Motivation ebbs and flows. It is fickle and short-lasting.
So we can’t wait for the muse to compel us to work. As Chuck Close said, “inspiration is for amateurs.”
However, what we can do is develop a passion for something, fire up our grit to push through crap (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure), and give ourselves permission to act like the finishers did before us.
It is discipline that converts information into actionable items. We learn nothing until we put knowledge and possibility into use.
Perfection is the antithesis of inspiration; it prevents you from getting started.
The trick to getting going is to do it badly. Be intentionally messy.
Producing crap isn’t the end-goal. The point of taking small actions is to create enough momentum to feel like we’re winning.
What sustains persistence are small improvements. You’re looking to go from one pushup a day to two the next week. You’re trying to walk five thousand steps a day before graduating to six thousand. You’ll need to write one-hundred words day after day before developing the muscle to get down two-hundred words on a consistent basis. By the way, there is no such thing as writer’s block!
Do small things to get started — not matter how poorly — to avoid second-guessing yourself and to prime the motivational pump.
From priorities, daily activities, to short and long-term goals, the to-do list steers our purpose and directs our attention.
But then we get distracted. We lose motivation. We gravitate toward doing the other things that grab our immediate interest.
We all know our big must complete tasks. There’s no need to write them down. Perhaps the best call to action starts with making our bed or converting unnecessary busyness into idleness by allowing our mind to float.
It’s the unwritten habits, and the deliberate pauses in our day, that really set us up for the work we’re meant to do.
In this interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, American humorist and comedian David Sedaris reflects on the rough diary entries that became his new book Theft by Finding and why he always wanted to be a successful writer.
A lot of people don’t know what they want, or they’re just kind of vague about it. I was never vague. I knew exactly what I wanted. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to get it, but it’s scary … because what if that doesn’t happen?
Yesterday was #NationalDonutDay. Here’s the history on donuts in one GIF. But you know those brassy looking pink donut bags at high-end bakeries? It’s a marketing gimmick; a trigger for emotions. It’s no surprise that they’re a product of LA.
“How the pink box has persevered so long may be about more than just dollars and cents. Experts say the color triggers an emotional connection to sweetness that makes doughnuts more irresistible than they already are…Anytime you see a movie or sitcom set in New York and a pink doughnut box appears, you know it obviously took place in L.A.”
If you want to stretch time, experience something new on the weekends. Break up the time with simple excursions. For instance, go play your Nintendo Switch in the park rather than from the couch. Read and write somewhere else other than your study desk or favorite cafe.
“According to David Eagleman, professor at Stanford University and the author of The Brain: The Story of You, pursuing new settings, new activities, and new experiences is the best way to “stretch time,” so to speak. It all comes down to what your brain perceives as novel. When you spend time doing something unfamiliar, your brain focuses more on collecting the data associated with the activity, thus creating a more thorough memory of the experience. When you reflect on that memory, it feels like you had more time.”
We try too hard to find the perfect formula behind productivity. What if the brain prefers to multitask, toggling between focus and unfocus?
What if there’s simply no hack but putting in the 10,000 hours?
It’s rare to succeed at both a labor of love and fame. But therein lies another problem with obsessive output: Why do we attach our identities to output and latch onto it as a barometer of our personal growth?
Why do we attach our identities to output and latch onto it as a barometer of our personal growth? As Toni Morrison recently noted, “You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.”
What’s going to happen when robots replace the human workforce, at least those entry-level jobs? Surely, people will have more time on their hands to live some other purpose.
“The model for personal development is antithetical to the model for professional success.” — Milton Glaser
Work, play, and life are unevenly distributed, with most of the emphasis on doing work that matters. It all matters, but we suffer from too much closeupness to see through it.
Perhaps we should enjoy our portion of freedom without forcing it.
Algorithms resolve two things: Indecision fatigue and the wisdom of crowds.
The elevator is programmed to manage simultaneous requests while picking up passengers in route on the way up and down. If runs on a series of complex “if and then” statements to influence its movements.
What to read next bears a similar issue. We suffer from the infinity of choice, to what type of books we’re interested in, all the way down to the format we want to read it in.
Amazon’s recommended books algorithms removed the barrier to indecision. Taking into account your past reads and what other have read, it makes relevant recommendations on the next book to pick up. Spotify Discover Weekly works the same way after it gets to understand your habits and preferences.
The mind hates thinking about what’s next. Such is the reason Obama settled on wearing the same outfit every day. Algorithms free up our brain space to do rather than toggle between the options.
Algorithms free up our brain space to do rather than toggle between the options. They are the antidote to the chaotic linear 21st-century feed. The more time we spending consuming rather than deciding what’s next is time well spent. By outsourcing our digging, we create more time to learn.
On the other hand, playing the tastemaker can also be deeply satisfying.
Whether we’re providing or consuming lists, it’s better not to push out or take in everything at once. Keep some of the hidden gems in stock.
Can we improve our craft over time? The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) seemed to think so.
“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”
He only lived until 89, but he proved his theory of incremental improvement. He finished his most famous work, The Great Wave, at the age of 71. Van Gogh, an artist that only sold one painting during his lifetime–to this brother– remarked: “These waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it.”
Hokusai’s other works also revolve around Mount Fuji in series that became to be called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.
Story short: age is but a number. Life is about continuity. You may have more energy to practice when you’re younger, but the only difference between you and others will be how long you’re willing to stick with it. Hokusai played the long-game, acting like professional with pertinacity.
“Tell your boss you found a trick that will make you more creative and productive, and they ask what you’re waiting for. Tell them that your trick is taking a 90-minute walk in the middle of the day, and they says no, you need to work.”
Rest almost never happens in knowledge-based jobs. Vacation is only granted maximum two weeks a year. We can’t even take walks. We run our brains into inanition.
We feel fresh after vacation because we get to step outside the routine. Our operations only become clearer when we stop doing them and hit pause to reflect.
We can’t gain perspective and think creatively when we’re stuck in the day to day, moment to moment, grind. We need some time to be in solitude and think more deeply about our roles.
“the secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”
Make time to relax, unwind, and ponder. It may be the most important shift we do all day.
If you want something done, it’s better to ask someone who’s already in motion. That, or ask someone with a sense of purpose.
It’s the lull and lack of desire that puts people to sleep.
Case and point are the DMV. Both the customer and employees expect slow service. The DMV has developed a reputation as backward, government operated red tape, quite the opposite of a busy shop or restaurant where busyness necessitates speed without hurting the quality of the product. Starbucks is the paragon of a mediocre cup of coffee delivered in a timely manner.
Speed doesn’t guarantee customer happiness nor cleanliness. McDonald’s once used powdered milk. But there’s no doubt that a little hustle produces a dose of flow.
It’s the slow, methodical, non-autotelic folks that just role with the motions.
A robot is as the robot does. Ship faster, or at least act like it.