I was doing a little research and writing about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the brilliant military commander and statesman who founded the modern Republic of Turkey.
I kept getting surprised at how long it was taking me to get basic details down. Hundreds, maybe thousands of little contributing factors were all very slightly relevant to the Turkish resistance to the occupation, to the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, etc.
I kept having to dig in to events I didn't know -- the Young Turk actions, the Ottoman succession plans, the organization of the Ottoman army, the Ottoman economy and governance styles, regional relations and wars, ethnic groups and identities, and so on.
To do just a very short summary treatment of some of Ataturk's accomplishments -- one that I'm not even pleased with, since it doesn't get deeply into the heart of the matter -- this took me the bulk of three days.
I just shrugged this off. Okay, sometimes things take longer than we expect.
I’m not one to pontificate — and certainly not about maturity — but I feel very safe in making this statement very strongly —
A key component of emotional maturity is the ability to acknowledge, not flee from, and work through negative emotions.
I dare venture a step further and say that a large number of problems Westerners typically experience come from running from negative emotions. We’ve become so rich and developed such wonderful technologies and products that it’s almost always possible to find something to dissipate short-term negative emotions.
If your work is hard or confusing, there’s always a steady stream of entertainment around.
If you’re feeling low, there’s foods that are — quite literally — chemically engineered to ensure they have no fiber and an immensely pleasurable burst of sugars, salts, and fats to rapidly change that short term mood.
I've grudgingly and gradually come to realize that, in the long term, a person's life is a lot more like an aircraft carrier than speedboat.
This is perhaps why short-term motivation can't get the job done. To turn an aircraft carrier, you need miles of room out at sea, plenty of fuel, plenty of timing, and you need to coordinate with very many staff people on the ship and any pilots up in the air.
"I want to do better writing" -- this wish is almost always answered for me, but not promptly. It's like I've put in an order to an Amazon.com of Creativity and Achievement, but chose the slow free Super Saver Shipping.
Sure enough, a week or two later, my writing will start improving. Better ideas will come; perhaps my subconscious was working them for the entire 7-14 days, beginning very subtle movements and firing of engines and re-doing schedules so that the aircraft carrier can imperceptibly begin turning.
But I notice that, when I'm rapidly changing objectives and not seeing things through to completion, it's like I'm missing the deliveries as they come; I'm out-running my own resources; I'm running faster than things can be achieved.
We can get better at decisionmaking by training our judgment, can we not?
One aspect of better judgment is knowing when to engage in hard work and when to back off and let the answers come. We could call this latter way of doing things soft work.
If you're sitting and trying to solve a difficult problem, would you benefit from more focus and concentration on the matter at hand, or would you benefit from taking a walk or shower?
This seems to be a real key to productivity. If your mind is sharp but doesn't have the problemspace loaded, you'd do well to do some hard work, tear into the problem and get the gears of your mind turning.
Then, once it's loaded firmly in your head but progress isn't coming, it might be a good time to take a shower, go for a walk, go for a run, go buy groceries, cook, or whatever.
If you're selling any sort of product or service, do this. It's as close to free money as you're going to get.
Periodically write down, "The impression I want to give the world is ___________________."
Give that statement to someone smart, who cares about you, and who is ruthlessly honest (we all know someone like that, don't we?). And then ask,
"Where is the stuff I'm doing contradicting the impression I want to give to my customers and clients?"
Maybe your logo sucks, or your design isn't good enough, or having coupon codes doesn't fit with premium pricing, or maybe you come across harsh when you want to come across as gentle, or maybe you seem like you're only a fit for small companies when you want to show the world your capabilities for executing well on large accounts.
Sometimes I wind up on a sleep schedule that I dislike -- say, waking in the late afternoon and going to bed in the mid-morning.
Those times, I'll often "force normalize" my sleep -- meaning, I'll stay awake for many hours in a row, and then sleep a lot. So if I've been waking at 1PM and sleeping at 5AM and want my schedule to be earlier quickly, I'll sometimes just skip a night of sleep.
5AM will roll around, I'll have been awake 16 hours, and then I'll stay up another 12 hours -- to 5PM -- and go to bed.
I'll usually wake up the next day sometime between 4AM and 7AM, and then -- good.
If you've been skimming and reading fast, the basic idea is that if my sleep schedule is screwed up, I'll sometimes stay away sometime like 24 to 30 hours, and then sleep 11 to 14 hours, and then be back to normal.
I was just reading Ribbonfarm [note: if you like this blog, you'll almost certainly like Ribbonfarm] --
-- and I realized that I had a lot of well-defined, interesting, enjoyable work to do that I wasn't doing.
And I was on top of mind energy, start of day energy... the really good energy, the kind you don't want to burn.
I wasn't taking a break between work sessions. I just had accidentally drifted over there.
Ok, so, I'm writing this short blog post and getting back to work. It was interesting to catch myself, though. There was no good reason to be there -- and again, I love Ribbonfarm. But it was the wrong time to be reading there.
Just started re-reading Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" -- a nice, reflective book. Recommended.
Question for you: What's your ratio of reading a book new to re-reading something you've already read? I find myself, more and more, re-reading works I enjoyed and looking for more lessons rather than picking up something new.
Small, big win -- get multiple colors of pens.
I found nice packs of pens in Morocco that contained one each of a black, blue, green, and red pen. I bought five packs.
Incredibly useful. My system:
Black -- big details, big picture.Blue -- specific notes, little details.Green -- complete, or on-track and doesn't need attention.Red -- next up, urgent, unacceptable, or needs attention.
It makes is easy to skim notebooks rapidly. I can look at the black ink if I want to figure out what's going on, can skim over anything blue unless I want details... if I'm in a real hurry, I can just look for what's red and do that. If I want to see progress/timelines, diving into a mix of blue and green will give me that.
I'm getting tons of "let's chat" and "let's catch up" and "can I introduce you to so-and-so" who I'm asked if I could help out... the amount of these I get has gone up steadily each year. Which is really super cool and flattering, I'd have killed to have this many quality people wanting to come into my life 5 years ago.
Right now I'm on a heads-down project cycle, kind of sequestered away from anyone and anything I know in Istanbul except a few smart collaborators and colleagues. But I like everybody, and I'm so grateful since so many people have helped me so much in my life, so I do what I can. For calls that I'm going to take, I've been looking to schedule starting in mid-July or late-July when I should be stable and on a less intense pace.
That said, I got referred to a bright young kid by a buddy of mine I really respect, who asked if I can help him. I like the guy who referred him to me and I said ok, I can't get on Skype right now with my schedule, but have him email me.
He sent me an email, and yup, probably brilliant -- four languages at fluency (the three besides English are not commonly mixed together, too, thus opening opportunities), web development skills, knowledge of law and patents, good work background, background in chemistry and some design/engineering type stuff, and entrepreneurship.
And he writes that he's got all this great stuff going on, but is falling down a bit, and out of money, etc.