There is a Buddhist perspective I like that walks through looking at our past and seeing the influence of where we come from. This opens up a viewpoint of what got us to where we are and how nothing we’ve done has been independent of others.
The visualization is look at a flower and think about everything that it took for that flower to bloom. We go down the list:
From this simple list we can start get a little deeper:
It quickly turns into a mirror in a mirror situation. To the point where it can start to get overwhelming. It’s much easier to stick with those initial answers and be done with it.
Given the chance to sit in that complexity provides a beauty to the plant that doesn’t exist without it. The time and energy it took to create this one-of-kind flower. And this is just a plant.
Looking at a human existence the complexity is exponential. It makes any life appear inconceivable. A miracle that happens daily. Frequent enough that it feels common place and dismissible. Supporting the decision to simplify, categorize and ignore.
I fell off the daily writing train last week, breaking my chain since the beginning of the year. I got off track on Monday due to the holiday and couldn’t seem find my stride to picking it back up. I did however spend quite a bit of time trying to finish Mastery, by Robert Greene (funny how we prioritize).
Throughout the book he talks about the importance of understanding reality and the complexities of the modern world live in. Despite having some familiarity with the book this concept stood out.
While grappling with trying to understand the nuances of a complex reality my son interrupted me. He asked me why we had decided not get him a phone this summer in preparation for a school trip he’s taking.He asked me what he had done wrong and we we changed our ming on his ability to handle the responsibility of a potentially life changing object.
During this interaction I realized I was staring at complex reality. My son and I had a 40 minute conversation around the addictive nature of phones, the time, energy, and financial commitment to having one. Plus the influence this will have on his younger sister and our decisions around her getting a phone.
It’s clear that this seemingly simple decision: whether or not to get phone, is much more complicated than the decision itself. As I saw this complexity I could start seeing them everywhere. Every aspect of my life brings with it layer upon layer of complexity. It’s overwhelming.
My brain isn’t suited to handle this level of complexity all the time all at once. Decision fatigue is real. Rather than recognizing the complexity of everything it’s easier to simplify and then process. Reducing a situation into tropes or archetypes and then making broad decision based on my broad categorization. In one vein this is how I have to function, any other way is inefficient and ineffective. But if I allow myself to sit with my process of categorization I can see I was ignoring complexity. Passing them over because it was too hard.
Simplification should streamline the process in order to make way and celebrate complexity, not overshadow it. Theoretically this streamlining will lessen the overwhelm of such complexity and increase capacity for the daily onslaught. Reality is complex. Anything I do to reduce or ignore the complexity is only giving me a false sense of what’s real.
The more we use a an object the more meaning it holds. This is why lucky socks exist. The more time we dedicate to holding it and using it the more meaning it holds to our existence. We dive deep into its role in our lives, what it does for us, the comfort it provides. The longer we use an object the more attached and sentimental we can become.
A stuffed animal becomes a relic of innocence. A pair of pants defines who we are in the world. A video game shapes a point of view.
As meaningful as these objects can be they are also the objects easily dismissed and thrown away.
A pen is just a writing utensil, a cup holds whatever liquid I’m drinking, clothes are pragmatic. As ideal as this sounds it also rings shallow and empty, inhuman and cold. Even if objects don’t define who I am in the world they hold a meaning that connects to a deeper space.
Just as I humanize animals, giving them a personality deeper than they actually provide, I bestow this meaning on objects.
I have reached a turning point in my life where I can no longer do all the things I want and need to do. Not only because I am running out of time, but because life has a funny way of accumulating tasks that need to be done. The older I get the more complex my life becomes. That complexity needs delegation if I want to see results or meet my expectations.
Delegation is a concept I’ve been familiar with for a long time. A skill I’ve even had some success with. In recent years I have found the process of delegating frustrating. As a result I have stopped delegating all together. I was finding that I was more efficient in my work and able to accomplish more. This supported my decision until I started feeling burnout. Burnout for me results in relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms that take their own tole.
Not delegating established me as an island. It shows a lack of trust in the teams I work with, including my family. When there are a million things that need to get done tackling them solo becomes ineffective, inefficient, and creates resentment. People want to help. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Not delegating prevents that.
Convincing myself that delegation is important isn’t enough to start doing it. There’s learning curving in executing this skills that is feels like a hard won battle. But like any other skill it is learnable.
Delegation is people work not industry work. This means it’s relationship based. People work is sticky and chunky and complicated. It’s almost always rewarding but it’s almost never easy. Which means it’s frustrating and requires patience. The goal is to not do the industry work.
Delegation requires teaching. Teaching is it’s own skills that requires a lot more listening that talking.
Delegation depends on asking. If we don’t ask people to do things then delegation can’t happen. Asking for help is hard. It is my experience that people are waiting for something to do. Often that something is a reminder of what they were supposed to do in the first place.
Great delegation is based on observations. When we can observe the talents of the people we work with then we can leverage their skills and get the most out of delegation. When done right this makes people feel amazing.
