Personal Development

To be useful

What is my goal in writing?

To be useful.

But useful to whom, and useful in what way?

I’ve spend thousands of hours writing the essays you’ll find here, but very few people know about them, so what’s the use?

To start, I’m writing to be useful to myself, in the sense that if I’m lucky, I have half of my life ahead of me still. What I’m trying to do in my writing is to codify the insights and stories that have been the most helpful to me in the first half of my life, so that I can remember them, carry them with me, and build upon them in the second. I want to record the ideas that have helped me find clarity amidst confusion, the ideas that have helped me overcome creative and personal obstacles, the ideas that helped me be more loving and less fearful, more effective and less distracted, more fulfilled and less frustrated.

So these essays are a foundation I’m creating for my future self. They’re letters to the person who’s going to live the second part of my life.

But the challenges I face are not unique, and the things I want to get better at understanding and doing in my life are things that you might care about too.

So I’m writing with the conviction that my words can be useful to you in some way — that some of my experiences, and some of the insights I’ve derived from those experiences, and some of the approaches I’ve used to communicate those insights, might inspire, inform, and assist. I’m eager to do the work of writing down the best of what I’ve learned in my life so far — including my appreciation of unanswered questions — even if I don’t know who else is going to find it useful, and even if I don’t know when that use is going to happen. I trust that it will.

That’s my starting point. I can say more about my common topics, my background, my qualifications, what usefulness means to me, and who might find use in what I write, but that’s for elsewhere.

A sampling of recent posts:

Life is not a project
Life is full of so many projects that we might see life as one big umbrella project. But what’s at the other end?

Inner Luck
Any time we experience a metacognitive interrupt that allows us to escape our current thought and observe it from a distance, we are lucky and we should enjoy that luck.

On Fear
Fear creates a close-mindedness that makes us more likely to believe the idea that caused the fear in the first place, but if we know this is happening, we can change how we respond.

Self-compassion is hard and that’s not your fault!
Self-compassion is difficult to practice because it conflicts with virtues we hold dear, including responsibility, accountability, and ownership over our fate.

How to concentrate on a task you hate
Concentration is like balance in that it depends on constant recovery — to concentrate better, we can work on making recovery easier.

Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the income
When a positive outcome is unlikely we can still trust in a positive “income,” which is to say a positive inner return.

Sustainable Optimism
If optimism is the conviction that everything is going to work out as we hope, then it’s not sustainable. What is sustainable is the confidence that we can always find an “envaluing” perspective.

How to conquer negativity
Negativity enters our thoughts through the vector of our self-reports; we can conquer it just by giving a broader and more neutral answer to the question “What am I doing right now?”

Freedom of memory
To connect with our true selves, we need to give ourselves the opportunity to remember our best moments as snapshots in time that are not clouded by the memory of whatever disappointments might have come next.

The paradox of desire
We might see desire as a motivator that propels us toward fulfillment, but desire itself might train us to be unfulfilled.

The critic vs. the advocate
Whenever we play the role of a critic, we should ask “How much risk am I willing to take to create the possibility of being delighted?”

Don’t regret, reroute!
We can learn from a GPS’s ability to immediately reroute without harping on mistakes made in the past.

Advice for a flow junkie
To the extent that you love being “in flow” you might hate being “out of flow.” But it’s what we do when we’re “out of flow” that creates the foundation for flow to happen again.

On keeping gratitude
Gratitude is something we have to work at maintaining. To do this we need to be aware of forces like anger that take it away.

10 keys to finishing
My best advice on how to finish a project.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s