Our greatest instrument for understanding the world—introspection . . . . The best way of knowing the inwardness of our neighbor is to know ourselves. Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
So you go about your daily life and might not think too much about your every action. In martial arts we say that "He who conquers others is strong, but he who conquers himself is mighty." In order to really understand the world around you and make it work for you, you must first understand - and conquer - yourself. Conquer your fears, answer your own questions, find truths that are critical to your existence and understand them.
Easier said than done? Indubitably.
In my last post I suggested that you "question everything". And didn't really explain it. Sorry about that. What I mean is:
- Question the answers you're given even if it is from a "reputable source". No one is perfect and if the world is to be your oyster, you must be the one to understand the answers. If that requires that you create your own answers then that is the best way.
- Question your own capabilities. At first this will lead to doubt --> then understanding --> then confidence.
- Question your own solutions to problems. How did you come up with that solution? How were you influenced?
- Question your own subconscious actions. Why do you sit in a certain place at your dinner table?
- Get out of your routine. Take a different route to work. Read something that you would normally be put out by.
- Keep an objective attitude. Don't be put out by anything. Don't fall back on reactions you would normally use. Treat each moment as if it is entirely new and create responses to situations as if you had never experienced them before.
- Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Erase all of your notions of someone you interact with and create entirely new notions as if you were THEM observing YOURSELF. Watch yourself objectively as you proceed to live your life. Notice the details of your movements, your thoughts, your reactions.
Question yourself like you question others. Forgive others like you forgive youself.
It's only when you understand why you do the things you do that you will start to see better ways. Be open minded and take influences for problem solutions from anywhere you can. Don't let pride get in your way - immediately admit when you are wrong, or when you start to question yourself. No one is perfect, so learn from your surroundings.
In addition to being an engineer, I'm also a musician. I've been writing songs for a few years now, but I've never played for anyone except immediate family and friends. I've been posturing myself and refining my tunes for a while to get them to a point where I'd be comfortable doing a show. I can't say that I'm quite to the "comfortable spot" yet, and playing the guitar doesn't really get top priority, always competing with work, martial arts, other side projects, blogging... etc.
A friend of mine is a professional theatrical performer and he recently offered for me to open up for his new show in 6 weeks! Despite my apprehension and unpreparedness, I finally decided that I had to heed my father's advice, "Grab for all the Gusto" and just commit to the show.
Grab for all the Gusto in life.
By committing myself to doing this and basically backing myself into a corner, I'll be forcing my priorities. Playing a show is something I have wanted to do for a long time, and despite my uncertainty, now that I have a deadline to meet I will be focusing on this new task.
I've used this technique before, I'll call it "over-commitment", with good success. When I was first getting into website development, in speaking with new clients I would commit myself to preparing things that were not part of my skill set. By committing this to clients, I was in fact committing to myself to learn whatever necessary skills were required.
What is your experience with forcing yourself to learn something? Have you intentionally over-committed in order to expedite the natural learning curve?
I am a big advocate of "effective focus", as it has been referred to at ZenHabits.com. I believe the difference between CAN and CAN'T is largely a factor of how much focus is effectively given to a certain task.
In high school some friends of mine had a band and were looking for a trombonist. A trombone conveniently came available through a friend and I was pretty excited about a potential opportunity for me to join the band, but I’d never touched a trombone before. “Have no fear!” I told myself. I took the trombone home and spent every spare minute learning about the instrument. Not just how to play it, but more.. I learned the construction of it, the adjustments available, how many different ways it could be held, where its center of gravity was.. etc. When learning to play it, I was in a private place (my back yard) with zero distractions, where I could listen to the sound of the instrument and feel it’s reactions to my breath and that was it.
Three weeks later I attended my first band practice, and after one more week I played my first show. I stayed with the band for another 6 years and had a lot of fun. I dedicate that to two things in particular: Confidence in myself, and the ability to focus.
Winter is now in full swing and, at least where I live, the ice torments the roads with its icy chaos. Drivers begin to slow down as they become less and less confident with their driving in these hazardous conditions and lack of confidence is not something that you should allow yourself to have; not ever.
Confidence is the knowledge that you are fully able to do that which you attempt. The way I see it, lack of confidence can be overcome by knowing yourself. Know your limits and abilities and you will never see your confidence wane. If indeed you do notice yourself with a lack of confidence (driving a car in the snow or otherwise) learn from this and tell yourself, "I need to take this opportunity to learn my limits and abilities to increase my confidence during this task." This article is particularly about driving in the winter weather but can be applied across all disciplines.
When I was learning to drive a car, growing up in Maine, my father would take me to an empty parking lot during a big snow storm and allow me to drive around and get a feel for the car. Understand that when driving in the winter, you WILL hit ice, and your tires WILL spin. Trying to avoid slipping the car or spinning the tires is pointless. You will slip and slide so in order to be confident while doing so, you must know how to do it.
Allow yourself to discover how your car reacts in different situations. Learn how fast you can accelerate. Observe how much traction you get while braking. Spin the car out of control in an open parking lot, or any other controlled environment and then attempt to regain control. Use trial and error to figure out which way and how much to turn the wheel in order to regain control during any given amount of drift you may be experiencing.
Other important bits of information are the physical extents of the body of your car. Know exactly how big your car is and test your limits until you are able to easily judge where your bumpers are from the driver's seat. This will help to avoid ambiguities like "I'm not sure if I'm going to brake in time to avoid that other car so I will tense up and close my eyes and hope for the best."
If you'd like, feel free to share your winter driving story.