#100Days
6,036 words

Note 28

How I'm increasing my productivity.

  • First of all, I'm recognizing that I have a problem. It looks obvious to me now, but for two years I thought I was being smart. The problem is this: I am mortgaging my future in order to pay for short term self-indulgence.

  • My solution

    • Track focused work
    • Focused means no distractions
    • Focused means meaningful: work directly related to my top priority projects
    • Focused means it has a clear objective: a concrete result (blog post, song, etc.), or builds up my skills
    • Pare down the number of priority projects
    • Measure time spent on focused work
    • Increase time spent on focused work weekly
    • Remind myself of why you are doing this and what keeps you trapped in low-value activities
    • Avoiding pain/discomfort
    • Seeking to maximize comfort for myself
    • Focusing on short term results/satisfaction
    • Looking for ROI (effort/results) beyond what's reasonable
    • Remind myself of my triumphs, no everything has gone down the drain

The Path to Self-Destruction is Easy

Destruction is easy. Working with entropy is easy, it's the downward flow, you just let yourself go. Destroying yourself takes one second. A life of building something requires years of discipline, even just to keep yourself alive. Bemoaning that things don't go your way is old, it's easy, it's been done a million times. Self-actualization may seem an act of self-centeredness but it's the opposite. Is the recognition that we didn't come here to indulge in our basest desires, it's the recognition that this is not our game and it's not played by our rules. As you go up the pyramid, gravity increases, risk increases, the challenges increase. Those are just the rules, it's been like that since before you were born, since before world was, thinking that you can do your will is foolish and the first step in self-destruction, the first step to destroy your merits. Destruction is easy, self-indulgence is easy. You don't impress me. You may impress the people who don't understand what the rules of the game are, the impressionable ones, the ones who think someone ballsy enough, powerful enough can bend the rules and live to tell the tale. Only the dead survive, it is only by dying that we are born in our truest selves. You can spend your energy kicking and screaming or you can build something where thieves do not break and steal, where moth and vermin do not destroy. Choose dust or choose the light, but do is quietly–or not, nobody will be there to clap anyways, this is not your show, understand this once and for all. Your theatrics make us yawn, worse, we don't even care, we're too busy trying to climb up our own mountain of shit, our mountain of diamond-strong ego. My ego doesn't even let me see your shit medal, too bad. Get off your high horse and start shoveling manure before it gets dark, we're all workers here, man, I haven't seen the manager in ages. You think you have the copyright on suffering? You've trademarked tears? You'll always get another chance, but why fuck things up for yourself? Why make it harder than it already is? Work today, leave self-pity for another day. Work today, just for today man. Now, now is the time to work.

Waiting for something or someone to fix us up is a bitch

But sometimes we just can't stop it
can we?

El Último Suspiro

Arnoldo Hams dio su último suspiro el 20 de enero de 1548. Él inventó la rueda de la fortuna para darle un beso a la muchacha que le gustaba. La invitó y en lo más alto de la máquina, Arnoldo, con toda su timidez, y sin haber logrado decirle una palabra a la muchacha cuyo nombre no quedó registrado en los libros de historia, acercó sus labios a la cara de la muchacha quien volteó la cabeza y se alejó tanto como le fue posible de Arnoldo, en un gesto que hizo parecer que prefería ser lanzada del armatoste mecánico que tocar sus labios con los de Arnoldo. La ocurrencia le rompió el corazón a Arnoldo quien ordenó destruir no sólo la copia en la que había sido rechazado sino el resto que entonces se calculaba en dos docenas esparcidas por el territorio flamenco y una adicional comisionada para la ciudad de París. 

Los vecinos, amigos y compatriotas de Arnoldo respetuosamente esperaron hasta su fallecimiento más 25 años de luto antes de compartir su regalo con el mundo. 

Don't Try

"Don't Try" – Charles Bukowski

Art and creativity is like dating. If you try too hard, it shows. 

