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How to Get Good at What You’re Bad At

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It’s been almost two years since I’ve become my own boss, and I am still fairly bad at it. Any real boss would fire me. I take long lunches and don’t come back sometimes. I defer important tasks till the next day because it suddenly seems more important to go get groceries in the middle of the afternoon. It takes me eight hours to do three hours of writing. If you’ve ever emailed me, you may have first-hand experience with my near-glacial correspondence speed.

This is classic severe procrastinator behavior, and as bad as it is, it used to be worse. But I’m improving only about as quickly as a guitar player who takes six days off a week.

Not all areas of my life are as inefficient as my desk work though. When it comes to fitness I have become the opposite. For more than a year now I’ve been on top of my fitness programs, with no interruptions or start-overs. In the gym, I get my work done, with no compromises and no wasted time. I make real progress consistently and feel awesome about it.

I was talking this through with a fellow self-employee the other day, and wondered aloud, “Why can’t I be as good at my work-work as I am at my gym-work?”

Since then, this question—why does X go so well and Y so badly?—has become fascinating to me. Clearly something is seriously different about the way I approach each, the way I perceive the work.

You probably have a different X and Y than I do, but with a similar disparity in success at doing them. What part of your life do you handle well? What part are you perpetually botching?

It doesn’t seem like a comparison between lifting and working habits would yield any insights. Pressing a barbell over your head is nothing like outlining a book. But on a fundamental level, the two operations are the same: I have a list of stuff to do. At the gym I do it all. At my desk I don’t.

So I sat at the table with a cup of coffee and broke it all down. Why do I lift better than I work? Lots of reasons. Here are a few. 

1) It’s always clear what I expect of myself at the gym. The tasks on my gym to-do list are 100% unambiguous. There is no question about what three sets of five at 165 pounds is. It’s always obvious what I need to do now, when I’m finished it, and what to do after that. The standards are perfectly clear.

My desk work is intrinsically more complex—it will never be quite as well-defined as a rep scheme at the gym. But it’s clear that I need to take way more care in defining what needs to be done each day. “Work on book for two hours” is too ambiguous. You can’t feel “done” without clear finish lines.

2) Fitness work is tied directly to a timeframe (but so is every kind of work). I almost never miss workouts because fitness regimens require a certain amount of work in a certain timeframe. If you’re only doing six weeks’ worth of training in twelve weeks, you’re never going to reach your goals. There is a deal-breaking difference between whether I do my workouts as scheduled this week, or put them off until next week.

When it comes to fitness, this calendar-to-workload relationship is obvious, yet in my desk work I often convince myself that doing something tomorrow is just as good as doing it today. In reality it’s only half as good, because it took me two days instead of one. This difference is huge. For a business owner it’s the difference between earning X amount per year and earning twice that. But we procrastinators do this all the time, opting for tomorrow instead of today. Of course, half the time we don’t do it tomorrow either.

3) There’s nothing else to do at the gym but gym-work. This is another point that’s obvious in hindsight but easy to overlook in the moment. I’ve always dismissed the idea that I should close my web browser and put my phone away while I work; I figure there’s no need to be a slave driver. But my reluctance to shut down those things proves they distract me. At the gym I know I’m not going to do anything but lift, because there’s nothing there but weights.

It’s hilarious to imagine myself approaching bench-pressing like I approach work at home. “Oh I’ve done 2 of my 5 sets! I can easily finish this later but first let’s watch an episode of Adventure Time. Clearly I’ve earned an eleven-minute break.” (Which easily becomes a 77-minute break.)

A single workout with that mentality would take me fourteen hours. I keep my workdays loose like this with the idea that I’m “preserving my freedom”, but in reality this looseness reduces my freedom. It is absurd how many distractions I allow in my work environment.