Delegation is a form of management but it is not micro management. As humans it is easy to forget. Reminders are necessary for many and most tasks. Reminding those around us of the tasks they have to do is sign of respect and care. Watching their every move is unnecessary, unsustainable, and will undermine the delegation in the first place.
The wisdom behind “only fools rush in” is that the action is driven by emotions. In times of strategy and war this wisdom is necessary. I have been served more by hesitation than I have by rushing in. But there are situations when hesitating isn’t the right answer.
As humans we are emotional creatures. When filled with emotions and met with hesitation we feel cold and left out, forgotten about and dismissed. The last thing we want from family members, leaders, or loved ones in times of emotional upheaval is hesitation. In these dire moments we want to be met with a mirror.
When we are met with anything other than how we are feeling in the moment it feels like abandonment. Left to our own devices and othered in what otherwise could have been a connective experience.
Last night I was sitting on the edge of my bathtub cutting my fingernails. Halfway through I noticed my right calf was flexed, and my foot in a weird position. I stopped and let my foot relax and then continued cutting my nails.
Sometimes I forget I have a body. I get focused on a task or lost in thought and I lose track of the physical space I take up and way I move in the physical world.
In college any physical awareness I developed was due to acting. Work with masks, miming, and pantomime are particularly helpful to increase awareness of our own physical bodies. What I’ve found is that I could turn on the awareness on stage but in my regular life it slips and I retreat back to the comfort on my thoughts.
Getting back to this state of body awareness is grounding. Spending too much time in my head wreaks havoc on my mental health. If I’m not actively bringing myself back to my body and feeling the present moment I tend to be more:
I felt more stable when I was consistently on stage doing improv. Having an outlet that necessitates being present grounded me for my professional work in front of a computer.
As my time in front of a computer increases I’ve needed to increase the time grounding myself. I have turned to weight lifting as a primary activity to help with this. Slowing down the motion and having the right amount of resistance forces my thoughts to match my movement; bringing me into the present. This has turned going to the gym into a meditative practice.
The everyday carry (EDC) is an internet trend I’ve observed on the periphery, but find it incredibly appealing. It has the same satisfaction of being asked “what do you do?” and having an answer that feels both personally correct and easy for others to understand. This type of satisfaction is much easier with physical objects.
Similar to gear talk amongst photographers it’s fun to “talk shop” with people who need/want/use a set of tools in their daily lives. Especially if those tools sit on either side of the pendulum swing from our own.
Seeing these tools gives insight into how people work. A bit like looking behind the curtain. It’s a good example for why Austin Kleon is right to encourage everyone to Show Your Work.
I’ve recently upped my EDC game with a new a pen, Studio Neats Mark One. A recommendation from my friend Adam. He bought his 8 or so months ago and I have since been in a constant debate about whether or not to fork over the cash. The tipping point came when the pen I had been using for nearly a year ran out of ink for the third time.
This small act highlighted one important factor:
Similar to spending money on a nice pair of sunglasses I have refrained from purchasing a nice pen because of my inability to keep the same pen for any given amount of time. In high school I never saw the point of buying writing utensils, I could always find (or lose) one. A little library of pens.
But I committed and spent quite a bit on a pen. A week in, I’m happy with my decision.
Here’s where I get to the appeal of EDC. I love the idea of never buying another pen. That this pen is now a part of me. I can scratch it off a list and move on to something more important. Because from this day moving forward I won’t be looking for a pen when I need it. I’ll always have it in my pocket.
The consistency, and reliability of an EDC is what makes it so overwhelmingly appealing. Having the right tool for the right task bring a satisfaction that hard to match.
Growing up in the Mormon Church it’s a requirement to have sense of emergency preparedness. When I became an adult and started a family I felt a greater responsibility to be prepared.
Living in Utah, where “everyone” is prepared, it felt less important. After moving to Portland my awareness of the need to be prepared kicked into high gear. The PNW is earthquake country. It’s part of the lifestyle. Unlike the freak ice storm in Texas, we know an earthquake is going to happen, we just don’t know when. Knowing something will happen but not knowing when is what makes preparedness essential.
Thanks to the internet getting prepared is a rabbit hole. It’s next to impossible to know where to start or what to do. Any kind of catch all information will leave you with bags of pinto beans you won’t eat, or a hand saw that is too impractical to use.
Getting prepared takes a little research into knowing what you need to be prepared for.
If you’re building a food supply, start with what your family will eat (for us it’s black beans not pinto beans)
If you’re preparing for a natural disasters what kind of disaster are you preparing for? (The most common natural disaster in Washington is a flood).
For the most part preparedness doesn’t mean being completely prepared but having a plan, or even just an idea of what to do when things go south.
For most of us small decisions and having a few things in place will, at worst, make a crummy situation more comfortable, and at best save your family’s life.
I wouldn’t call myself a “prepper” but I am happy I reloaded the go bag in my car when we’re out for a hike and I forgot a raincoat, or we’re moving from one after school activity to another and I can give my kids a snack without having to wait in line for fast food.
Like so many things a little preparedness goes a long way.