reaching out anyway. Now I’ve done as my conscience wished, now I know, and while this isn’t an optimal ending, it’s enough closure for me.

I’ll be out there building things!

imperatives

The word on my mind tonight is ‘hustle’, because I’ve been reminded how much I need to hustle in order to be so good they can’t ignore me.

 

I’ve noticed an atrophying of body and mind recently, which must end.

Physically, I’m going to slowly resume running this Saturday, while staying alert to any funny business from my recovering knee. I’m going to choose Muay Thay partners who will challenge me, push me, or otherwise help me improve.

Mentally, I’ll be resuming speed reading practice. I’ll need to set aside time to master everything from Connect With Anyone. I want to continue learning. I need to ask better questions, and know what to do with the answers. Perhaps most importantly, I’ll have to practice working hard on the truly valuable things in my life, at work and outside of it.

When I think about the current state of things, I’m disappointed in myself. How easy it’s been to fall into autopilot, despite all I’ve been learning about deliberate practice. I feel like I’ve been neglecting some responsibilities along many fronts; I know I’m not working as hard as I should on some fronts; and I fear I’ve been guilty for far too long of settling for anything less than the best from myself.

I don’t want to keep following patterns that don’t help me, so perhaps my first step here is to identify all the relevant patterns before simplifying. Thinking about the importance of environment, I’ll need to do a better job of managing it. The challenge I anticipate is in regularly scheduling activities that will allow me to either mingle with people smarter/better than me, and/or to push my boundaries and help me grow.

When I look back at this year right now through the critical lens that’s been my blessing this night, I see a story of half-done and not-enough. How will I act to turn this into a story of awesome and done-right?

Time to do right, do well, and do more.

what cannot wait

What are the best answers to the questions I have? What are the questions that I need to be asking?

What is my ‘why’?

This has been a fight for progress, for growth, for empowerment. Changes have been happening over these last few months, many of which have been beneficial. I haven’t felt so good in a long time. But that’s what progress feels like, I think. The rush of joy for time well-spent, for time invested and for growth made.

Six sources of influence to control. Lessons to apply, strategies to test and refine. Keep my mind on my goals. Spare no time for negativity. Smile widely. Ask myself: what will I do to make today a great day?

Drop keys. Fill buckets. Be remarkable.

Game time.

Train Hard, Fight Easy (I)

I’m feeling like I’m back at unconscious incompetence again, which is a bit disconcerting but at the same time good because it’s one of those indicators that I’m learning some new things.

How do I become a better fighter? After I fix the list above, break bad habits and build good ones, where will I be then? What kinds of things am I overlooking entirely, that are vital to my development?

And where do I go from here in terms of training? Now that I’ve undergone my second evaluation and entered the bottom ranks of Level 2, I think I’m only now really beginning my Muay Thai training, or so Master Ace had said to us all during the KRU Expo. From the 4-3-2-1 Drill that I was taught today, I’m starting to see a difference in focus between Level 1 and Level 2, which is to say an emphasis on defense and avoidance. The first 2 parts of the 4-3-2-1 are a mix of shielding against leg kicks and avoiding the body kicks, whereas all of the Level 1 Combo is about contact–the striker punches and occasionally covers, but there is no avoidance. Hopefully I’m not reading incorrectly into that…I’ll ask KRU Joe or Master some time to find out.

I’ve been considering upgrading my membership to KRU’s Elite program, which would allow several benefits over my current membership status. The biggest problem that I’m facing is really the 36 month commitment required to lock in the deal, and this is an issue because of where I am (or aren’t) in life right now.

The way I think of it, the biggest thing keeping me from upgrading my contract is because I don’t know when my employment will change. If I move out of state, then the contract can be annulled easily…but if I only move within state, I’d still be locked into the 24 or 36 month plan, unless I pay the contract termination fee.

The parts of KRU Training that prompted me to sign up are all still here, I think. The knowledgeable instructors, friendly (for the most part) students, and the solid curriculum make KRU in my mind one of the best places I could be learning Muay Thai. I almost wish it could be easier for me to just commit to another 2 or 3 years, as I have no doubt it’d be good for me health-wise, provided I can avoid serious injury in the Level 2 classes.

What am I getting at here? Pretty much that as much as I’ve been enjoying classes at KRU and as much as I’ve been learning there, the training doesn’t feel like my calling, and I’m more determined than ever to find that as soon as I can.

How do I reconcile my strengths in order to find a profession or job where I can genuinely contribute to the greatest of my abilities?

I appreciate the martial arts, but I think that I’ll have a greater capacity for enjoyment of it after I can sort out this portion of my life.