The Gate Keepers are Dead

I just watched a movie called “Set it Up.” It was a cheesy, pre-packaged rom-com but it had an interesting secondary narrative. The gatekeepers. We all know the story. There are a powerful few that control access to the arts, business, and riches.

Except the narrative is wrong. It’s a last gasp attempt to tell a story that’s dying. The great wall the gatekeepers built is dying the death of a million paper cuts. Social media, personal blogs, and technology all serve as the scaffolding to overthrow the giants.

Yet we still keep the old tired narrative. Why? Because it’s easier to throw up your hands than is it buckle down and do the work.

Unlearning

In order to learn something you must unlearn it first. I heard this today while listening to a podcast and it stuck.

I’ve thought a lot about writing lately — specifically how to become a better writer. Look at the most impressive writers and you’ll notice something peculiar. Their sentences don’t follow a set formula. Think back to grade school. We’re all taught how to structure a sentence. Specifically we’re taught that there’s a “right” and a “wrong” way, yet great writers break rules.

Ryan Holiday is a great writer. He’s persuasive, detailed, prolific, and admits to not giving a shit about grammar. Why? Because grammar isn’t the product. As he says in his article So You Want To Be A Writer? That’s Mistake #1   No one ever reads something and says, “well, I got absolutely nothing out of this and have no idea what any of this means but it sure is technically beautiful.” 

The point isn’t to throw away technical ability, or spurn grammar altogether. Instead we need to realize that any growth comes at the cost of a past truth.

Personal growth is no different. To move from an “I can’t” to “I can” you have to forget the former.

To learn it seems, one must forget.

800,000

That’s the number of people that commit suicide every year. One person, every 40 seconds. In 2015 suicide was in the top 20 for leading causes of death. It’s also a question, or rather a series of questions.

Why are we a threat to ourselves? How many more people attempted? What is it about our minds that can cause the world to seem so dangerous that the only escape is to leave? How can we change? Is it looking at mental illnesses differently? What’s changed over the past 200+ years in our environments and minds?

And maybe the most important question — what can we do now?

The Tortoise

The long way is the shortcut – Seth Godin

Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life. – Jerzy Gregorek

There’s a sentiment echoed through quotes (like the ones above), parables, and cautionary tales. The message isn’t flashy. It’s not particularly fun or exciting.

The tortoise wins.

It goes against the cultural narrative. The get rich, get thin, get 1 million followers, while you sleep narrative.

It requires work, faith, and resilience. We hear it over and over again. Why is it so hard to believe? Maybe because hard work and patience aren’t sexy.

Neither is vaseline but it works.

What to do When Your Day Starts Sideways

I don’t know what to write. I’ve spent most of the day flailing around, exhausted. Sometimes on days like today I get terrible sleep.

Normal people… well what do normal people do in this situation. I usually drink twice as much coffee. Then try to take a nap. Followed by sitting in front of the computer like a zombie muttering profanities.

Once that gets boring I move on to worrying. I won’t get what I need to done. I’m a failure, etc. and so on.

Lately I’ve noticed there’s a better option. It’s painful but it involves gently reminding myself to be present. If I can hold the attention for long enough the downward spiral stops. In that moment I can ask: what one thing can I do that will make today ok?

Kintsugi of the Soul

Kintsugi is a Japanese practice of repairing broken china with golden epoxy.It celebrates, even elevates the imperfect.

What if we could Kintsugi our broken bits? What if instead of wishing we were perfect we could celebrate our many imperfect fragments?

Who would we be then?

Word is Bond

The average human speaks around 16,000 words a day. No wonder we rarely think about the words we use.

Imagine you had 16,000 dollars to spend a day. Would you worry about the $6 coffee or the $100 dinner? No. We treat words in the same way. We say things we don’t mean, gossip, lie, and make promises we’ll never keep.

The problem? Words do matter. Over minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years they construct our reality.

Hip Hop artists know this better than most. Everything in the Hip Hop artist’s world starts with words. Out of these words the artist manifests cars, clothes, and fame.

Words become things.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Hip Hop artist. The words you use build your reality.


Originally when I set out to write this I wanted to talk about Hip Hop and Stoicism. I tried to write the post and couldn’t get it to work. I’m going to revisit at some point. There’s a lot of wisdom in Hip Hop.

When The Foundation Changes

There’s a prominent theory in psychology called ego depletion. The basic idea is that you have a limited amount of willpower. It’s kind of like having a tank of gas. Over the day you slowly burn through it all until you binge eat ice cream or spend hours aimlessly watching Netflix.

The only problem? It’s a myth. One that a lot of productivity science is built one. A myth I believed until yesterday.

When the foundation collapses what do you do? I felt a weight lifted. I’d been using ego depletion as an excuse, a way to hide from doing the work.

It got me thinking. Maybe we should seek out the sinkhole.

Further Reading

https://www.fastcompany.com/3065981/this-myth-about-willpower-is-holding-back-your-productivity