Notes From My Travels:
• Author Tim Ferriss says to lower your pass / failure threshold to a level you can accomplish every day. If you set your goals unreasonably high, like writing five pages per day, you’re not going to hit it on a consistent basis and you’re going to be discouraged by the outcome, whereas something like two shitty pages per day will encourage you to go on (or I think Kurt Vonnegut wrote five-hundred words per day). Once you hit your goal of two shitty pages, you might even be motivated to continue before you get up and do something else – you might find yourself in the flow.
• This one comes from a variety of sources, but a Jordan Peterson lecture solidified the idea. Be specific about your goal, knowing each day what you want to do. For example, you aren’t “writing a novel” – that’s abstract and built on many days or even years of work. Technically, to write a novel is to fail the completing of said novel every day except for the last. But if you set out each day to write two pages, or even five-hundred words, or write only when someone babysits your kids each week, then you will find success in common hours.
• Know when you’re going to do it – whatever “it” is, or else the conditions of daily living will present themselves as excuses.
• Control your environment. I’m an advocate of this one. In a famous psychology study, writers were invited to spend six months at a resort to work on a new novel. The catch was that the novel had to be built from scratch from the time they arrived. What the writers didn’t know was that each resort room had a different and distinct painting on the wall by where the writers would be spending many long nights. Psychologists found that 80% of the novels started at the resort included an element from the painting. … I made that all up, but you get the idea.
• “Temptation bundling.” How does one find more time in the day? Group things you enjoy doing with things you have to do or don’t enjoy doing. Listen to podcasts or watch TV on the treadmill. Combine pleasure reading with a research direction. Have sex while painting your house.
• Don’t make people aware of your good intentions – this is sort of a warning not to tell people your abstract goal. You get positive feedback from your intentions, then you get a positive feeling, but this can end up working against you – your brain got its emotional cake and bows out early. Instead, if you’re feeling wordy, tell people of your micro-actions and not your abstractions. Say, “I wrote two pages today,” or, “I did two sit-ups today.” Other people’s lack of enthusiasm for you doing the unspectacular might then propel you to truly create the spectacular.
• Tim Ferriss again. I just discovered his podcast and he has some truly good living advice. He says how successful people often ask themselves better questions. For example, “Why can’t you reach your ten-year goal in the next six months?” He explains how if someone had a gun to your head, you’d probably figure it out, right? Probably. Maybe not all incentives have to be a little carrot dangling in front of your head. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from hearing the stories of countless creative types, it’s that people can set the foundation for the rest of their life if they have their back against the wall. In this line of thought…
Safety is deceivingly dangerous if you’re trying to start a personal revolution.
• Define your goals. How can you reach goals that are never defined? Again, be specific. Ferriss says to also define your fears. What’s the worst that could happen and how would you get out of it? You’ll likely find that fear of the worst is worse than the defined worst. Dr. Jordan Peterson lays out a similar idea in his Self-Authoring Suite when he has participants write out the worst timeline and the ideal timeline.
• Like Dr. Peterson, wildly successful graphic designer, teacher, and podcast host, Debbie Millman, has her students write out a plan in detail about a single day in their life ten years from now. Where they want to be living, who they want to be living with, what kind of car they want to drive… anything you can think of. She tells those who write it to look at what they wrote every year. What is otherwise known as a “self-fulfilling prophecy” for a person’s mysterious ability to steer oneself to negative outcomes they think will happen, Debbie Millman teaches that this behavior can work for the positives in life as well.
• On a TED podcast titled “Headspace,” one speaker says to interact with the world as the person you want to be, not as the person you think you are. You might have also heard this as “fake it until you make it,” but it also wanders into the idea of how perception defines reality. Become the bullshit artist of confidence. Write convincing fiction until you hit upon the truth. Hey, did you know that I’m one of the best writers of my generation?
• Elizabeth Dunn says on the You Are Not So Smart podcast to buy experiences and not things. From experiences, you have memories, and often with others. Even if the experience is short, or turns out to be bad, she says it’s worthy. From a creative perspective, you know both the good and the bad experiences are equally as valuable to your art. In contrast, how often do people write or talk about that TV they bought ten years ago?
• Adam Robinson says that the magic happens only when you involve other people. No matter what you do, make it about the other person. If you don’t want anything for yourself, you’re playing a game you can’t lose. Be genuinely interested in others in all facets of life.