Tag Archive | Commitment

On Growth and Possibility

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What was your most important accomplishment this year?”

“Profoundly cementing my Writer identity-block, by creating my own blog and committing to write every single day FOREVER.”

“What if you likewise cemented at least one identity-block EVERY YEAR?

Who could you become by the end of your life?”

“A Super-Polymath?”

“Let’s find out!”

“Let’s!”

The Central Question 2

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
(Mary Oliver,
Summer Day)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you want?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you want to find out?”

“Yes.”

“Do you just sort of want to find out, or do you really REALLY want to?

Do you BURN to find out?”

“YES! But I don’t know how.”

The first step is to ASK the question, to really engage with it.

If you just passively read the question, it’s just a bunch of words put together, a verbal empty [<link; short read].

When you really ASK it, the question comes alive, and becomes a guide. You’re initiating a powerful Macro-Process [<link; short read].

What do you REALLY want, deep deep down?

To make it even more powerful, you can pair it with another question:

What do you want?
Who do you want to BE?”

“How long will it take?”

“It doesn’t matter.

This is a Meta-Decision [<link; medium read], a decision that will permanently alter the trajectory of your life. A profound investment in your future.

COMMIT to making it the Central Focus of your life, your ONE Thing until you find out.”

Project Ultralearning

A goal without a plan is just a wish. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

Ultralearning: The art of learning hard things quickly (Scott H. Young)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s the next step in your evolution?”

Becoming an Ultralearner.

“Weren’t you toying with the idea in the past?”

“The difference is, it’s now become a goal. I’ve actually devised and set a plan in motion.

The difference is, it’s become an identity-goal. The most powerful kind.”

“What’s the plan?”

“Inspired by Scott H. Young’s book Ultralerning, Josh kaufman’s book The First 20 Hours (about rapid skill acquisition), and a blog post by Derek Sivers entitled Monthly Self-Expansion Project [<link], I’m going to make every single month from now on thematic. Every month I’m going to be learning something new.

Derek Sivers’ idea is to focus on something you hate or know nothing about.
My focus is going to be on things that are most useful.

I created an ever-growing document with ideas of things I want to learn. Whenever I come up with an idea, I write it down in the document.

The order in which you learn things is important. I’m going to prioritize them based on my estimation of how impactful they are on my life. For instance those that impact multiple systems of my life. Yet another instance of stacking.”

“What did you start with?”

Meta-Learning.

I decided to start the project by dedicating a month (December) to learning how to learn, to internalizing the most effective learning principles and strategies.

In this endeavor, four books are my main guides:

The Art of Leaning, by Josh Waitzkin (my Learning Bible)
Ultralerning, by Scott H. Young
The First 20 Hours, by Josh Kaufman
A Mind for Numbers, by Barbara Oakley

I read all of them, took a copious amount of notes, which I’m currently in the process of organizing. These will serve as the theoretical framework.

With every learning project, I’ll be putting to practice what I’ve learned, and refining the learning process itself.

Learning how to learn is one of the most important meta-skills, and one of the best strategies for increasing time-density [<link; medium read]. I’d understood this a long time ago. I’m finally breathing life into the idea by putting it into practice.”

Beautiful Models: Meta-Decisions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I don’t masturbate, nor will I masturbate EVER again.”

“Why?”

“Because I CHOOSE not to.”

“Is the desire still there?”

“Yes, but much fainter, like a muffled sound in the background.”

“How did you do it?”

“The essential thing to realize is that the desire to masturbate is a HABIT.

Like those ‘hitchhiker weeds’, it stuck to you at some point along the way. And it is in your power to rid yourself of it.

With the right strategy, ANY habit can be undone.

The process starts with a singular decision. That’s what I call a meta-decision, a decision that eliminates a thousand other decisions.

A meta-decision is a profound CHOICE.

A meta-decision is a 100% COMMITMENT.

Not 99.99%.

100%. NOTHING less.”

“The difference doesn’t seem like much.”

“The difference, while apparently insignificant, is HUGE.

Whenever the desire arises is a decision-point.

With anything less than 100% commitment, the decision is between whether to give in to the impulse or not. Sometimes it’s easy, other times – especially when in an unresourceful state – it’s not, and it takes a lot of effort to talk yourself out of it.

It’s a struggle.

Successfully keeping the impulse in check may seem like a victory in the moment. But the impulse will appear again and again and again. This can be during the course of a single day. But day follows day, week follows week, month follows month, year follows year… it adds up.

A useful exercise to realize the sheer magnitude of it is to project it far into the future.

You have to realize at a visceral level that, over the years of your life, you’ll have to fight it a THOUSAND times again.

You’re undoubtedly familiar with chunking-down.”