4) I am always aware of why I’m lifting. Even though muscle growth takes time, lifting weight makes you feel strong in real-time. That keeps me aware of why I’m bothering to squat down, with a barbell on my back, twenty-five times. Being a habitual pessimist, I easily lose sight of the rewards and upsides of my desk work. I get completely absorbed with the pains and challenges associated with it. If all I thought about at the gym was how heavy the weight is, I wouldn’t lift it.

I know this isn’t an issue for everyone—go-getter types always seem to have their eyes on the prize. But I’m always focused on the pains and difficulties of work, so much that I often completely forget that there’s actually something to gain by doing it. I’m sure fellow extreme pessimists can relate.

The Bigger Principle

There are quite a few other reasons why my gym work is more efficient than my desk work, but you get the idea. Certain business habits suddenly look completely absurd when I picture myself using the same approach in the gym.

It’s the bigger principle that’s important though. Whenever you do one thing well and another thing poorly, you can learn why by picturing yourself doing X with your usual approach to Y, and vice-versa. Maybe you run your business like Jeff Bezos, but you run your household like Homer Simpson. What would your Jeff Bezos side do with your household? What would your Homer Simpson side do with your business?

If, for example, you’re good with money but bad with nutrition, where does your dollar-budgeting philosophy work that your calorie-budgeting approach doesn’t? Perhaps, out of principle, you would never avoid looking at your monthly balance sheet, yet you refuse to confront the reality of the numbers when it comes to calories in versus calories out.

Being aware of these differences doesn’t automatically resolve them, but it can remove much of the mystery about why you’re so bad at what you’re bad at. This kind of comparison can reveal the absurdity of habits that at first glance seem normal or not-that-bad to you.

Universal principles emerge. In my case, this quick comparison made it clear that serious work gets done when I a) define the work clearly, b) keep the rewards in mind, and c) stack it all together with minimal interruption, and I would bet that remains true whether I’m lifting, writing, or doing something else entirely. Again, those ideas may sound obvious, but they weren’t until I realized how crucial they are to my fitness success.

I can’t justify my relatively terrible desk behaviors on the grounds that gym work and desk work are apples and oranges. It’s true that they are different types of work, and I can’t make them the same. I can’t produce a finished book by doing enough chinups. But that doesn’t matter. It’s not the types of work that are being compared, it’s the approach and mentality towards them, and that’s the part we control.


Photo by Usodesita

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Zoe August 24, 2015 at 2:21 am

Well… yes, basically.
I can’t decide whether it’s a relief to see that someone else is having the same problem, even after two years of self-employment, or whether to despair because it’s been two months of “freedom” for me and I’m feeling a bit useless sometimes, in terms of how I get my work done (even though it does always get done, eventually)… and I was really hoping it would get better with time. I guess it really is up to us to define our goals better and to always keep them in mind.
Also I wanted to thank you, your blog played a large part in the journey that led me to quit my office job. :-)

Curtis Smale August 24, 2015 at 2:46 am

Wow, Zoe, I love the painting banner on your blog! Did you do that? I will have to start reading your blog, as well. Looks interesting. Have you written any books? :)

Zoe August 24, 2015 at 3:33 am

Hi Curtis, thanks!
I didn’t, I found it on a free banner website. I haven’t published any of my own books (just some ones I ghostwrote), for the moment, only a few poems and short stories.

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 8:40 am

I think it’s pretty common among solo entrepreneurs. You have to do everything on your own, and most of it is totally new. It’s different than working for a company, where there’s a structured approach that you can’t easily stray from, and standards you have to meet on a regular basis. When you’re on your own, it’s all you, and you have to be your own checks and balances.

Zoe August 24, 2015 at 9:27 am

Yeah. Also, when you’re on your own, work = money… I mean, when you’re in an office, it does too, but chances are you’ve got a fixed salary. You’ll get that as long as you show up and do enough work to keep ’em happy, but I find that never amounts to 7 or 8 hours of full-time productive work. It’s just not possible to stay concentrated for that long.
Whereas at home, the more work you choose to do, the more money you can potentially earn. But also, if you’ve finished your work or just can’t concentrate, you’re free to go do something else. It’s tough learning how to find the right balance.