But you still have to put yourself out there. It's a numbers game. It's about showing your face until you feel comfortable doing it without regard for the outcome. 

On the other hand, it doesn't necessarily mean presenting your warts up front. It's about finding the balance between hiding them and putting them in people's face.

But most importantly, don't try to skip the part where you make all the mistakes. It doesn't work that way. So go out there and hide your warts and show them up front and make a mess and learn a thing or two and come back next day. 

We desperately need brave people who care and who bring meaning into the world so don't be afraid of us.

Reckoning With the Cost of Self-Indulgence

“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” – David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Exactly two years ago I read The 5-Hour Workweek. A book to help you "escape the 9-5" and join the "new rich." The goal is to do less work for "the man" so you can have more time for yourself. 

In a perverse way, I succeeded. 

I've created a very comfortable space for myself. I cut the bullshit at work—reduced the number of meetings I attended, quit attending presentations and webinars, extricated myself from the most dysfunctional teams, etc. I saved so much time that I doubled my productivity. I talked to my employer and now I work (and get paid for) only 30 hours a week. My salary is high enough that 75% of it is still sufficient for a middle-class family. A dream, right?

Not really. 

I went down a path of increasing self-indulgence. I freed up time, but for what? For masturbation, literally and metaphorically. I mean, I had plans. Big ones. I reduced the time I work for the man to do the things that make me come alive. 

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

I wanted to "honor my calling." Instead I was beat up by Resistance. 

Inside each of us there is a force for light and a force for darkness. You wonder why you stay so late? Why you quit going to the gym on March 1st Every. Fucking. Year? It's resistance. That extra slice of cake that makes you go "Fuuuuuuck!!" is the work of Resistance. 

In me, Resistance transformed this dream of freeing time to express my art into an orgy of self-indulgence. I became the poor man's Charlie Sheen. And not even that. At least we was bursting into flames, living life in the fast lane. I, I just jumped from one YouTube video to the next, from one inconsequential chore to another.

I want to write and make music. What I've found is a way to mostly spin my wheels. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've made some progress, but nothing compared to what I could've accomplished if I had focused and planned my days better. I'm not even talking about laser focus, just paying attention to the myriad ways in which I burn my most precious resource—my time.

Maybe prompted by the end of the year, in the last couple of days I've had a reckoning with the Truth. I'm not getting any younger and the path I'm in is unsustainable, either at work or for my personal projects. I'm trying a new way of keeping myself on track. If it works, I'll tell you all about it. If it doesn't, I'll keep on looking until I find it. 

I refuse let my life go down the drain. 

Part X - Resistance

Part X will haunt you to the end of the world and it will destroy you as it has destroyed countless others. You think you're special? That this can't happen to you? That's exactly how you'll get undone. The road to hell is paved by the hubris of amateurs. The pro understands that she doesn't know a thing, until the end. In fact, the less she knows the better. She lives for just another day to do her job.

Like AA members, you've won the battle for today—at most. For the next few minutes, most likely.

Fight for your life

It's the only one you have
Don't let it go to waste
Don't let it go down the drain
Don't just stand there
Do something
Create something
There's no merit in consumption
There's no merit in cheering from the stands (unless someone from your family is in the field)
Create or go stale
There are no in-betweens

Not Feeling It Today

I'm in transition. I'm neither here nor there. It's the Bardo. It's painful. Hunger drove me here. The movie Moana made me realize how courageous explorers are. Imagine the time before we had maps, just venturing into the unknown, fearlessly. Will there be food? We don't know. I'm trying to muster one tenth of that courage. My fight is against my own demons, my fears. Today, I'm not feeling it. Neither here no there.

Tomorrow will be another day.

Intuition

We are all able to speak to God. Art is one of the laguages we use to communicate with God. Art is one of the ways in which God communicates with us. It's a two way street.

Oh, and by God I don't mean a old, white dude in a white robe. It's a side effect of the widespread acceptance of the Eurocentric version of Christianity that I need to clarify what God I'm talking about. This is a God with no face and a million faces. This is the God that lives inside each of us, a God with no church, a God of all the churches and all the peoples. We can call it God, or Consciousness, or in many other ways.