“Breaking down a problem into smaller pieces to make it more manageable?”

“Yes. The exercise is an inversion of chunking-down. Focusing on the sheer size of the problem. We could call it chunking-up.

With a 100% commitment, on the other hand, whenever the desire arises, you simply and serenely say to yourself ‘I don’t masturbate‘… End of story.

It’s effortless.

You won’t get there instantly. You build up to it. But it starts with a DESIRE to get there, and a BELIEF that you CAN.

I CAN!

This is a mantra worth repeating a thousand times, until it sticks. Because when it does, it will stay with you FOREVER.

The masturbation habit will also stay with you forever, unless you do something about it.

Contrast these two against one another. Which one would you rather have?”

“Isn’t it restrictive framing?”

“It’s strategic framing.

The choice is symbolic.

One choice symbolizes the extraordinary life you know you want. 
One choice symbolizes the small life you’ve been living until now.

Make your pick.”

“Another meta-decision?”

“Good eye.”

Beautiful Habits: Appreciating Ideas 2

If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. (Isaac Newton)

A cugeta inseamna a cugeta MAI DEPARTE. (Nicolae Iorga)
Translation: To think means to think FARTHER.


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“The structure of the titles of some of your posts – ‘On [topic]‘ – reminds me of Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic [<link].”

“That’s because they are inspired by Seneca.

The name of the blog is inspired by Marcus Aurelius.
The dialogue format is inspired by Plato.

In part, it’s a little playful reminder to express gratitude to all the people whose lives have touched mine through their ideas.”

“Is this practice different from the one we’ve talked about before [<link; medium length]?”

“Yes.

That one is focused on ideas, so contextual. Whenever I encounter an idea, I express gratitude for the idea, and to the author.

This one is focused on people, and macro-focused, so an instance of Big-Thinking [<link; medium]. I express gratitude to all people who have influenced me with their ideas.

I acknowledge and honor being part of a collective process [<link; short] that is much bigger than I am.

I acknowledge and honor standing on the shoulders of Giants.

With a grateful heart, I’m drinking from and building on the Collective Wisdom of Humanity, and dedicate my life to bringing my own little contribution.

On being a Writer

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I tell when I’ve become a writer?”

When you know you’re going to write every single day until you draw your last breath.

On Willpower and Discipline 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Discipline is a PRACTICE.

Not a once-in-while thing, but a consistent daily practice.”

“How do you practice it?”

“As we’ve discussed previously [<link; medium length], I like to think of Discipline as a system. I call it the Discipline-system. The function of the system is that of strengthening Willpower.

Willpower is the capacity to break through the Inner Obstacle, which opposes our ‘force of will’ either positively or negatively. We could call them ‘positive-‘ and ‘negative-willpower‘. The Willpower to do, and the Willpower to not do.”

“It’s so interesting that Discipline only has meaning in relation to an Inner Obstacle. Without an Obstacle, there would be no need for Discipline. They go together, a bit like Yin and Yang.”

“This applies to all values, not just Discipline.

The Obstacle is the fundamental means by which we grow.

It is not like the growth of plants which happens of itself, spontaneously. We NEED the Obstacle in order to grow, and, just as importantly, to maintain our gains. The adage ‘use it or lose it‘ applies to most systems of our life, mental and physical. But that is a story for another time.

Back to my Discipline Practice.

‘Positive-‘ and ‘negative-willpower’ are the two components of the Discipline-system, and each is a system of practices in itself.

As concerns negative-willpower, one way to test it is by asking yourself:

Can you give up x?

Either temporarily or permanently. How easy or hard you find it is a good indicator of your Willpower. Ideally, you should be able to give up ANYTHING that does not serve you, or serves you too little.”

“Are you there?”

“Yes. This another one of my most important accomplishments.

The negative-willpower system has to do with keeping impulses in check. An essential component of this system is NOTICING impulses as they arise. This creates space for (micro-)practice.

One of my negative-willpower practices is delaying gratification. You’ve undoubtedly heard of the famous marshmallow experiment.”

“I have.”

“I’ve turned the marshmallow experiment into an actual daily practice. Often, throughout the day, I choose to not act on an impulse immediately.

Another practice is setting limits. For instance I buy one dark chocolate per week, and limit myself to no more than two squares per day. There’s a strong impulse to have ‘just one more’, but I adamantly cut it short.

This ties in to another practice, which is interrupting myself from doing something. Trying to interrupt yourself creates an inner obstacle, so a wonderful opportunity for practice.

For instance I’ve made it a ritual to never eat everything on my plate.”

“Why?”

