Myth of Productivity

My work of late has consisted of trying to develop a better attitude. And one thing holding me back is valuing the concept of grueling-work. “Why do that the easy way, when there’s a much harder way to do it!!!” See? That’s stupid. Yet that’s what my attitude boils down to: “Work harder, not smarter! And how dare you enjoy yourself!!!” That’s masochism, plain and simple.

I believed that frivolous activity was worth less than “productive” activity. Yet, I’ve noticed that the less “productive” I am, the easier life gets. It turns out that life is NOT a struggle unless YOU struggle against it. Productivity is a myth because you can’t actually produce anything of value. In other words, if everything’s pixels, ALL activity is frivolous.

In addition: either life gives it to you, or you don’t get it. Effort doesn’t guarantee outcomes i.e. planting seeds won’t always result in bountiful harvests. There’s a certain combination of conditions that must be met or else your fields won’t yield. You could work sun-up to sun-down and still get nothing. In order to receive what life provides, you have to play the game correctly.

In fact, “working hard” displays a fundamental misunderstanding of life. You’re assuming your tiny efforts amount to something significant. Yet you’re completely missing the point of how much life is doing for you while deluding yourself into believing YOU did it. But the most you can do is appreciatively accept what’s already provided.

Imagine you’re at a party. You walk over to the buffet-table and pile tons of food onto your plate. It gets so heavy that you’re starting to break a sweat. You struggle to maintain your balance as you find a seat — plus it’s a bit crowded so it takes a couple minutes. You sit down to eat and proceed to stuff yourself. Then you sit there gloating and boasting about how much effort and work you put-in to obtain and consume all that food. THAT is what patting yourself on the back for “all your hard work” is like. You simply partook of what was already there!! You did NOTHING.

So the better attitude is this: Thank you life for this amazing party. Wow, it really has everything I could want. There’s people to interact with, food to eat, chocolate cake especially, heck there’s even a pool to swim in! There’s tons of activities to keep me busy. I’m actually overwhelmed by the many choices. But don’t worry, I’ll try my hardest to have fun! I understand that my duty as a guest is to enjoy my time here. I also understand that I should focus on the activities I derive the most delight from. Thanks again!

Advertisements

Seven Years

Oh. Ha. Okay I think I get it. Today is the 7-year anniversary of the very first post on this blog. SEVEN YEARS!!! I’m not excited, I’m amazed at my ineptitude.

Instead of actually disciplining my mind, I’ve been writing about disciplining my mind. I mean yes, I’ve improved, but more by osmosis rather than direct effort — that seems terribly inefficient. Had I directly applied myself to the task of mental discipline, I probably would’ve had better results.

My friend was just saying to me: I’m procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do. And then it hit me: I’M procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do!! For SEVEN YEARS no less!!! I should really stop procrastinating and DO the work.

Like the Dhammapada says:

As a fletcher makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought. It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold-in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth; a tamed mind brings happiness. Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy, a wrongly-directed mind will do us greater mischief. Not a mother, not a father will do so much; a well-directed mind will do us greater service.

And so THAT’S what I should be doing with my time and effort: disciplining my mind. Therefore, I hereby declare by the powers vested in me by the state of consciousness, that I do solemnly swear to perform such tasks and fulfill said duties that directly lead to a disciplined mind. I shall henceforth engage in adequate activities that indubitably achieve the desired result of calm and steady thought. Furthermore, this pursuit will most assuredly provide receipts for ensured compliance.
— Faithfully and most ernestly yours, Rich.

Standing Guard

Do you agree that thoughts form the foundation of the life you experience?

Yes! Most assuredly!

And in order to have the best life possible, you must tend to your mental garden? Negative thoughts must be plucked like weeds and positive thoughts must be planted like seeds?

Of course! How else can the mind grow into a delightful space!?

So let me ask you this, how much time during the day do you spend at this task?

Uh, say wha now? Oh, um, a few minutes per day perhaps.

Ah, well with that, I believe we found the underlying reason as to why you can’t sleep at night. Because you already sleep all day! You’re constantly running on autopilot, shirking your gardening duties and letting everything in your mind run amok! There’s weeds everywhere!

Listen: to be “awakened” literally means to be awake and aware of what’s happening throughout the day. You can’t let yourself fall into autopilot all day long. You actually need to do some work to achieve a well-groomed mind. And that work is this: don’t allow negative thoughts to take root, pull them whenever you find them. You’ll have to regularly scan through your mental-garden to know they’re there.

I know it seems like a burden for you to put effort into something, but that’s the trade-off. You get a beautiful joy-filled garden if you cultivate and maintain it, whereas you get an overgrown litter-box if you allow it to go wild. You must remain present throughout the day and be aware of what’s going on in your mind. You can’t just “checkout” and let “whatever” happen.

You’re always like “blah blah, I don’t have any goals or purpose, blah”. THIS is your purpose!!! Garden! Actually DO IT! The message has been repeated before your very eyes ONE-THOUSAND TIMES over the course of your life. Now DO IT! There is no drawback to this. Yes it seems like “a lotta hassle” but the payoff is a thousand times better than not doing it. Just stay awake and aware throughout the day, that’s it!

