Louis CK on Pressure

I like pressure. Pressure doesn’t make me crack. It’s enabling. I eat pressure, and there might be times when I get a bad feeling in my gut that this might be too much, but you feel pressure when you’re not doing something, you know? When you’re getting ready for something, you feel pressure—when you’re anticipating. But when you’re constantly in activity, there’s no time for pressure to just sit there and make you crack.

I like the idea that pressure, when responded to properly, doesn’t make you crack. It helps you anticipate, to keep working, to remain active. Instead of letting pressure swallow you, you “eat” the pressure. Stomach it down and let it fuel you instead of draining you.

Some might say that treating pressure like it’s not dangerous is a silly thing to do, and eventually everyone runs the risk of cracking under pressure. Louis kind of addresses this in another part of the same interview…

I had to put some time and effort into figuring out how to manage energy and time and brain effort and all that stuff. I’ve got a bunch of different things I do. I learned that sharks sleep parts of their brain, like rolling blackouts; they can’t fall asleep because they can’t stop moving or they’ll suffocate. So they sleep sections of their brain at a time. So I do kind of a version of that, where I shut down brain centers. I literally tell myself, “Don’t logistically problem-solve for the next three hours, but you can talk to folks. Driving my kid home from school—don’t think about all the professional things you have to do.”

(Source)

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Do Something.

Ship it, complete it, good enough, fake it, get it done, act as if, produce.

Do something.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to match your ideals. It doesn’t have to match anyone else’s ideals.

From one of my favorites, the Cult of Done manifesto, number 13: done is the engine of more.

Crafting, honing, perfecting, and improving all have their place. But getting stuck isn’t a place, so don’t find yourself there.

If the engine won’t start, get out and push. If the job isn’t working out, fight hard for a new one. If the idea won’t finish itself, start over or move on. If the paint sucks, pick a new color. If you’re not running enough, start walking faster.

Don’t be static just because your scared, hesitant, or unwilling to push forward.

Have good reasons for the things you do, or stop doing them. 

All Wretch and No Vomit (a not-disgusting post on doing what you love)

 

(source)

This is a really great lecture from Alan Watts, a British philosopher. It’s well worth the three minutes to watch. It brings up some points that I struggle with a lot.

Watts talks about encouraging his students and listeners to do the thing they love most, because there’s no point wasting a lifetime trying to earn enough money to be stable enough to begin doing what you love to do. Better to lead a short life doing what you love than a long life doing what you don’t.

Yet, I can’t help be a little poked by the idea that everyone could and should be doing what they enjoy first and foremost. Perhaps that’s not quite what he’s saying, but I’ve run into this implication a lot lately: the idea that life is short, so don’t waste it doing silly, trivial, hateful, or boring things.

I love that idea. It’s awesome. I’d give anything to live it out every day. But what about people in other countries, other lifestyles, of different means? I have the freedom to invest a large portion of my time in writing or playing music or taking pictures (things I love), but many people don’t. I wonder what advice starving villagers in Africa would be given?

Maybe the implication is buried under the surface that, as people with abundance, we should be giving and sharing and working toward a place where all others DO have the ability to explore their passions, not just their bare essentials.

“If you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually become a master of it […] and then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is.”

That’s a great philosophy, but I have no idea if it’s true. I think it’s true in Western culture, and in a many other cultures, but it also rides on the freedom to invest enough time to become good at something. At the core, though, I think this is sound advice. Take every chance you have to improve at things you love and eventually you will be a master. It’s the masters who are sought for their expertise, so if you have any hope of being able to do what you love “professionally”, then do it a lot.

“Somebody’s interested in everything.”

I like that point, that there’s someone out there who will find interest in just about any conceivable topic. From those who dream of space to those who are enchanted by the countless forms of bacteria living in poo.

“It’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on doing things you don’t like.”

This is a strong point. Many people get stuck in a loop of working a mindless job, investing in a mindless existence. It’s done on the premise of needing that stability to survive or save enough or be able to afford what you need, but needs are relative. Wants are subjective. This is where it’s a good idea to re-evaluate. Are you repetitively doing something you don’t like to enable yourself to do other things you don’t like? It’s easy to say “no,” but I realized that I do this quite often. It doesn’t mean that you do it ALL the time, but it happens. It probably happens more than we’d like to admit.