“Maybe most of us are taught as children to finish everything on the plate. While well-meaning, unless you have strict portion control, this often leads to overeating. I’d followed this rule blindly most of my life. Only recently did I turn it upside down, and turned it into Discipline Practice.

Now, the stronger the impulse, the more powerful the practice.

The prevailing wisdom is that the best strategy is to design your environment in such a way as to eliminate temptation, thus conserving Willpower. This is a good starting point. But by eliminating temptation, you’re not strengthening Willpower.

So another practice is deliberately keeping things around that cause temptation.”

“Is it not draining to constantly have to fight temptation?”

“This is an advanced practice. It is hard at the beginning, but as with everything, the more your practice, the easier it gets. Eventually, you become immune to temptation.

As concerns postive-willpower, you can test it by asking yourself:

Can you do x with 100 percent consistency?

Not 99 percent, but 100 percent commitment. This is what my positive-willpower practices look like. Committing to doing something every single day FOREVER.

I have a growing list of such practices, which includes meditation, burpees, cold showers, morning writing, among others.

As a final tip, make Discipline Practice (and ANY Practice) MEANINGFUL. Every time you engage in the Practice, remember WHY you do it.

Having a WHY is an essential component of the Discipline-system (and ANY Value-system).

Have a WHY, and beautifully integrate it in the higher-order system that is your Ikigai, your Reason for Being, your Purpose.”

On becoming a Writer

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How did you become a writer?”

“In terms of identity, this is a very recent development.”

“How recent?”

“Since I came to London, three years ago.

Interestingly I’d never imagined I would become a writer. There was no planning, no structured build-up, nothing.

I have been writing for many years, mostly on gaming forums, mostly about games. Without realizing it, I was honing my writing skills.

That was my long apprenticeship.”

“How did it become identity?”

“The process was part organic, part creative.

Organic in the sense that, by engaging in the activity of writing, besides developing the skills, I was gradually breaking through fear barriers. By exposing my ideas to the world, I was slowly building confidence. And confidence not just in my writing, but in my own thinking. This is yet another instance of compounding in action.

Creative in the sense that, at some point, the process became intentional.

One day, about two years ago, I wrote in my notes:

I am a Writer.

It was an idea I’d never entertained until then. A faint glimmer of possibility.

It seemed far fetched, but I added it to my identity list anyway. Whenever I read the list (which was daily), I would read it as well.

That’s when writing became identity. This was the first stage.

Time passed. I kept writing. And then, one day, I felt it: 

I am a Writer.

The identity-seed had taken root. I’d discovered my own creative voice.

That’s when writing became identity. This was the second stage.

More time passed. I kept writing. And then, quite recently, I made a commitment:

I am a Writer.

I vowed to myself to write every single day, and created a structure for it in the (design) blueprint of my ‘masterpiece day’, a daily ritual.

Writing has become a craft. This is the third stage.”

Essentialist

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I’ve given up Spellweaver.

Really? How come? I thought you loved the game.

I do. I still think it’s a beautiful (collectible) card game. It engaged me both mentally and creatively. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve decided to focus exclusively on what’s essential.

Can’t you juggle both?

Afraid not, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it’s the opportunity cost: the time spent playing Spellweaver means time not spent doing something else. I’ve spent a few hundred hours playing it. Add to that the hours spent with it while not playing (evaluating cards, making strategies, conceiving decks, writing on the game’s forum, watching the games of better players to learn from them) and you get a humongous amount of time.

Secondly, it frees up mental space. This is not one of those games you think about only while playing them. I was constantly engaged with it, even while not playing. This kind of engagement is wonderful, but I’d rather save it for what’s truly important.

Thirdly, it’s a commitment to changing my life.

Was it hard to let go?

Not as hard as I imagined it would be, though it still lingered in my mind for a while. I managed to let go completely the moment I realized it will always be a part of me. It’s a comforting thought.

And maybe a strategy you can use elsewhere.


P.S. This is a dialogue from two years ago, which marked a very important step on my Journey.

I am the Cat

At Parkour Randezvous 2018 in London

I am the Cat.

This little mantra is an idiosyncratic-tool, a tool tailored to my specific circumstances.

I love cats.

For me, cats are grace embodied. As a Parkour practitioner, I find the precision and efficiency with which they move and traverse obstacles beautiful and inspiring in equal measure. Most interestingly, that beauty is purely functional, with no extraneous embellishments. For cats, what we call “beauty” is simply the norm, the baseline.

Cats are my teachers.

On my Path of Mastery, my aim is to move with the grace, precision and efficiency of the cat ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

To BECOME the Cat.

The mantra is meant to constantly remind me of this aim, and it’s the equivalent of (an identity-affirming) “That’s like me!” whenever I manage to embody it.