Curtis Smale August 24, 2015 at 2:38 am

Hi David,

What a perfect ending to my day. Whing! I got the bell-alert on my iPad Air that you have completed your latest post. From your humble response to my last comment, I thought you were being almost falsely modest. Now I realize that maybe you were completely sincere. I think the thing to remember is that thinking and writing are creative pursuits. (I’m thinking just now of a young woman at work to whom I referred your last blog post, the Time Travel one I got effusive about. Well, she said that she doesn’t read blogs because they are all just -opinion-. As if only scientific or factual things have any validity!) Creative pursuits take time, thinking, conscious effort, and -unconscious- workings. So, realizing this, you should not be so hard on yourself, but simply realize that all of the “procrastinated time” is really a very important part of the process.

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 8:44 am

You’re right, stumbling is a part of progress and I stay aware of that most of the time. There’s something to be said for not stumbling in the same place too many times though :)

Shannon D. August 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm

“not stumbling in the same place too many times” Lol! Great reminder to keep focus! Love your writing!

gary August 24, 2015 at 4:19 am

Hi David

When i first started working from home i found it helped to get up and dress for work.

Putting on my work clothes helped to kick me into work gear.

After 10+ years I don’t do that anymore – the habits are formed.

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 8:47 am

That’s a good idea. I normally don’t wear pants until it’s time to leave the house. But proper clothes would help to find the down-to-business mentality quickly. Another idea is to rent a workspace outside the home, to further separate work-time from non-work-time.

uncephalized August 24, 2015 at 11:47 am

Or even simpler, to have a space in your house that is only for working. Maybe not quite as psychologically effective as actually going to an office but much cheaper.

Getting properly dressed as part of your morning ritual is a powerful piece of psychological voodoo to convince your brain that it is time to get shit done.

Free to Pursue August 26, 2015 at 7:42 am

I “rent” a workspace by buying coffee. When I’m at the coffee shop first thing in the AM, I’m virtually guaranteed 3 hrs of writing with little to no difficulty. When I’m at home it’s touch and go. Somehow, the noise and bustle of the coffee shop helps me hone in and concentrate. I easily get into flow. At home I feel compelled to get up and clean the kitchen, do laundry, read, “research”, run errands, etc. I think that having to “go to the gym” or “go to work” adds beneficial structure, as does pursuing these activities with a colleague.

Chris August 24, 2015 at 6:48 am

I was going to try to say that lifting is just so physical, but then I realized that I am a fantastic budgetter when it comes to money but not so much when it comes to food. I think the energy I need to spend for “not buying X” is a lot lower than “not eating X.”

It’s frustrating for me, but my wife and I have very different mindsets when it comes to controlling our eating habits. I’m very much of the “if it’s in the house I’ll eat it” mindset whereas my wife can have 2 dozen cookies that sit in our closet for months and only eat one every few days. If you figure out that one, let me know!

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 8:49 am

Yeah I’m definitely on your end of the cookie thing. I haven’t bought junk food with my groceries for years. There’s enough of it to fend off outside the house. One side-effect of this is on those occasions when I DO end up with cookies or cake, I eat it all as quickly as I can so I don’t have to have it in the house.

Rose August 24, 2015 at 7:09 am

I wanted to add, the X I am good at also depends on other people. When I look around me on the running track or at the art class, I see all those people doing just that, running or drawing. And since everyone else is doing what I should be doing, it’s much easier to dive back into it. I don’t want to disrupt other people either, but when I am alone in my office, I don’t have this kind of responsibility towards others.

Also, when I come home from running or drawing, I usually feel good and happy. I have progress to show for my efforts. I find it complicated to see progress in some aspects of desk-work.

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 8:53 am

Two good points. I have definitely noticed that other people doing something reinforce my motivation to do that thing. I found it much harder to work out at home than I do to work out in the gym, and at least part of that is because there are other people there lifting.

