Thursday, 30 October 2008

Nike's got the answer...

Despite any of our best efforts to live our lives rationally or even with some sort of reasonable guidance, all it really comes down to is random chance, brute force and instinct. What?!? What am I talking about?

Here's an example: a recent post on "Tomorrow's Professor's Blog" called "How to write anything". It makes the usual but absolutely true claim that to write (whatever it is you're writing), instead of waiting for large chunks of time to work on it, simply schedule regular small bits of time here and there. Absolutely true. But why? Because we don't listen to ourselves. We don't really do want we think we want to do. Our future selves don't listen to what our past selves wanted and planned for. You have to bargain with and cajole and trick your future self into doing those things. If we really wanted to write that book, wouldn't we do it naturally? Maybe, maybe not. What we really want to to write the book. But just not now. (Or whatever it is we want from our life and our time.)

Another example. I want a clean house. I want to be able to find things I need when I need them. I want to be proud of the little environment I call home. But I have to work at it. I make lists. I make plans. I plan to make more lists. I make lists of plans I have to make. I involve my family. I take it all on myself. I try to be be happy with a sty of a house. Nothing works. Why? Because I think about it. I'm too busy planning how to get all the chores done while I should be doing the chores. I think that I have to figure out how to do it well when what I should be doing is just doing it. Turn my brain off and mindless do it. Create a list maybe but just blindly do what's on that list.

And that's what depresses me. That's too often what we all have to do to "get things done". One of my big social problems is that I like to figure things out, and come up with ideas on how we can best accomplish tasks, regardless of how things have been done in the past. Sounds great, huh? No. The majority of people for the majority of tasks the majority of the time want "same old same old". That's what I have to learn. I wish we could all think about how best to work on the things we do instead of just jumping in. But few people want to do that, even briefly. "There's a time to think and a time to act, and this is NO time to think!" So just consider that when you complain that there's a better way to do something: how would YOU like it if someone told you there was a better way to do YOUR job? How would YOU react? No really...

Shut up and do something, Matthew. Just do it.

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