Although Consciousness is democratic, not all of us have cleared the channels to communicate with It. The most important step to talk to the Muse/God/Consciousness is to try again and again. Write daily, paint daily, dance daily.

Easy, no?

PS Don't get too concerned about the results.

Artificial Intelligence Is Not Coming For Your Job

Capitalism is coming for your job.

Debates about where AI is going and where our society is going are framed as if we were spectators and not creators. Not a coincidence, since we've been socialized and brain-washed as consumers since we were kids. Where our society is going is not inevitable. Our job is not to find mitigation mechanisms, but to decide collectively where we want to go. The steering wheel will not be handed to us, we'll have to fight for it.

So, where do we want to go? Now, under capitalism we optimize for capital. The question today is, what is the solution that increases profitability? AI is just one of the factors that puts ours jobs at risk. Another factor is the people in countries where a much smaller wage is acceptable. An English-speaking person in India is a bigger threat to your job today than AI. When AI becomes cheaper than the person in India, that will be the threat. There's nothing special or magical about AI. AI does not make decisions, people in power make the decisions and under capitalism is capital and not the well-being of the people what is maximized.

Until we really get fed up and decide to create a society where we put people first, our jobs will be in peril, not because of technology, but because of greed.

The Road to Self Actualization

I'm committed to self-actualization.

Some people realized early in their lives that they wanted to be pianists or engineers. It took me decades to recognize it, but my call has been self-actualization since an early age. I grew up in a dysfunctional family (haven't we all?). I was miserable sometimes, but I always knew that there was a better way. I wouldn't put it that way at the time, but I had an intuitive understanding and belief in what Buddha identified as the Four Noble Truths, namely, that although pain is real, pain is not our identity, and pain can be removed if we work on the path to liberate ourselves from pain. I have never wavered on my faith that personal change is possible, that better is always within reach. This has been a double-edge sword, though, because I'm always thirsty, I'm always wondering why I'm not two steps ahead of where I am. In an interview, Questlove describes how he's always chasing an ideal that he always feels outside of his grasp. This drives him to evolve constantly, but it's also a source of constant pain. That's where I am. I am disappointed at myself because I squandered a lot of time today. I feel like I've been making progress, but I get frustrated when my progress does not follow a straight line, sometimes I don't even know what progress means.

That's where I am today.

At least I wrote.

Peace.

Evolution, Random Process or Not?

The "scientific" perspective today is that evolution happened randomly. This means that all the biological mutations that culminated in humans appearing on Earth happened by pure chance.

Humans believe that their buildings and technologies are the products of chance. Just kidding. We see our creations as the result of the most exquisite intelligence: ours. However, we don't see ourselves as the creation of an intelligence, but pure chance. Is there a contradiction here? Our creations pale in comparison with the simplest of life forms on Earth. Not a single one of our creations so far has a chance of surviving 2.5 billion years, self-sustained through the ages, the way single-cell organisms have survived in the planet.

Also, logically, if chaos created us and we created our creations, chaos created our creations. Our creations are ultimately the result of random occurance and not, as we would like to believe, exquisite intelligence.

Scientists tell us that the mutations that led to human beings were somehow desirable. One measure of desirability is survival. They say that having eyes is more conducive to survival than not having eyes. First of all, this is bullshit, as demonstrated by the number of organisms that have no eyes and have had no problem surviving for billions of years more than the snotty, vision-endowed newcomers.

Also, saying that the eyes were one of the desirable traits that brought us humans is tautologic. In engineering school, for textbook problems we couldn't solve, we used to look at the answers in the back of the book and then try to work our way backwards. That's what scientists try to do to explain evolution most of the time. They know the answer and try to tell us why having two arms is better than no arms, or four arms, for that matter. But that's just their opinion, with the exception of a few cases where the evolution of certain traits or organs has been traced thanks to fossil records and old species that survive.