Being Yourself

As per usual, I was listening to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. In this one, Oprah herself was talking to an audience. Being that this is a simulated world, I believe people like Oprah are high-level players that come in with an insane skill-level. My friend has a natural ability in games for instance, and it’s frustrating to play against her because she easily wins and achieves all the objectives. Whereas my gameplay-style is dogged determination despite insurmountable odds, along with a clumsy progression.

Hm, I guess that’s how I play in real-life too. But anyway, Oprah’s point was this: Be yourself and be rewarded. That was her formula for success i.e. being herself — and this world rewarded her for it. That sounds right to me. Take War Robots for example: if you use a fast-dash minimally-armored robot as a heavy-hitting bruiser, you’re going to get smashed. Whereas if you use a tank-like bot to snag beacons, you’re going to be too slow. Characters are designed with certain attributes that must match the selected task.

For example, when I imagine myself, I picture “Hulk Hogan” ready to rain-down a leg-drop on my much weaker opponent as the power of Hulkamania surges through my veins. Yet, this is an absurd characterization that isn’t even close to the truth. I clearly didn’t get the dossier that explained my character’s strengths and weaknesses (okay, I ignored it). But that’s dumb because it’s not my character. I’m NOT physically intimidating NOR charismatic NOR do I light-up capacity-crowds with my limitless energy.

It’s like when Oprah tried to be a monotone-sounding news-anchor, it just didn’t work, it wasn’t her. It turns out, I’m not designed to effortlessly steamroll my way through obstacles like a Mack Truck. Oops, my bad. Although maybe my character IS supposed to be so clueless that he doesn’t realize he’s a chihuahua yapping at a pack of Rocky Mountain wolves — perhaps for comedic effect. That’s why it’s hard to “be yourself”, you’re not always sure what aspects are the “real” you.

But I think the “real” you is usually located slightly below the frenetic and easily-frightened ego. Oftentimes it takes quiet reflection and the power of meditation to get there. And luckily, Oprah provided some advice. The tasks you should engage with are those that produce “flow”, they get you “in the zone”, they cause you to lose track of time yet you remain energized, they’re things you could do for hours. And if you do these things, you too will receive the rewards life has to offer. Whereas if you do something unbefitting to your character? Suffering is the only possible result.

So, what are some things I do in which I lose track of time? Hmm. Watching shows/videos. Playing video-games. Talking to my friend. Writing blog posts. Shopping. Toying around with tools/gadgets. Problem-solving. Having discussions/debates. Hm, is that me in a nutshell? Well that doesn’t seem powerful at all, no wonder I chose to think of myself as a “Hulk Hogan” type. But there’s my problem: a distorted definition of power. I didn’t want to be some nerd that got his lunch-money stolen, I wanted to be the biggest baddest dude in the ring.

Yet if I think about power today, it’s Elon Musk I envision, not the Hulkster. Modern heroes are the titans of technology. The coolest things aren’t flying-elbows delivered by muscular-physiques, but handheld computers used in self-driving cars. Though to be fair, when I was a kid in the 80s, the WWF Superstars were the biggest thing around — computers and technology were barely there. It seems like I missed the window. I guess I should’ve studied to be an engineer. I guess… I guess I failed to heed my calling….

“He’s down! Ladies and gentleman, this doesn’t look good! Here comes the ref to lift his arm and check for consciousness — oh no, it’s just flopping back down to the mat. The ref is starting the three-count. One! Two! WAIT! What’s this?! The arm is lifting!! Ladies and gentleman, there it is! He’s up!! This is impossible!! And it’s a throw into the ropes! BOOM! A clothesline and his opponent is down! WHAT!? It’s a flying leg-drop!! ONE! TWO! THREE!! Ding! Ding! Ding! Unbelievable!!!!”

Remember: my gameplay-style is dogged determination despite insurmountable odds, along with a clumsy progression. So this is just par for the course. I don’t take the easy routes. I mean, I try to, but they don’t work — so I keep at it until I wear-down every obstacle in my path. It’s the power of erosion. Sandpaper-Man, with the ability to eventually wear away even the most powerful opponent over a very long period of time through abrasiveness and grit. Rub, rub, and awaaay!

Narrative of Existence

You’re painting a picture with your thoughts, a narrative of existence. Tell me, how do you like it? Are you enjoying what you see? Hm, I sense an underlying unpleasantness in your response. Perhaps you’re unsatisfied with your work. Maybe you feel yourself unable to design a delightful experience. Maybe you’re resorting to the sensation of looming-doom to make the story seem more exciting. It’s a rookie move for sure.

Let me suggest some improvements. First, you’re perfectly capable of coming up with something pleasant AND entertaining. You don’t need “fear” or “pain” to feel alive — scare-tactics and cheap-thrills are the junk-food of storytelling. Characters don’t require fear or pain to feel motivated into action — love is enough. Wake up to a vibrant new day filled with creative potential, feel the vitality of life flowing through your body. As an artist, approach the canvas before you and select the brightest, most brilliant hues and apply them generously.