“It’s all wretch and no vomit”

My favorite quote from the whole video. I’m sure my friend Jordan will hate this idea (he lives in perpetual fear of throwing up). When we are sick and we start to wretch, it is the uncomfortable preparation for releasing the poison inside us. It’s awful, it’s uncomfortable, it’s embarrassing, and we revile it. But when the release is over, we experience some degree of peace. Unfortunately in sickness this is often repeated several times to get out of us whatever was in us that shouldn’t be. This is true of life… there is a certain discomfort to be pushed through before we can release the junk and find health. At the same time, it is a necessary thing in order to get to happiness, joy, peace, or whatever term you want to use to describe a good place to be.

Do More Because You Can

The habit of doing more than is necessary can only be earned through practice. And the habit is priceless. -Seth Godin (source)

It’s easy to be lazy. It’s easy to do less, to do the bare minimum, or to do nothing. Seth Godin writes, in characteristically simple fashion, about doing the little extras because you can.

You can call it initiative, taking charge, going above and beyond. The fact is, those who do the extra, who work a little harder, who put in a little extra effort; they stand out.

This isn’t something that comes naturally either. Some people learn to do it early, through practice or good role models. Some people never learn to do it well. I’m learning the value of doing it now, but I wish I’d learned it early on.

And the weird thing is it still feels right, even if you don’t get credit, when you do it for the right reasons. This relates to the gratitude muscle, or abundance mindset.

Do a little extra. Try it. It’s small, subtle, secret, and feel surprisingly good.

Tell It As Best You Can

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” – Neil Gaiman (source)

This is number eight of Gaiman’s eight rules of writing. It is my favorite because of how well it applies to life. It reminds me of Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you look at life like a play, a story, a script, etc. you can identify characters, plot points, devices, themes and a whole bunch of other literary stuff. 

Using this like a tool, it’s quite possible to “write” a good life. If I couldn’t buy into any other philosophy, I think this is the one that I’d be sold on every time. Be honest, be straightforward, tell the story the way it should be told. Think about how the story will be told later to help you decide what actions to take. Be earnest, and don’t worry about making mistakes.

Weed out the junk that just distracts from the real story being told. 

You can find a way to get away with just about anything you want. That might sound like a license to just do anything, but it’s not. It’s a challenge to do what tells the best story. Think about the people through history who did whatever they wanted, and are looked at as fools or worse. Take that into consideration when you use your freedom to live your story.

See yourself as the storyteller; then become a master storyteller.

Only The Unloved Hate

One of my favorite bands in the world added this speech into one of their songs. It speaks for itself.

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business.

I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white.

We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each others happiness, not by each others misery.

We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.

Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.

Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.

We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.

Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.

The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts!

You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you!

You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness!

You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite.

Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

-Charlie Chaplin

Always Produce

“Always produce” is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you’re supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. “Always produce” will discover your life’s work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof. – Paul Graham

I used some quotes from this same article a couple day ago, but this one really stuck out as a valuable lesson by itself. To clarify, a heuristic is a rule of thumb, or a practical method for finding a solution to a problem that can’t be easily diagnosed.

I often push myself to do things that I’m not convinced are the best for me. It’s sometimes a way to Act As If. Sometimes this backfires, and what I do burns me out. Sometimes it’s a wash. Sometimes I end up being productive.

Always pushing myself to produce, while frequently uncomfortable, usually benefits me in some way. At the absolute minimum, it makes me feel productive. Beyond that, it often helps me discover something new, form a new relationship or improve an existing one, write some good content, or maybe clarify my dreams. Always producing (which I never do all the time) makes me accountable to myself to have something to show for my efforts.

Ever write a nice long paper or article, or edit a great video/song, or create anything in a digital format and have it erased unexpectedly? That feeling you get is the feeling of having what you produced be washed away. All the work you put in just went down the crapper. But that’s how you know you did something productive. Chase that feeling. Temper it with health, don’t overextend. Don’t confuse being productive with always being busy. Downtime is absolutely vital.

I take “always produce” as meaning, don’t waste your time with busywork. If you’re going to work on something, make it something productive.

