Saying no gets a bad rep. So pick a day, and say no to everything but one effort.
Believe it or not, you can get bad reactions to this idea. The reasoning can sound selfish when said. This implication creates need for apt presentation and justification of your drive.
What meaningful work is life distracting you from? What could you do to create space for that work? Given the space for it, would that meaningful work replace work that distracts from it and matters less?
These were the questions running through my head when I decided to say ‘no’ every Tuesday and devote the whole day to writing– a passion I wanted to follow unhindered. The things I say ‘no’ to include, email, meetings, entertainment and other work- writing is my work on Tuesday.
Saying no does not mean I “Tom Sawyer” my work. Saying no means I intentionally plan to say no.
As a student, I am blessed to be able to craft a schedule with one work day devoted to non-obligatory work. I relegate homework to other days as the worthwhile tradeoff for unhindered Tuesday focus.
Ultimately, I want writing to be my career (a fact I’m realizing more and more as I commit to the ‘no’ practice). This practice enables me to pursue the practice in my life that I want to the most. It could do the same for you…
We’ve all been there. Forming sentences is hard. Particularly the start.
It’s a struggle for me now and I have the benefit of deep thought, first drafts and revisions. When I overheard this (^title^) attempt from a table to my back, I felt it an appropriate start to examine patience in speech.
Talking is like computing. We, with our hardrives of knowledge, experience and memory, take time to spit out the things we want to say. We have to attempt many combinations of colloquial language codes (sometimes clichés) to get across the right feeling, direction or thought.
We can cmd-alt-dlt 100% of the like, anyway and um‘s that enter our speech by taking a minute, and finding our footing before jumping into expression.
People are far more impressed by exact speech than rushed stumbling.
The third stage of cultural evolution came in 1974 when Bill Gates began work on the world’s first computer.
The Information Age began, and the digital world was born.
Fast-forward 40 years. One-twelfth of a year’s waking and sleeping time is spent browsing. Social media, our fast-food information stop, has now become a larger advertising channel than print.
You would think we would bore ourselves to death with this level of consumption rampant, but instead, online courses and education have become a leading method of learning. “Instant Activism” through online campaigns allow us to research an organization, join their movement, and give our time or money to make a change.
Moore’s Law says that computing dramatically increases in power, and decreases in relative cost, at an exponential pace. In 40 years we won’t be spending two-twelfths online. Try six-twelfths. Half.
Is that really where we’re headed?
Cultural evolution no. 1, drawing, bled into digital form with visual effects, while eloquent no. 2, writing, was aided in reproducibility by word processors. Is “stage 3” the paragon that conforms all others to itself? If we’re seeing the height of cultural revolutions that all future ones learn from, we need to be cautious of its control. “…Great responsibility“, the old man said…
This shift necessitates organizations like The Center for Human Technology who are pushing Silicon Valley to reintroduce ethics into their software design.
If we are headed for a future where innovation is propelled by those who have the resources to adapt to a digital world, education and moderation are vital. Technology and social media come without “Drug Facts” labels despite having deeper addictive and detrimental effects than most drugs (The CHT created a “Ledger” of sociological effects for public awareness).
It’s revealing to discover that we no longer choose companies like Apple or Google to be “crucial” to our lives. They choose us. Or, more accurately, they choose our culture.
For better and worse, we are inundated in an “ecosystem” (a term actually used by technologists to refer to the phones, wearables, and other tech that a company employs to create an echo chamber of self-affirmation for their brand), and our maneuverability out of this system is dependent on our awareness of its existence.
We can play into a system profiting off attention or we can take steps to craft an intentional life.
My core thought is this: can we choose more of the things we bring into our lives instead of having them chosen for us?
The first hour’s work of writing done, I throw away.
I don’t mean editing or reworking words results in the “throwing away” of my original work. Nor do I mean the pages (as first drafts are always done on paper at my desk, a practice from writer Sarah Wilson) are merely discarded for future references or citations. I literally throw first drafts of multiple thoughts into the trash, never to be used again.
My reasoning is threefold: First, I need the liberty to make huge literary blunders. When aware of the limited destination of work (the trash), limitless potential activates. Novel ideas and approaches can spur from this practice that allows for mistakes because of relieved social pressure.
Next, failure is a muscle often forgotten. A fledgling writer prepares for the eventual publishing process by a practice of discarding a thousand words or an hour of work each week to build an aegis of endurance for trial.
Finally, this reinforces why I write– to develop and share avant-garde insight.
Avant-garde (adj/n); people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It is frequently characterized by aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability.
Adam Grant culminated research in his non-fiction work, Originals, on “how non-conformists move the world” and act within it to create massive change and success for their organizations. His thesis within the book is that “the hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.”
“Originality is an act of creative destruction”
Economist Joseph Schumpeter.
Adam Grant actually threw away 103,000 words (near 90%) of his first book, Give and Take. Most wouldn’t write the book anymore. Grant did. A true ‘Original’, Grant knew he had an idea within his 103,000 words of garbage that could become another book’s gold.
The saying is backwards. The two steps back are what propel us three steps forward. Don’t forget to take those steps in your work.
the minutia of a life make it whole. the little things we do complete the big things. the biblical book of Acts describes a vocation, saying, “The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day (2:46).”
2018 revealed to me a niche within Lifestyle and Business learning: ProductivityandHabit Change. As a keystone (albeit unconscious- we’ll get to that) part of my life, it is inevitable we dig in. James Clear’s, Atomic Habits, and Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habits have brought change within reach by simplifying tenets and methods. Here, we examine Clear…
start small and build
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
The journey is long, the skyscraper tall. We can try to take a giant bite, but the elephant won’t be eaten unless you take it one bite at a time.
Habits are the tool to parse change. The thesis of Clear’s bookis this: “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick to them for years.”
This is the basis of Malcolm Gladwell’s, 10k hour rule (the minimum quota to become an expert in something) and a key factor in creating change.
prep your environment
One of the easiest steps in habit change and pursuing a life you really want, altering the space you occupy can be a massive change that rewires your neural pathways (the roadways of our brain that become ingrained with patterns- called habits- that we follow routinely and effortlessly).
Moving your phone charger away from your nightstand (or, dare I say it, out of your room) and leaving a book in its stead can begin a reading habit.
Clear talks about how environment is the “invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” He writes, “the most common form of change is not internal, but external: we are changed by the world around us.”
Jerry Seinfeld notoriously popularized the practice of marking each day on a calendar with an ‘X’ to track, and continue, a writing practice. This is an internally motivating way of forcing a habit, and one that works for certain people.
For those habits (or people) that require flexibility, Minimalist filmmaker, Matt D’Avella, simply created a rule of habit that allows a break, misstep, or cheat-day in your rhythms. Requiring that you never miss 2 days in a row creates a sense of urgency and activity for your habit after missing a day. This can be paired with negative reinforcement when missing consecutive days and can lead to great success for those calendar-minded many!
change your mindset
While Clear’s following statement is true, another precept stands: “The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.” Clear refers to outcome-based habits and identity-based habits.
Focusing on what you want to achieve (outcome) will lead to “behavior that is incongruent with the self”, while finding who you want to become (identity) will make change that is intrinsic and permanent.
A last note about the indomitably optimistic: we can never discount the power of positive thought in behavioral or organizational change. Expect to fail, and failure comes knocking. See change, and you can create a tidal wave.