There’s no reason not to be enjoying this experience of existence. You’ve been haphazardly slapping on the gray tints and somber tones all this time. But let’s change that. Put those dour colors down. And as easy as that, they’ll dry up and you can cover them with colors that evoke merriment and contentment. As Willy Wonka sang: “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it.” If you think it’s just a song, it is. But if you think it’s more than that, it is.

Think of your imagination and your thoughts as the programming interface to life. What begins in the mind ends up in the external. It’s actually a pretty simple interface: think bad, see bad — think good, see good. That’s all there is to it. Potential content for your narrative comes from a constantly refreshing catalog of thoughts circulating through your mind — your job is to select only the items that evoke a delightful reaction. It’s just like shopping. You simply leave the unpleasant items on the shelf and wait till you see something you like, select it, and in that way you form the story you experience.

Premise of Pretend

You are fully within your abilities to reject this world and everything in it. You’ll suffer obviously, but it’s possible. So your job, is to simply accept this scenario as valid. Accept the simulation as actually happening. Buy into the premise it presents and have fun. Don’t overdue it though, don’t over-invest and act all crazy and super-serious.

Think of it this way. You’re a child meeting up with your friend and she starts pretending to be Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. She keeps calling you Bubblebee and telling you that you have to defeat Megatron and his evil Decepticons. But you’re like, “Huh!?” And she’s like “Come on Bubblebee!”. And you’re like, “I don’t want to play this, it’s dumb.” She’s obviously disappointed at your choice and you both sit there bored for the rest of the afternoon.

You could’ve just accepted her premise and played along, eventually having fun with the game-of-pretend. But no, you had to be a wet-blanket and ruin her good-time as well as your own. Great job, sport.

Or scenario two: you DO accept her premise but take it too far. You’re like, “Holy sh*t, Optimus!!! The Decepticons are everwhere!! They’re going to destroy us!!” And she’s like, “Whoa calm down dude, it’s just a game.” But you’re like, “A GAME?!! We’re about to die!!! Take cover!! Hide!!”.

You could’ve accepted her premise a bit more lightheartedly, and got into a groove that generated some entertainment for you both. But no, you had to turn the dial up to eleven and ruin everyone’s fun again. Great job, buckaroo.

So here’s the deal: yes you’re in a simulation that’s essentially one giant game of pretend. And just like a game of pretend, you have the ability to delve into your character — or not. It’s obviously in your best interest to get into character, or else you’ll be bored-to-tears while waiting for the game to end. But don’t take it too seriously either, it’s a game after-all, don’t freak out when you’re presented with surprising scenarios.

And remember this: just like any other game of pretend, you’re free to add your own ideas into it. You don’t have to live with the scenarios you’re initially presented with. You can morph them into scenes that suit your tastes. So if you’re not enjoying yourself, there are two things you need to check: how invested you are in the game (too much or not enough) — and whether you’re focusing on the parts you personally enjoy. Plus, helping playmates have a good time is a great way to pass the time too.

Realist Fantasy

So you want to live in the “real” world huh? Okay, let’s take a quick look at the “real” world then. In the real-world, you could die at any minute of the day due to accident, natural disaster, disease, organ failure, homicide, etc. But thanks to your knowledge and cunning, you’ve managed to survive on a daily basis despite the many dangers that surround. Congratulations, you are amazingly adept at survival. Unfortunately, the moment you let your guard down, you’re dead — and because of random-chance, there’s actually no way to protect against most of the situations that’ll kill you. Hopefully you’re feeling lucky.

That world is a recipe for anxiety. I know because I tried living in it for a few decades. It sucked. I was obviously living a lie too. The world is not a big-scary place in which you must fend for yourself or-else. In terms of life-skills, I’m ignorant as well as incompetent. I couldn’t fight my way out of a wet paper bag. I don’t have any survival skills — if pushed, I crumple. Yet here I am. Everything I believed about the “real” world is completely wrong. Not a little wrong, COMPLETELY wrong. It’s clear that I’ve been carried through life all this time — because if it were up to my own ability, I’d be long gone by now.

My advice to you is this: give up those dumb ideas about the “real” world. Save yourself the trouble of having to deal with anxiety for decades until you finally figure it out. This thing you’re experiencing is not an absolute reality, it’s more like a dream. You’ll be okay. And you know you’ll be okay because you’re here, despite your inability. A natural world demands the fittest specimens, quick reflexes, split-second death-defying decision-making, and constant vigilance — whereas this world… not so much. We’re all inexperienced novices to some extent.

Yes, it’s exciting to think you have to “struggle” and “survive” to make it through this world. But there are so many counter-examples to prove this isn’t true — it’s a silly thought. Think of life like a lazy-river in which you’re gently floating downstream. If you simply allow life to maintain your buoyancy, and you remain calm without struggling, you’ll easily drift with the current. Whereas if you fight the flow and thrash around like a madman, then yes, it will seem like you’re drowning. That’s not life’s doing, that’s your doing. If you refrain from freaking out, then things will go a lot smoother. From there, you can finally perceive actual reality and enjoy the ride.