theslightedge

Jimmy’s staring at election news, and I’m staring at this blank page. We’re so depressed about Trump, we’re barely talking about it. I feel like his election can only be a sign that the apocalypse is near. Maybe tomorrow morning this will seem like a major overstatement. I’m trying to focus on the thought that there have allegedly been a lot of times in American history when people felt doomed, yet they lived through it.

I don’t remember how I came across this book, “The Slight Edge.” I just want to get to the frog story that follows, that’s from the book, because it’s hopeful. But Olson’s premise is this:  you don’t have to be brilliant to get the things you want in life, you just need the slight edge. The slight edge is:  Simple productive actions repeated consistently over time. The little, seemingly undramatic, mundane choices you make every single day make all the difference when compounded over time. (I seriously don’t give a shit about any of this either–the world’s going to end!! Okay, wait for the frog story. There’s a LOT of weight being heaved onto the shoulders of the frog story! I hope it holds up.)

 

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Olson observes that people don’t consistently do the simple things (put away a little money, work out for 20 minutes, read a few pages of an inspiring book every day, choose a salad over a cheeseburger, etc.) for three reasons: 1) While these things are easy to do, they’re also easy not to do; 2) You don’t see any results at first; 3) They seem insignificant, like they don’t matter. But they do.

He includes a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do the thing, and you shall have the power.”

And now here’s the frog story:

IN THE PAIL

Two frogs left the safety of their swamp one day and ventured into a nearby farm to explore. Soon they found themselves in a dairy, where they found a large milk pail. Hopping into the pail, they found it was half filled with fresh cream.

The two little frogs were absolutely thrilled. They had never tasted anything so delicious! Soon their bellies were full. Feeling sleepy, they decided it was time to leave–and that’s when they realized they were in trouble.

They had no trouble hopping in. But how were they going to get out? The inside of the pail was too slippery to climb. And because they couldn’t reach the bottom and there was nothing for them to step on for traction, hopping to safety was out of the question, too. They were trapped.

Frantic, they began thrashing about, their feet scrabbling for a foothold on the elusive, slippery curve of the pail’s sides.

Finally, one frog cried out, “It’s no use. We’re doomed!”

“No,” the other frog gasped, “we can’t give up. When we were tadpoles, could we have dreamed that some day we would emerge from the water and hop about on land? Swim on, brother, and pray for a miracle!”

But the first frog only eyed his brother sadly. “There are no miracles in the life of a frog,” he croaked. “Farewell.” And he sank slowly out of sight.

The second frog refused to give up. He continued paddling in the same tiny circle, over and over, hoping against hope for a miracle. An hour later, he was still paddling in his futile little circle. He no longer even knew why. His brother’s dying words clutched at his thoughts as fatigue tugged at his tiny muscles. “Was my brother right?” he thought desperately. “Are there no miracles in the life of a frog?” Finally he could swim no more. With a whimper of anguish, he stopped paddling and let go, ready to face his fate…

Yet to his surprise, unlike his brother, the second frog did not sink. In fact, he stayed right where he was, as if suspended in midair. He stretched out a foot tentatively–and felt it touch something solid. He heaved a big sigh, said a silent farewell to his poor departed brother frog, then scrambled up onto the top of the big lump of butter he had just churned, hopped out of the pail and off toward his home in the swamp.

 

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What’s your attitude?

I think it’s sort of pathetic to consult psychics. That said, I consulted a psychic. Her name is Angel Eyedealism and I love her. She told me I should be “ebullient.” This was a year ago. I guess I wasn’t ready to hear it at that time. But recently I was listening to the recording I made of my consultation with her, and I was struck by this. Though I was fairly optimistic and positive, I was not actually ebullient (which is defined as cheerful and full of energy). My general attitude was more like “grim determination.” I decided that the difference between ebullience and grim determination is significant and that the trajectory for each will lead to significantly different destinations. So, my aim is to be ebullient. Sometimes, to get myself in the mood, I open my eyes super wide and smile, in a sort of crazed way, and say, “I’M EBULLIENT!!”

Curious to know what your current, prevailing attitude is. And where you expect it will lead you.

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Quotes from Seth Godin’s new book

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What do you care about enough to fix, or disrupt, or invent?

Don’t avert your eyes. Look at the opportunity.

It’s your turn to:  Ship. Speak up. Stand out. Build a following. Market a product. Make a connection. Solve an interesting problem. Write, sing, create, ask a question, launch a project, learn a new skill, help someone who needs you.

Looking for reassurance? It’s not here, and it wouldn’t do you any good if it were.

We’re capable of creating work that matters only if we’re willing to be uncomfortable while we do it.

We have to live with this paradox: It might work./It might not work.

If fear is able to keep us from showing up when it’s our turn, then fear has won the day and it will return again and again. Note the fear, welcome it if you can, but do what you should do.

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.

The person who fails the most, wins.

 

 

 

Why we have to be flogged into being productive

 

There are so many posts on the Internet exhorting us to be more productive, but the reason we’re not being productive is because of the stupid Internet. And we can’t stop to reflect on the irony because we have to get back to clicking on other stuff. Today, I clicked through a slideshow of famous couples who’ve stayed together “despite the scandals they’ve weathered.” Who deserves to be flogged? I do. Guess who I want to flog me? Celebrities Who Have Changed So Much You Won’t Recognize Them Now!

Before the Internet existed, there probably wasn’t nearly as much written about productivity. Probably the only people who really thought about productivity were CEOs and efficiency experts. When I think about what life was like before the Internet, I picture us sitting in our houses, staring into the middle distance, with nothing to do. No distractions, nothing stopping us from writing a novel or learning guitar or whatever. But probably we were mostly at the mall or playing tennis. Just doing ’80s activities. It seems like heaven compared to today, being tethered to our computers and phones.