The immediate progress is huge too. Long-term rewards are often not enough. There needs to be a short-term component too. I definitely have this at or immediately after the gym. But I also feel great when I know I’ve put in a great day at the desk.

Randy August 24, 2015 at 8:16 am

Thank you for your posts. You struggle with the same problems I do and it is nice to read I am not alone. I find for myself a lot of it is a brain chemical thing. According to some neuro people, when we feel good about anything, all it is is elevated levels of serotonin and dopamine. Since my baseline state of these chemicals is on the low side, I will naturally gravitate toward things that elevate these chemicals. Doing things that reduce these chemicals produces an anxiety state which is very unconformable. This includes most desk work unfortunately.

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 8:55 am

Every time I do a procrastination-related post I get a lot of emails from people saying they’re glad to hear they’re not alone. I think it is a huge issue that we’re often afraid to talk about.

I suppose our brain chemicals play a huge role in what we find easy and difficult. But we can learn to find the gratification–which I guess translates to serotonin or dopamine–in things that are difficult at first. I know that the thought of lifting weights used to fill me with dread, but I’ve found a way to be attracted to it, even though it’s still hard work.

Jess August 24, 2015 at 9:04 am

I stopped procrastinating when I realised that I was taking up much more mental energy thinking about doing whatever it was I was avoiding! Now I just do what it is I need to do, and I feel so much more accomplished! In the end the task is never hard, I just made it complicated in my head if you know what I mean?

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 9:30 am

I know! It takes a huge effort to avoid effort. I think I just need to discover what it feels like not to, and I’ll wonder why I ever did. But understanding it intellectually isn’t enough, I have to experience it.

David August 25, 2015 at 1:44 pm

“understanding it intellectually isn’t enough, I have to experience it”

This is one of the most fascinating things I have learned about human nature (by observing myself, mainly). You could tell me about the merits of not procrastinating all day long, but until I actually *do stuff* instead of putting it off it will never sink in. Even knowing this about myself (how experience trumps rational comprehension) isn’t good enough, I have to experience it over and over again. It’s still a work in progress.

Barbara August 24, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Yes, Jess, makes sense. For me, I also find that my procrastination with work tasks also takes up/wastes my emotional energy too and can become incapacitating as anxiety sets in, between the rubbish conversations of my mental and un-examined emotional processes (me) sabotaging any work activity. Failure to perform aggravates this process. Have found spending a little time to name the crappy self talk, reframe it, and then sit down and chunk a task into very small manageable bits, helps me to move past procrastination.
I like the image of ‘now I am going to eat this elephant, one mouthful at a time’, and if I sense indigestion/resistance, I will consider I may have bitten off too much for this particular moment or allocated more time than I have the resources for
right now. Give myself heaps of permissions. eg I only have to do this for 3 minutes, then I can stop. Find I am frequently still doing this item 30 or so minutes later. While writing this, thought I do not have to use any of these strategies to engage myself with music or other activities of daily living, only with work that has money involved, but am realizing this is not so…..back to the drawing board.

Meena August 24, 2015 at 9:14 am

I’m the complete opposite with work and exercise. For exercise I just think about the downside, and have trouble appreciating the benefit. (I prefer to hide exercise within other activities, like transporting myself, socializing, or volunteering.)
With work, usually there’s enough potential benefit or clear structure to keep me going. Maybe it’s because I’m still newly self-employed, but I haven’t really found a downside to “work” as I do it now. Well, except I wish I was walking right now in the sun, rather than studying.
Improving my exercise regime will be my fall personal challenge this year. Hopefully I can figure out ways to get into a better routine like you have.

David Cain August 24, 2015 at 9:36 am

Luckily, I know that those feelings can change, because I used to be as averse to exercise as I was to work. I only saw how difficult it was, and it took a huge effort to get through it. But it changed when I started doing it out of the house (first with running, then boxing, then lifting). The new setup changed my aversion to an attraction, and now it’s hard to stop me from going to the gym. I am really looking forward to it today.

