By missing a connection, I wound up spending fourteen hours in an airport or on a plane yesterday. This wouldn’t normally be an ordeal, except that my laptop (which has been hanging on by a thread for months now) chose this particular moment to die on me, leaving my iPhone as the only outlet to the wired world. I could check my email, but that was about it – and the battery was running down badly, so I didn’t want to use it too often. Which left me lots and lots of time to kill.
So I got to thinking about ways of living. Or maybe patterns of living would be closer to it.
Tim Rumbinas, a buddy of mine, wrote a passionate essay in his blog a couple months ago about the importance of mastering the basics before attempting arias. From a technician’s perspective, I agree with him completely. But I could never succeed in that approach, because it’s simply not my style.
My style, which repeats itself throughout my life, has always been to dive in, pick an impossibly challenging goal, and voraciously acquire anything (tools, books, relationships) that might prove useful in achieving that goal. Usually I get myself in at least partway over my head and need to call in an expert of some sort to help me figure out what I’m doing. Eventually I sort it all out, produce something that (while distinctly imperfect) approximates the goal, and wander off to another adventure, having learned a considerable amount in the process.
What interests me is not the degree to which this differs from other people – everyone’s got a different style. Instead, what interests me is the way in which this pattern ripples through my life, creative and non-creative. If I look at my failures, they almost always occur because they didn’t fit into the pattern – typically because the “adventure” lasted too long and I got bored. My successes, on the other hand, follow this pattern without exception.
This suggests a couple of things:
First, by observing my pattern of living, it is easy for me to figure out what goals I can likely achieve. My attention span is anything up to about six months (a year is a long time), so anything that requires sustained, consistent effort is unlikely to succeed unless I break it down into “sprints”. Anything that is not of intellectual interest is unlikely to hold my attention for long enough, unless I find a way to delve deeper into it. And if there’s no “story value” in it, it’s much less likely to hold my focus. 🙂
Second, looking at the pattern allows me to identify my weaknesses, and how to work around them. A big goal, for example, might have to be split into four or five smaller sprints for me to finish it. Some goals are going to be a lot harder than others because they don’t fit the pattern. Losing weight is one of them; it’s not glamorous, not particularly intellectually interesting, and requires discipline (vs. impulsivity), so it’s something I’ll have to work at – or, ideally, reshape to fit the pattern.
And, finally, I can look at ways to reshape the pattern itself, making it more effective for myself. It’s unlikely I can change the basic pattern – nor would I want to, it being an essential part of my core personality – but by looking at how my experiences and adventures repeat themselves, I can strive for a variation that is more effective for myself.
At any rate, that is what I noticed yesterday….life patterns repeating themselves in theme and variation…very interesting, and worth reflection.
Today, on the other hand, has been all about weaving…but that is another story, and (later) another blog post!
Tobias Mayer says
Fascinating. I like that you see that patterns of failure as well as the ones of success. And I like the “dive-in-and-learn-as-you-go” approach. Very Agile 🙂 I look forward to meeting you on our Palo Alto training course. I think our ways of thinking will gel nicely.
And actually, I think this article is about weaving ideas –it has that feel to it– so not necessarily “another story”.
Lisa J says
I was thinking about your pattern the other day and how you never post that you feel sad or guilty or hounded by unfinished projects. I think I like that outlook – my interpretation being that I don’t “have” to go back and finish things that no longer interest me. Learning the craft or starting the project held my interest for a time and now my interests have changed. You aim higher and dive deeper than I ever do, which is why I enjoy following your blog so much. Thank you for sharing your exploits with us. And happy weaving at Laura’s!
Your comments about “ways of living” are quite perceptive. Like Lisa J, I like to try a variety of techniques. Thus, many projects remain languishing, quite unfinished. I always return to weaving and spinning however.
Considering your comments, I’m impressed that you’ve stuck with weaving and hope it doesn’t dead end for you.
On weight loss–last year I lost (in my old age, post 65) almost 50 lbs (and, so far, have kept it off.) It took 9 months. I used Weight Watchers and think it was successful for several reasons. First, the challenge of eating as much as possible using their point system and a calorie count of approximately 900 calories/day. Second, maintaining the weight loss on 1100 (plus or minus 50 calories) /day. It is not too boring! Third, it is easier to lose pounds when old(er), because, I think, I’m retired, so no eating whatever is available, and I’ve tasted a lot of good stuff and don’t need to do it again.
Exercise. I recall you used to write about biking. Still doing it? I’ve always disliked exercising, but now find it a nice anecdote to calories. Also, the people I meet at the gym are gems.
I’m looking forward to your and Laura’s blogs about your visit. Hope your trip home is smooth.
Funny, I was just thinking about this kind of thing about myself a few weeks ago. It helps to understand your own character and how it impacts your decisions. For example, one of my most noticeable traits — to me — is that I hate to be in limbo. Having a decision made is much better than debating the decision endlessly in my head. That kind of limbo leaves me uncertain of my emotional footing, especially for big comments.
I meant big commitments, not comments.