6 Lessons From Scrubs

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My wife and I just watched through the 8 seasons of Scrubs. I know there’s a 9th season, but I can’t really count it.

Scrubs is one of my all time favorite TV shows. I love the character development, the stories, the imagination, the development, the relationships, and the setting. I specifically relate well with J.D. because he’s very imaginative, he has a running internal monologue, he isn’t always a perfect hero, and (relevant to when I started watching the show) he struggles with his relationships. Here are a few lessons I picked up from watching through this show (for probably the 4th time).

1. “Being a man doesn’t mean being a stereotype.”

J.D. is always made fun of by Dr. Cox for being emotional, wimpy, un-manly, etc. He’s always called by girls names. He isn’t a sports fanatic like Turk. He’s not a heavy drinker, or an emotion-bottler like Dr. Cox. I’m not a big sports fan, I’m not particularly tough, I can be pretty direct about my emotions. I like relating with others. I’m a hugger.

2. “Relationships change and require maintenance.”

J.D. goes through several dating relationships. He experiences his best friend getting married and having a child. He dates his other best friend, off and on, and ends up marrying her. He struggles with having an older brother who is a loser, but ends up becoming successful. He has a child and has to work to spend enough time with his son. His mentor and father figure is constantly demeaning and distant, but eventually reveals his admiration for J.D. All of this is a result (fictional or not) of a character who refuses to give up.

3. “You can’t give up.”

Leading off from the previous lesson: J.D. doesn’t give up on his patients. Turk and Carla don’t give up one each other. Dr. Cox ends up getting back together with his ex-wife and having 2 kids. The Janitor harasses J.D. until the end of his last day. Ted keeps coming to work. Dr. Kelso goes back into medicine after retiring from Sacred Heart. J.D. ends up with the girl that the viewer always knew was the right one for him. Even when the characters do give up, it becomes an object lesson for the episode, revealing the dangers of not following through.

4. “Everyone gets burned out.”

Pretty much every major character in the show has a period where they get totally burned out, and need time to recuperate. And it’s totally okay. Their friends are there for them. Their loved ones help bear their burdens.

5. “Find the humor in life.”

Sometimes finding humor in things can be callous. Sometimes it’s insensitive. Sometimes it’s ill-timed. But it helps. For J.D., humor helps him cope. It’s a break from the horrible events of the hospital. It’s entertaining (and relatable). It helps him come up with ideas. Scrubs is a large part slapstick, unrealistic humor. That’s okay. It also has a large component of relatable humor. In the first season Dr. Cox explains that sometimes you have to make light of a situation if you ever want to be able to return to work after a bad experience.

6. “Be a dreamer.”

Find things to dream about and work toward them. Share your dreams with others. Embrace your failures and find opportunities to succeed next time.

Invest In Yourself

“What a recipe for alienation. By the time they reach an age to think about what they’d like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one’s work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. Having a job is said to be even more onerous than schoolwork. And yet all the adults claim to like what they do. You can’t blame kids for thinking “I am not like these people; I am not suited to this world.” – Paul Graham

This is an excerpt from Paul Graham’s Do What You Love article. It’s brilliant. He makes a ton of great observations about doing what you love, how we are taught to pursue work, the different between work and pleasure (is there one?), how much time to spend on things, and a lot of other stuff you should probably learn from reading it. Here’s another of my favorite quotes from the article…

But the fact is, almost anyone would rather, at any given moment, float about in the Carribbean, or have sex, or eat some delicious food, than work on hard problems. The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn’t mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month.

This is often neglected, and I have found it is one of the common points of criticism for people when they are told “do what you love.” What you love may not be the most productive thing, or may not pay the bills, or may not be healthy. It’s important to specify that “work you love” (and work itself) is something that contributes to your wellbeing and success over the longview.

Invest in yourself, to put it simply. Don’t take the nickel now when you could have the dollar next week.

“Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.”

Good and Better

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” – T.S. Eliot

Take things that are good, make them better. Find something that is one way, and make it another way. Flip, reorganize, adjust, re-face. Improve. Nothing is static. Probably nothing is original. Nothing is absolute. The world is fluid, and can be remade. We can renew and restore. We should renew and restore. We should make good better. We would avoid making bad worse.