I suspect that the same thing needs to happen to work. I am hoping that a change in my approach to it will provide me with that sense of benefit you’re talking about, to the point where it’s easy to overcome the resistance to it.

Anyway, I’m interested to hear how you do with an exercise regimen. For me the most important factor was finding something that was fun/gratifying, which allowed me to do it long enough that the long-term benefits began to reinforce it.

Martin August 24, 2015 at 11:32 am

Wow, I never actually sat down to compare the two in my own life, but you really nailed it. It is funny how in the gym I am very ‘business-like’ with no fooling around whereas during my work day I allow distractions to interfere with my tasks on a regular basis.

Working out prior to arriving at the office has always kick started my day with greater focus, but I am still often prone to procrastinating on important tasks. Thanks for this timely article and very neat approach to comparing two facets of life which appear, at first hand, very separate, but which are actually quite comparable in essence.

David Cain August 25, 2015 at 8:30 am

My new motto is “everything is a dumbell”

Nelly August 24, 2015 at 11:35 am

Hi David,

I recently discovered your blog and have been voraciously devouring the bits of wisdom offered throughout.

I have always had an issue with procrastination at work, even when working in a fairly structured office environment. I think for me it’s mostly the boredom, lack of interest and working for the Man that makes my mind (and my fingers on the mouse) wander, which is inevitably followed by extreme feelings of guilt and subsequent attempts to make up for the wasted time by staying up working until 2 am… Which then drains my energy and turns me into a totally unproductive zombie the next day. It’s a vicious cycle. I like your strategies for keeping your mind in check and streamlining the work process..

By the way, a totally unrelated question that’s been bothering my anal-retentive inner child.. If you’re Canadian, how come you use American spelling in your posts? ;-)

David Cain August 25, 2015 at 8:33 am

Heh… good question. Most of my audience is American, and the Canadian spellings would throw off Americans more than vice-versa. But I also just prefer the American spellings. The extra “u” in “colour” doesn’t do anything for anybody. I think we should abandon them.

Nelly August 25, 2015 at 8:52 am

Ah.. makes sense! Now I can sleep in peace. :-) Greetings from Ontario!

Hélios August 24, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Hello from France,

Thanks for your posts I have pleasure to translate in french for my blog. Just two for now (Out of Sight is Not Out of Mind and Everything in its place finally and forever), but I just discovered your blog.
I like your pragmatic way of living.

Burak August 25, 2015 at 1:47 am

It’s as if 80% of the times you are writing about things I’m currently focused more on / interested in. Sometimes, I can’t help but think “somehow frequencies of the minds affect each other regardless of distance” :)

Thanks for the great reminder!

Cora Marandino August 25, 2015 at 10:12 am

timely read for me … some times we just need a good dose of common sense well thought out and well articulated … thanks. Btw, I m not self employed in the sense you are, but am retired and the basic principles you distilled out of your examination of procrastination apply to my situation, too … Plus since I am blessed with a retirement income that meets my basic needs, I don t have that incentive … But one can only do so much “nothing in particular” without starting to flounder … when I was newly retired people would ask “what do you do now that you are retired?”. My answer would be “I don t know, but it takes all day!”. That was fine for a while, but we all need a purpose … so now I am seeking out volunteer work … Guess I need external incentive to give structure and purpose to my day … I think writing is one of the most challenging disciplines there is … I have a couple of friends who are also self employed writers and their self discipline amazes me … one of them also writes a blog on the very topic of procrastination … David Rasch …

Tim August 25, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I understand the problems with writing…I still struggle with getting clear objective when I don’t have a particularly firm deadline involved. I’ve personally found having a daily word count goal more useful than time on those large scale writing projects. 500 words a day might not sound like much but it does add up. Time I found wasn’t helpful…it’s too vague in output (some days 500 words is done in 20 minutes…while others it takes an hour). Also I allow myself to work on what ever section I want at the start to just get going.

