Week 3: Stop Thinking About It

This is part of my weekly project at self-improvement by following the battle plan found in “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth.” This book is incredibly valuable and only $0.99 on Kindle.

Alright, this last week or so has been kind of a gagglefuck. I was out of town for work part of last week and then we had Couchsurfers all weekend. It really messed up my routine (I know I am making excuses) but I think the break did me some good. I feel much more motivated.

So, quick update on Week 2. I basically did not accomplish anything that I set out to do (womp womp). But that’s okay. I can’t change the events of last week any more than I can change the 2016 Presidential election or the burning of the Library of Alexandria, all I can I do is move forward and live in the moment.

The focus of Week 3 is “Stop Thinking About It”. Basically, I need to do the things that I think about doing or say I am going to do. This week reminds me of a chapter of Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday called “Talk, Talk, Talk”. I probably highlighted more sections of that chapter than any other in the book, but this was my favorite passage:

The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.

Basically, if you are talking about doing something then you probably aren’t doing it. We all have projects and dreams and desires in our life that we talk about doing “someday”, at least I do. In fact, I have a list of things to do sitting right next to me that seems to grow every day. Some of them I can finish in a day and some require serious commitment.

Here is my current list:

  • Write “Forward Tilt” blog post (well hell, things are looking good right now)
  • Complete Coursera course on Nutrition (started)
  • Nude sunbathing in backyard
  • Transfer book into ePub/Kodo format
  • Record Audiobook
  • Complete Excel Course
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Complete “Yoga for Men” course on Udemy
  • Dig up weeds and junk by back shed and prep soil for gardening
  • Finish taxes
  • Study for driver’s license test
  • Register at the local VA
  • Find social groups (ideas: Freemasons, Unitarian Universalist Church, Softball league, Board Game and D&D Game nights at local comic shop, Running and Cycling clubs)
  • Locate a Half Marathon this fall
  • Try out new art mediums
  • Master a fire dancing technique (poi, staff, or hoop)
  • Clear non-work emails
  • Schedule a dental appointment
  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Mail books to friend in New Orleans
  • Organize tool closet
  • Transfer seedlings into bigger containers
  • Finish second draft of Linneria
  • Find a 3x a week workout plan

The action item for this week is to pick one thing that I’ve been thinking or talking about doing and do it. Seems pretty simple.

Unfortunately, I have a history of overplanning early on and burning out quickly. I’d like to say “hell yeah, I can get all these done in a week” but I don’t know if I have the mental stamina for that. Instead, I am going to pick one big project that will be my top priority and focus all my energy on completing that this week. I think seven days is enough time to accomplish the Audiobook recording of my book. That is probably the project that most accurately fits the definition of something I’ve talked about but haven’t done. I’m excited to report back in a week with my progress.

 

The Banquet of Life

“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t come yet? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth – one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.”

Epictetus, Enchiridion, 15

This passage seems to really have two key messages in it. The first, which doesn’t seem to be the main point, is about moderation. At a banquet (or, I assume any event with free food and/or drink) we should consume in moderation for both individual and social reasons. It is healthy for us, both mentally and physically, not to lust after things or allow ourselves to act on our carnal desires. It is bad to give up logical control and eat and drink to the point of gluttony or foolish intoxication. Also, it is healthy for others. If we consume in moderation then there is enough to share with other people at the party (or in life). All things are finite and if we hoard things then that leaves less for other people, and what remains is more difficult to attain.

The second point of the passage seems to be focused on patience, that all the good things in life will come to us at some point if we wait until the right time. I kind of agree with this, but I also kind of disagree. I agree that we shouldn’t rush things or try to attain things when we aren’t ready. The most painful example of this is pursuing love or a relationship with someone because you want to be married (or social pressure), not because you are compatible with our partner. This is akin to scarfing down the food at a party you don’t like simply because it is close to you (or because the crowd is cheering for you to eat). So yeah, in this way I agree with Epictetus and I think we should have patience.

But, I also think you should be proactive and pursue the things you desire. If you want to meet someone and get married, then you need to go out and do things that you like to do. Sitting around and just waiting for the tray to be passed around doesn’t work if you are curled up in the corner refusing to make eye contact with the server. Patience isn’t enough, action is also required. Things in life don’t “just work out”, you need to say yes to opportunities and take risks to live the life you want. The timing will never be completely perfect and nobody is coming to sweep any of us off our feet and rescue us from the situation we are in.

**I am currently using “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman as a daily practice. I think I am going to share my thoughts as I go. It will be interesting to explore the works of the Stoics and see where I agree with them. I highly recommend the book if you are interested in an introduction to the ancient Stoic life philosophy**