Random Notes

The public notebook of writer and essayist Scott Nesbitt

Many times, you find it in the places you least expect. A sunset or a view. A uniquely designed building. A finely-crafted sentence. A lone flower growing in a vacant lot. A genuine smile.

Beauty can stick with us throughout our lives. Or, it could be something fleeting that brightens our moods for a few moments.

We all have things that we want to achieve in our careers. There are things we want to do in life. But most of us don't achieve all of that. Not even close.

There's nothing wrong with that.

In our hyper-competitive world, it seems that anyone who hasn't made millions on an IPO, hasn't done everything on their bucket list, hasn't mastered 42 skills or six languages by the time they're 30 is deemed a failure. It's a sad commentary on life today.

But it's OK not to achieve everything. It doesn't mean you didn't try. Life is funny. Things get in the way. Family, health, a career, contentment. There are curve balls a plenty thrown our way, numerous obstacles dropped in our paths. There are only so many hours in the day, so many days in the year. It's not surprise that most of us don't achieve everything we aspire to.

Look closely at all those uber-competitive people out there. Have all of them achieved everything? You can be sure that there's at least one aspect of their lives lacking.

Regardless, do you want to spend all your your waking hours working? Do you want to be constantly glued to your smartphone or your laptop? Or do you want more balance in your life?

I hope you'd choose the latter.

And what about not achieving everything? Don't stress about it. Remember that life is meant to be lived, not just filled with a constant stream or work or with dubious experiences. Instead, try to achieve the most important goals in your life. Strive for balance.

Try to spend your life living and not at the assembly line of productivity and career. You might not achieve everything, but you'll definitely have a life worth living.

We're living in a culture where we need to be connected. Always. We're constantly glancing at the little screens we carry with us. We constantly tweet, stream, check in.

We're overcome with an anxiety over missing out. We need to bask in the glow of our smartphones, tablets, monitors 24/7. Or so it seems.

But do we really need to? Are any going to miss something monumentally important? Is something life changing going to happen if we avert our gazes for a few minutes (or longer)? Probably not.

But few of us don't try to turn off. We stay connected. We lose out on the power and joys of turning off. We don't spend enough time looking at the world around us, which is far bigger and more interesting than that four or five inch screen we carry around.

Turning off gives you distance. It lets you gain a bit of perspective. It clears your mind. It eases your anxiety.

When you go back to the digital world after a period of turning off, you're fresher. You're more focused. You appreciate what's around you more.

You realize there's more to life than being connected. That the stream of information you wade into isn't the be all, end all of your existence. You learn to be the rock in the middle of the stream, around which the information flows.

Turning off isn't a rejection of the modern world. It's not a backlash against technology. It's you affirming that while technology has a place in your life, it's not the most important part of that life.

Turning off is you realizing that maybe, just maybe, you can find some sort of balance. And isn't that what living is all about?

Some interesting posts I've discovered in these parts over the last while:

It's as old as ... well, you can come up with your own metaphor. Someone touting their way of doing things as being the best way or the only way to do something.

Often, their saying that to sell a product or a service. Sometimes, though, they're convinced that it really is their way or the highway. The web seems to be packed with those people.

Sadly, that approach appeals to a majority of people. Many of whom should know better.

The problem isn't the people pushing a method or a product. The problem is that folks are looking for a one-size-fits-all solution to what they need to do. They want all the answers in a neat little package.

That expectation, that desire doesn't take into account individual variations. Variations like people with different needs, different circumstance, different abilities, different ways of learning, and more.

Whether you're learning a language, getting fit, building a tiny house, writing a book, learning to code, cooking dinner, or anything there's one universal truth: there's no one way to do everything. Period.

Do what works for you. Don't be afraid to tweak the way in which you do things. Don't be afraid to incorporate new techniques or ideas. But don't feel obliged to shoehorn your way of doing things into someone else's system. In the end, it's probably not worth the time or effort.

A few years ago, a younger friend and I were discussing a trip I took ... well, quite a few years ago. That person hadn't travelled much, and said that the time I'd spent in Japan (and travelling elsewhere) must have been an amazing and unique experience.

I replied that those journeys had been interesting. But amazing and unique? Hardly. So many people had done what I'd done (and sometimes more) that my experiences seemed a bit generic.

Then it struck me out of nowhere. I realized at that moment that I hadn't really appreciated my experiences as much as I should have at the time. They were amazing and unique, in that the particular experiences were mine and mine alone. They were different from those of other people.

Read more...

Humans have an amazing ability for deception. Often, that ability for deception gets turned upon ourselves. To our failings. To our weaknesses.

We fool ourselves into believing that we're better or more skilled at something that we really are. We fool ourselves into thinking there's nothing wrong with our lives or the way that we work. We fool ourselves into believing that the blame for our problems lies elsewhere.

If you're not improving, if you're not moving forward then you need to look in the mirror. You need to accept responsibility for who you are and what's happening to you.

You need to stop fooling yourself.

Once you do that, once you take a cold, hard, and objective (or objective as possible) look at what the problem or problems that you face are. Then you can take steps to analyze those problems and come up with a plan to solve them.

It's never an easy fix. You might need help. Unless you take the first step, self deception will retain its grip on you and you'll keep spinning your wheels.

Never.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your writing will never be perfect. Whatever perfect means when it comes to writing.

Why? Perfection is impossible. Full stop. So stop arguing with me, kids.

It's rare for what you write to come out the way you originally envisioned it. There will always be deviations, deficiencies, small flaws due to deadline pressures or your inexperience or any number of other factors.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Just as jewelers don't reject diamonds with flaws, you shouldn't stress about flawed writing.

Don't let the demon of perfectionism hold you back. If you keep waiting to submit or publish your writing in the vain hope of making it perfect, you'll never submit or publish anything. If you let perfectionism paralysis take hold, you'll never finish writing anything.

Writing and rewriting in an endless cycle, trying to make your work perfect, will lead you to never finishing what you're trying to write. It could reach a point where perfectionism paralysis stops you from starting anything.

That's no way to improve your writing. That's no way to pick up the skills and experience you that you want to pick up.

Instead, make what you write as good as you can get it. Then, click Send or click the Publish button. Yes, there will be people who will heap criticism on you and what you've written — some of that criticism could be quite cruel or personal. But you might also get some positive feedback, which will help you improve and grow.

If you're ever on the fence, ask yourself this question: What's the worst that could happen if I submit or publish my writing? Chances are you won't become a social pariah or be branded an abject failure. Rejection or criticism might be setbacks, but they're setbacks you can, and should, learn from.

Contrary to what a few people might tell you, I'm all for people trying to learn more and improve themselves.

My view of self improvement and continuous education is this:

  • Do it if it will truly benefit you in some way and you're not just jumping on a bandwagon or following a trend.
  • Keep it up only if you enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, what you're doing will become a chore and you won't be engaged and won't work at it with the intensity you started with.
  • Jump in because you want to, not because some expert or guru says you should.

Take control of your learning. Take control of your development. Go with your gut and your interests. Don't be afraid to move on if you find something's not right for you, that you're not making progress, or if you've learned everything that you needed to learn. And definitely don' shy away from learning something because it's not practical.

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