I second the idea having a dedicated space to work. I keep a small space downstairs that I made up to help me encourage myself to spend time down there. It’s sort of nice to have a computer specific setup to writing stuff. (You might want to consider a second device for play stuff that way the tablet is fun time while the computer is work time).

Good luck…I’m still having setbacks with my work, but all of the above is helping.

George Coghill August 26, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Great post. I’ve been slowly whittling away at my similar procrastination issues these past few years. A big help was the iProcrastinate podcast. Realizing my perfectionism was trying to do me a favor by perpetually pushing the completion of any task I care about into the future, I could avoid the crushing disappointment of having to realize I’d not met my unrealistic and impossible goals.

I too found fitness more easy to commit to than the creative stuff. I think a big factor was that I had low goals for the fitness stuff, and as you mentioned the tasks involved were specific and defined.

But the fact that I wasn’t placing any identity in the outcome of my fitness regimen — as opposed to the creative stuff where I was most definitely over-identifying with — helped to make it less daunting. The outcome of fitness was a separate unit. The creative stuff had/has too much “me” entangled in it.

George Coghill August 26, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Great post. I’ve been slowly whittling away at my similar procrastination issues these past few years. A big help was the iProcrastinate podcast. Realizing my perfectionism was trying to do me a favor by perpetually pushing the completion of any task I care about into the future, I could avoid the crushing disappointment of having to realize I’d not met my unrealistic and impossible goals.

I too found fitness more easy to commit to than the creative stuff. I think a big factor was that I had low goals for the fitness stuff, and as you mentioned the tasks involved were specific and defined.

But the fact that I wasn’t placing any identity in the outcome of my fitness regimen — as opposed to the creative stuff where I was most definitely over-identifying with — helped to make it less daunting. The outcome of fitness was a separate unit. The creative stuff had/has too much “me” entangled in it.

Someday Extraordinary August 27, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Hi David,

I just starting reading your post, so you may have covered this previously, but I’m sure you’ve done plenty of reading into the “deliberate practice” stuff of Malcolm Gladwell and Geoffrey Colvin? I’m also currently reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, which has a great discussion on quality and how caring drives your work product. It sounds like the things you care about most (the gym), you tend to do with the most care! However, “Motorcycle Maintenance” also discusses how that “caring” carries over to other areas of your life. Hopefully, that’s true!

Anyway, good write up!


Dan August 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Can’t take credit for this, but thought a commenter on another site I frequent put it wonderfully (which, as it were, is pretty apropos to the gym theme):

“We all have our crosses to bear. The trick is to not look at it as a cross at all, but as extreme cross-training. Everything shitty about you is an opportunity for self-improvement and actualization. And we all fail – constantly. That’s life. Gotta suck it up, otherwise, you might as well just go sit in the dark and post inane bullshit on the internet.”

As demonstrated here and so thoroughly in your piece, metaphors (especially extended metaphors and metaphorical thinking) are incredible tools in gaining insight into our seemingly unrelated (and intractable) problems/shortcomings. And it’s the re-contextualizing/re-framing so readily offered by them that allows for that all-important (and necessary) shift in “approach and mentality.” Aeon Magazine offered a great article on it somewhat recently:

See through words (or, How to design a metaphor)

Will close with a quote I just heard from philosopher/esotericist Manly P Hall, on the power of principles:

“We can corrupt uses, but we can never corrupt principles.”

Tripp August 27, 2015 at 7:35 pm

I believe it is a mistake to label things “good” and “bad”. Being is being. It is not good or bad.

Dan August 28, 2015 at 11:44 am

Well, yes, there is an inherent danger in affixing labels on things. Especially due to the added baggage of categorical inflexibility that is brought along for the ride. In other words, what’s bad is “bad!”, and we should ignore, avoid, and/or fight it at all costs. But, even on that superficial level, what’s “bad!” for me might be interpreted as good for another, so relative viewpoints can outright negate fixed designations.

