Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways - operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes - makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors and correct them - as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go - end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.
"Things that appear to be obstacles turn out to be desireable in the long haul...We tend to think of our memory as a tape recorder, but that's wrong" says Robert Bjork, chair of psychology at UCLA. "It's a living structure, a scaffold of nearly infinite size. The more we generate impulses, encountering and overcoming difficulties, the more scaffolding we build. The more scaffolding we build, the faster we learn."
When you're practicing deeply, the world's usual rules are suspended. You use time more efficiently. Your small efforts produce big, lasting results. You have positioned yourself at a place of leverage where you can capture failure and turn it into skill. The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn't help. Reaching does.
- from The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.
As in the case of archery, there can be no question but that these arts are ceremonies. More clearly than the teacher could express it in words, they tell the pupil that the right frame of mind for the artist is only reached when the preparing and the creating, the technical and the artistic, the material and the spiritual, the project and the object, flow together without a break...
...all right doing is accomplished only in a state of true selflessness, in which the doer cannot be present any longer as "himself". Only the spirit is present, a kind of awareness which shows no trace of egohood and for that reason ranges without limit through all distances and depths, with "eyes that hear and ears that see".
The inward work, however, consists in his turning the man he is, and the self he feels himself and perpetually finds himself to be, into the raw material of a training and shaping whose end is mastery. In it, the artist and the human being meet in something Higher.
- from Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. Read it!
...What people think and what they say or do are not necessarily the same thing; but there is an even greater gap between what people believe themselves to think and the unconcious desire or fear that in the last resort motivates their actions. Thus common sense might lead one to suppose that most of us brush our teeth for reasons of dental hygiene, to prevent decay, or to make our teeth look clean, and these were therefore the motives upon which toothpaste manufacturers hammered for years in their advertisements. But investigation has shown that most people brush their teeth once a day and the time they choose is the least logical - immediately on rising, because what they basically seek is to start the day with a fresh mouth. Hence the subsequent emphasis on the 'clean mouth taste' and the 'tingle-tongue taste' because a majority of individuals are more worried about the way their mouth feels after a night's sleep or the social effects of bad teeth than they are about the fate of their teeth...
- From Techniques of Persuasion: From Propaganda to Brainwashing by J.A.C. Brown. Read it!
There has arisen in our time a most singular fancy: the fancy that when things go very wrong we need a practical man. It would be far truer to say, that when things go very wrong we need an unpractical man. Certainly, at least, we need a theorist. A practical man means a man accustomed to mere daily practice, to the way things commonly work. When things will not work, you must have a thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at all. It is wrong to fiddle while Rome is burning; but it is quite right to study the theory of hydraulics while Rome is burning.
- from What's Wrong With The World by G.K. Chesterton
There is nothing more unfortunate than fiddling with the unessential ornaments when the foundation is yet to be laid. Like musicians who fiddle with the sound of the hi-hat when they don't yet have a hook, like designers who fiddle with a software update instead of solving their problem on a napkin, like a writer who polishes the shit out of a pointless paragraph, like a baker working on the icing before they bake the cake.
The devil is in the details? The devil is in distractions with details.
The devil wants you to fiddle forever and never finish.
Bake the cake, then fiddle with the icing.
What does the future of the world depend on?
On future generations.
And what will future generations depend on?
On us to prepare them.
Some will be prepared right,
some will be prepared wrong,
some will not be prepared at all.
Civilization is not a race for individuals, it's a team marathon relay.
The only failure is ending your run with the baton still in your hand.
Treasure your trials like climbers love mountains. Think of problems as puzzles, games to be played with engagement, enthusiasm and focus of a world class gamer. See yourself facing the unexpected like a cold blooded commando, whose elite training prepared him to turn obstacles into opportunities. Picture problems as weights in the gym, they are a gift that makes us stronger, not at once - but a rep, a set, a workout at a time. Pain is a necessary part of growth. We don't do pain for pain's sake, we welcome the pain as a sign we're growing.
The seasoned captain does not turn his ship away from waves, he takes them bow on. And when he returns his vessel to safe harbour, the captain will love the waves because they made him stronger.
Fear of failure, rejection, and ultimately extinction is what makes us conform to status quo, copy conventions and compromise the very things that make us stand out from the crowd. We want to distinguish our unique selves from the grey mass of faceless pedestrians while at the same time, we're afraid to step out of line, to be judged, to cross the street on a red light in front of everyone.
Nobody likes waiting at the red light. You can feel the pent up restlessness, the urge to go. Everyone wants to move but no one wants to be the first. The first one to defy the red light and break away from the pack is the outcast: "Look at her, she's breaking the law" says one part of us, while another chimes in: "You're just jealous you didn't make the first move". And while you're standing there admiring/hating the people who went ahead without permission, you see another pedestrian break away from the pack and follow the lead of the outcast. And another. They are off, crossing the street on a red light, while the ones who remain behind shake their head with indignation.
How long will you stand there waiting for permission to be you? Do you need someone else to show you that it is possible? Or will you be the one who goes first, inspiring a few other outcasts to follow you?
Do your most important work before the world wakes up.
Once the world wakes up, you are no longer a priority. Kids, spouses, pets, bosses, clients, students, patients and strangers tug on your tie, pleading for your time. And they have every right. Once the world is up, your time belongs to your priorities. The only time you are a priority is before other priorities wake up. So before the world makes its demands on you, make this demand of yourself:
"I will attend to my most important work before the world wakes up".
Ask Grisham, ask Murakami, ask Mead, ask Kant, ask Plath, ask Frank Lloyd Wright, ask a thousand greats what time they do (did) their most important work. First thing in the morning. Between 4-7am.
But what about Bukowski who wrote late into the night while sitting in bars?
You are not Bukowski.
I have urges. To touch, to smell, to dig in the crates, to be seduced by strange covers, to take them for a spin, to shoot the shit with the dude behind the counter. I want to do things Spotify can't do. That's why I spend my Sunday at the record store.
There is no garden without fertile soil. There's no fertile soil without good compost. There's no good compost without good crap. There is no good crap without the bad crap. There's no bad crap without the first draft. Ultimately, there's nothing without the first draft. Amateurs publish their first drafts and sleep like babies. Masters don't take their first drafts very seriously.
First drafts are almost always garbage. First draft is your mind dumping its contents on your front lawn. Scattered piles of hot shit. Better let it cool over night. Roll up your sleeves at the crack of dawn and thrust your bare hands into the garbage. Rummage and rescue crap that can become manure. Rake all the unnecessary words from your paragraphs. Shake the seeds out of your sentences. Know what you are planting. Know what you want your readers to smell when they enter your garden. And don't water the weeds.