Did I already tell you about how, in the early days of the Internet, I sat next to a 30-something guy on a plane who confessed he was in counseling for his addiction to being online? I remember looking at him and thinking, “That’s weird.” I couldn’t relate at all. I wonder where that guy is now. If he was already addicted back then, he must be a basket case now. Actually, no, he’s probably still way ahead of us–he is probably taking regular, self-imposed breaks from the Internet. Which I think we are all going to start doing, for real this time, any day now. Right after we check Facebook.

 

 

Make a list of 25 career goals

 

Do some soul searching and circle the 5 that are the highest priority. Just five.

Take a good hard look at the 20 goals you didn’t circle. These you avoid at all costs. They’re what distract you; they eat away time and energy, taking your eye from the goals that matter more.

 

— Advice attributed to Warren Buffett, from Angela Duckworth’s book, “GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”

How to get it done

 

Order the full-year “At-a-Glance” paper wall calendar from Amazon.

Hang it where you’ll see it daily.

Decide what action/activity you would most like to accomplish every day.

Make a big “X” on the calendar each day that you do it.

Try to create big chains of X’s.

I read somewhere that this is how Jerry Seinfeld makes himself write. Since hanging my calendar eight days ago, I’ve already written more than I had in the last two months. If you try it, let me know how it works out.

 

 

You’ve got a resistance problem and you don’t even know it

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There’s something you really want to do. You have some dream, some goal, some thing that you really, really, really want to do but haven’t yet done. You’re resisting it. And probably without even realizing it, you are doing all kinds of random stuff to feed this resistance. This book will awaken you to your resistance and give you courage to overcome it, so that you can bring your dreams to fruition.

Two choice quotes from the book to get you fired up:

“Have you heard this story: Woman learns she has cancer, six months to live. Within days she quits her job, resumes the dream of writing Tex-Mex songs she gave up to raise a family (or starts studying classical Greek, or moves to the inner city and devotes herself to tending babies with AIDS). Woman’s friends think she’s crazy; she herself has never been happier. There’s a postscript. Woman’s cancer goes into remission. … Is that what it takes? Do we have to stare death in the face to make us stand up and confront Resistance?”

“Look into your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.”

How to get organized once and for all

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The young, sweet-faced Japanese woman who wrote this book looks like she’d be a pushover, but she’s not. She does not accept your foregone conclusion that you’ll just hang onto “important” papers, sentimental items from school days, and even user manuals for electronics and gadgets, forever. She sure as shit doesn’t want to hear your excuses for keeping a drawer full of soy sauce packets and rubber bands. And she’s not into finding clever storage solutions or buying storage products. In fact, she says “storage experts are hoarders.” Oh snap. She believes peace, mental clarity, familial harmony, and even figuring out what you really want to do, all come from “tidying up.” Which it turns out is code for throwing away 3/4 of the crap that you may or may not realize is cluttering up your house. (Even if you think your house is relatively uncluttered, every room inevitably has at least a small amount of stuff piled in little stacks or hidden in closets and cabinets. And it needs to go. It’s bringing you down.) Specifically, Marie instructs you to physically handle each item and if it does not bring you a “thrill of pleasure” when you touch it, you should throw it out. It’s not unusual for her clients to discard 17 bags of stuff at a time (I think she said the record was 200 bags?). She also believes that tidying up should be a special, one-time event; she’s not into tackling it slowly and she’s not into your tailoring her method to suit some halfassed approach. Decluttering should be done in one go, and then you’re done forever. She says none of her clients backslide. Once you start discarding stuff and see how rewarding it is to live in an uncluttered environment, a “click” occurs, in which you discover what amount of stuff feels right (hint: it’s not much), and you never go back to your old ways.

Marie thinks there are only two reasons we can’t let go of stuff: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. Even if you were to hire her (she is famous in Japan and has a three-month waiting list), she doesn’t do the hard work for you. She makes you decide what to throw out, facing your belongings and, really, your life.

Interestingly, sales of her book took off when Japan had its last big earthquake. Evidently because many people had lost their belongings and they looked to her book for reassurance that we don’t need stuff—whether a billion photos from vacations, mementoes of a past love, etc.—to remember the good times and to be happy.

Marie believes that your real life begins after putting your house in order. Most people gain confidence in their decision-making ability, some drop excess weight, and many realize what they want to pursue next in life.

Following are “After” pics of ‘junk drawers’ and closets I’ve KonMari-ed (that’s what she calls her method). When Jimmy discovered he was missing some unnecessary, clutter-y item that I’d discarded, he said, “I don’t have my (such-and-such), because you read a book??”

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I don’t have a title or ending for this

Without intending to, I conducted an experiment for the past year or two. Basically what I’ve been doing is seeing if I could be happy not making another movie. Instead, I’ve made other things—paintings, food, some dresses, this website. I was hoping I could be happy doing other stuff because making a movie is hard, there’s a lot that can go wrong, and there are a few key reasons why independent filmmaking is currently, arguably, a foolish pursuit. But what I’ve found is that avoiding doing what you really want to do can be as painful as reaching for something that always seems just out of your grasp, which is how I view writing and making a movie: it’s like you’re never going to be smart enough or good enough to capture on paper, and then on film, what’s in your head.

I wish I had a good ending for this but I don’t.

See what I’m saying? It’s just like writing a movie—you know there’s a better, more perfect ending, but…

Anyway. When I turned a corner on this, when I realized how tired I was of avoiding writing a new script and decided I was just going to plunge ahead, despite it all, I felt like a big weight had been lifted off of me and I burst into tears.