Which brings us to another problem, the opinion of scientists is often mistaken for science. That's why I put "scientific" between quotation marks at the beginning. Is the prevailing perspective really an outcome of the scientific process? I believe there is a way to quantify how likely it is that pure randomness is driving evolution.

To be continued.

Science, Materialism and Capitalism

Capitalism requires materialistic individuals whose validation and sense of meaning come from the outside. The powerful forces within us can and will destroy capitalism. Meanwhile, we are helpful workers and consumers desperately trying to fill the void within us with stuff. For every one of our spiritual, mental and physical needs there's a response from the market. Middle-age male insecurity? We have testosterone replacement therapy and all sorts of bullshit to regrow your hair. Teenage angst? Social media and more bullshit to get rid of your pimples.

I remember desperately asking my parents for a twirling baton I had seen on TV. When it arrived, the splendor of its cheap plastic bedazzled me for exactly ten seconds. Now it's part of the thousands of pounds and counting worth of junk that I've helped litter this planet with.

We get fooled again and again and yet we can't just fucking learn. Additionally, the market just gets more and more adept at exploiting our weaknesses.

But it's not just the market, we are accomplices as well. We go through life looking outside for a solution because we're just to afraid of looking inside, because personal growth is just too damn difficult compared to calling 1-800-MORE-BULLSHIT.

Science has been brought into the fold of capitalism slowly but surely. Being perceived as objective, science was too powerful not to have as an ally. Money bought science in subtle and not so subtle ways. From using pseudo-science on the margins all the way to outright corruption and collusion in trials and studies, money has bought a good deal of scientific backing.

Science has also been a powerful ally of capitalism by endorsing materialism dogmatically. Science has tried to mold us into mechanical beings that respond deterministically to the circumstances the way the balls in a pool table would. Reducing our minds to the synapses in a brain that, true, is incredibly complex, but that does not contain the fullness of our consciousness.

To be continued.

El Sermón de Pocajuntas

El Tlacayo Sintaleca subió al Monte Congéneres a compartir su Sermón del Siervo Ambiestalista frente al Hermano Sol y la Hermana Armadilla. Debido a que el Sol no habla y las armadillas no escuchan bien en general (la más conocida de las especies de armadilla endémicas al continente Terrestre, la armadilla Fileta, tiene uno de los oídos más exquisitos del reino animal, el cual puede compararse con el oído de los murciélagos avispos de la Selva Negra, lo cual ha popularizado la especie de que las armadillas en todas sus especies son muy buenas escuchadoras), el sermón fue conocido por los historiadores como el Sermón de Pocajuntas en el que el Tlacayo arremetió en contra de los arrebatos de orden sexual (el Tlacayo se incomodó visiblemente al usar esta palabra según el recuento oral de la Ardilla el cual fue registrado por escribanos bonaerenses unos doscientos años después de la muerte de la Ardilla y el cuya veracidad a sido puesta en duda por escolares y escolapios, por no decir moros y cristianos y dimes y diretes, hasta la fecha). El Tlacayo es conocido en la actualidad por sus arengas en contra del abandono a los sentidos que en la época actual y con una sociedad consumida por el exceso y sin depósitos de dopamina suenan más bien cómicos. Sin embargo, en este día infausto, habló acerca del cambio climático y los peligros para el ambiente de una revolución industrial sin freno. Ya nos habíamos chingado los bosques y ahora vamos por la atmósfera, dijo. Esto fue cerca del año 1900, cuando muy poca gente estaba había oído hablar del cambio climático. Entonces, como hoy, la humanidad desoyó al Tlacayo y sus mensajes en pro de la frugalidad. Es más, un cazador le dio un tiro en la cabeza. No se sabe el lugar de descanso eterno de los restos del Tlacayo. Sus seguidores han instalado diversas urnas votivas a lo largo del Monte Congéneres a donde dirigen sus anuales peregrinaciones.