Some very good feedback and comments from last week on Continual Readjustment — thanks for that, it's very good to see how the work here is actually being read, interpreted and used. Please do keep the good comments coming, especially about how you're putting things into practice.
The first thing you'll note this week is that the Continual Readjustment thing worked just fine; the weakest link of Declare/Complete being at 0 moved to 3 this week, which was good enough to get going.
Now, let's talk about another usage of this type of control:
The Canary in the Coal Mine
The term arrival fallacy is useful —
Happiness Myth No. 8: You’ll Be Happy As Soon As You…
We often imagine that we’ll be happy as soon as we get a job/make partner/get tenure/get married/get that promotion/have a baby/move. As a writer, I often find myself imagining some happy future: “Once I sell this proposal…” or “Once this book comes out…”
In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar calls this the “arrival fallacy,” the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy.
I got this from Kai, who is one of the more effective people I know.
I noticed over our interactions, he'd occasionally make a reference to "closing tabs."
The fifth or so time I heard it, my ears perked up. Hey, Kai, what do you mean...?
"I don't like having lots of tabs open on my browser. I try to close them all as quickly as I can."
Huh. I press for more details. He also almost always closes every tab by the end of the day.
The "Lights Spreadsheet" concept is pretty well-covered at this point. This was Week 8. I think you understand the general concept of what's going on here.
I'll definitely keep using this; it's a wonderful control and it promotes good action.
But I ask myself, "Is this still worth covering on the blog weekly? It works, but is it interesting to read about?"
You're welcome to weigh in -- actually, please do comment and let me know if you find these posts worthwhile in particular, I always appreciate more feedback on what people really like -- but my basic thinking is that picking a specific point or two each week would be more fruitful and actionable.
I was asked a question about building a good readership on a blog. This is my general response on how to get a good dialog going and really understand the people who read your site and connect with them --
It's a luxury you won't have later, though it's still worth doing when you can. I recommend that universally if you start writing. For the first half year or so I was blogging, I had about a dozen readers total, all people who already knew me. It grew slowly. But that was fine; I was having a good time and I was flattered that a dozen or so people would come spend 5 or 10 minutes with me each day.
As people I didn't know came to read more, I tried to get to know them. I don't have as much time to do so now, and more people read here, but I still try to when I get the chance.
If you ever start on a new form of writing or creativity, you want to do almost the exact opposite of the mass media style of broadcasting. You have the really joyful ability to get to know your readers closely. You won't regret it if you do so.
The Sources of Soviet Conduct is the finest piece of analysis on international relations I've ever read. It's maybe one the finest piece of policy analysis and writing of all time, and it's quite possibly one of the ten most influential documents in American history, greatly shaping America's policies from the end of the 1940's to the beginning of the 1990's.
The State Department official who wrote it, George Kennan, had a deep knowledge and love of Russian history and culture, and also recognized something monstrous in Josef Stalin's consolidation of power and the policies that flowed from that. He saw this much sooner than most people, far before others discerned the real nature of the Great Purges, and many decades before the Soviet archives were opened up and vindicated him completely.
The whole thing is a masterpiece of clear thinking and analysis. I've at times thought I had decent analytical ability and good insights; reading something like this makes me realize that there are depths of skill and wisdom far, far beyond my own.
It's long, and not all of it will make sense without a knowledge of the early Soviet period and particularly Stalin's actions, but anyone would get a clear-thinking boost from reading it. It's just -- what lucidity and amazing insight. I'm still a little surprised and awed that a human being did this on the timetables that Kennan did.
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.