Taking it a giant leap further, and to your point, we see the greater fluidity of what is “good” and “bad,” how it escapes our understanding/foresight and that we shouldn’t be quick to judge, and the wisdom/benefits of that Zen-like approach – it being best illustrated in a classic Taoist parable (as masterfully told here by Alan Watts):

Farmer Story

Now, before we get to that point, but on a similarly more practical/productive/constructive level (and what David is getting at in this essay), we can realize and look at the “bad” (or, that which we consider “bad”) in our own lives as a flashing signal/opportunity for growth. And they are generally in the areas of our greatest need. They are detections that tell us which weaknesses need rooting out, as it were. That sort of “every crisis is an opportunity” ancient Chinese secret.

In that way, all “bad” is more accurately “bad-good” (or, to follow in the steps of the inseparability of “spacetime,” it’s “badgood”). Just as ignorance is a prerequisite for knowledge, bad is a prerequisite for better. And we have to “try harder” at what we’re bad at, so the habits and discipline we develop to improve often become more ingrained and meaningful.

Along those same lines, there’s an emerging science on the idea of “post-traumatic growth” – as opposed to the more commonly believed/fixated notion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The term was coined in the last few decades, and its meant to encompass/describe where, rather than feeling and remaining broken/shattered/damaged/diminished after a traumatic event, an individual emerges from it stronger, enlarged, and more complete. Which, as it happens, is reported in well over 50% of those who experience some sort of major crisis (even if only perceived as major in their mind). People don’t ask for it, it feels like hell to go through, it’s ‘bad!’ in every sense of the word – but, in the end, they insist they would not change a thing. And its these “bad” events that force them to confront these things (and, fundamentally, aspects of themselves they didn’t realize needed confronting).

On the “opposite” end of the spectrum, becoming or being more naturally “good” at something can often lead to complacency – which, all too often, leads to laziness, stagnation, and arrogance. So, “good” is in a similar way good-bad.

But ultimately, yes, there is a sort of “is what it is”-ness to the nature of things. And even right here in the Now we find, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” – but, essays like David’s help in the breaking of the conceptual chains that lead down that path.

“The Way has never been divided up, speech has never been constant. It’s all because of ‘this’ [i.e. mental abstractions, constructs, labeling, etc…] that there are demarcations.”
– Chuang Tzu

Also, not to be pedantic, but calling something a ‘mistake’ is just another way of saying it’s ‘bad.’ ;)

Tripp August 30, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Many very constructive points here. Thank-you.

How to remove the unfavorable connotation of a mistake? Make more of them and celebrate them! This was MY error!! Another opportunity for growth and improvement!


Dan August 30, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Absolutely! And well said!

Nick August 28, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Funny, I was just thinking about this exact problem the other day. For years my writing business took precedence above all else, and I realized the other days that my fitness routine has crept into the lead in terms of being the most successful aspect of daily living. I suppose it’s good to revolve through focusing on different aspects of life, but while building a healthier body is important, it certainly doesn’t pay the bills — unless I’m selling an article on fitness, that is.

Brad August 29, 2015 at 1:27 am

I struggle with this a lot. I’ve only recently started using a very specific list of unambiguous work tasks to do for the week. The problem is, even when I have completed them all I can’t quite switch off. I feel the itch to keep doing more, when actually resting the mind would be better.

With the gym its outside my house. I go there, lift what needs to be lifted and then come home and leave it behind. I don’t feel any urge to do another set of push ups. But working from home means when I should be not working my mind is still plugged in to work. Next step might be to look for some office space.

Dan August 30, 2015 at 9:16 am

Just remembered a great talk from Tim Ferriss (4-Hour Work Week) that takes on the theme from a different angle:

Tim Ferriss shares how to master any skill by deconstructing it

Daniil September 1, 2015 at 9:59 am

Interesting point.
But I still wonder why I personally find it easier to concentrate working from home. Maybe it’s lower noise and upper comfort levels.

Hannah September 11, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I’m procrastinating right now by reading your wonderful blog. Sigh.

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