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My hope is that you use these emails to practice reflection. Since 2011, I've spent countless hours reading, reflecting, and writing for my blog to craft these emails. They have remained (and will remain!) free and ad-free, with no hooks, nor guest posts. If what I create improves your life in any way, please support my efforts with a donation of $5/month or $50/year …that's less than $1 for each of these emails.

Below each section, the word "~ Original" is linked if you want to share a specific section. A link to this email as a web page can be found on the previous issues page.

Personal responsibility

I took personal, public responsibility. I apologized profusely and repeatedly. I did the best I could to make things right. And most important, I relearned a lesson I thought I already knew: Never compromise your integrity. It’s all you have.

~ Strauss Zelnick

~ Original Tagged Quotes, Strauss Zelnick



Only one week?

*sigh* It’s been one week of 2022 and despite my best efforts, I’ve already got far to much on my to-should pile. Sometimes it’s fun to grab a biggish goal and just hard-charge up that hill. Sometimes though it’s wiser to just move something to the to-don’t list. But there is an immense disconnect between what I can get done in a day, and where I feel I’ve gotten enough done at the end of the day. It’s as if I’m running from something… or desperately towards something. memento mori

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~ Original Tagged Memento Mori, Planning



Evict it

The great majority of that which gives you angst never happens, so you must evict it. Don’t let it live rent-free in your brain.

~ Peter Guber

~ Original Tagged Peter Guber, Quotes



Fools rush in

Often I play the fool when I rush in to help. My bias to action, combines with my curiosity-driven desire to resolve problems—or at least understand what went wrong—and in I rush. “Don’t just stand there. Do something!” If unchecked, I’ll be found, still lecturing on obscure tech and sharing crazy stories, and hour later.

I’m always trying to rein in that behavior. “Don’t just do something! Stand there.”

What’s the simplest thing that could possibly work? Is a solution actually being asked for, or am I simply imagining I could be useful?

There are endless problems I will never even know about. What, actually, is wrong with leaving alone a few problems I do know about?

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~ Original Tagged Mental bias, Self-improvement



Wait to respond

I have often regretted acting impulsively when I am feeling angry or frustrated. Now, when I feel that familiar urge to respond defensively or say things I don’t really mean or bang out a wounded response via email or text, I wait. I force myself to breath, take a step back, and wait to respond. Just an hour or two or an overnight retreat makes a world of difference. And if all else fails, I try to obey this message I got in a fortune cookie: Avoid compulsively making things worse.

~ Debbie Millman

~ Original Tagged Debbie Millman, Quotes



Where to start

I had a nice dinner conversation the other day wherein someone asked me to send them more information about Stoicism. I went looking for the perfect blog post to share, and couldn’t find one. So this is now it. ;)

There’s like a thousand things I could share. Don’t get snowed under by this stuff; Don’t try to read/do all of this…

The book I suggest starting with is The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. This is a good book to just pick up each morning, spend 2 minutes reading, and move on.

If you want to read something which specifically explains Stoicism, I recommend A Guide to the Good Life: The ancient art of Stoic joy by W Irvine. This is an easy read that covers what the ancient Stoics wrote, and how their philosophy can be adapted to modern times.

There’s a good podcast interview with Irvine on a podcast called Philosophy Bites. It’s short episodes (~half hour) where the host and a guest talk about one topic in Philosophy. (There are ~500 episodes.) Irvine’s episode is a great introduction to what is Stoicism.

http://philosophybites.com/2015/06/william-b-irvine-on-living-stoically.html

If you want to read blog posts, my site has a tag for Stoicism. The posts are going to be widely varied, and have lots of links to other things, (as well as all my posts being tagged to lead to other things within my blog.)

You can also dive into some people who sometimes write explicitly about Stoicism but whose work is just generally good to read. Here are links to the corresponding tags on my web site. You can skim/scroll/page through my blog posts to find an interesting place to jump into these other spaces…

David Cain writes a web site, Raptitude.

Leo Babauta writes a web site, Zen Habits.

Enjoy!

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~ Original Tagged David Cain, Leo Babauta, Philosophy Bites, Ryan Holiday, Stoicism, William Irvine



Slowly

Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.

~ Mae West

~ Original Tagged Mae West, Quotes



The beginning

Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.

~ Fred Rogers

~ Original Tagged Fred Rogers, Quotes



Dashes

I find that working in dashes is a spectacular way to make incremental progress on something. My favorite these days is a ~40-minute dash using a large sand timer. My dashes always run a few minutes over, and then accounting for time after the dash—to deal with whatever has come up—these dashes effectively consume an hour of my time. Reading, listening to podcasts I’ve curated for myself, writing, or working on outreach to invite people onto a podcast show, are all things which will never be finished. They’re perfect never-ending projects to be tackled in dashes.

I’ve been using health tracking grids, which I keep directly in my personal journals, and a tasks and project management program called OmniFocus, for over a decade. I have a long running drive to track small steps that lead to big changes or big goals. For a specific type of step, or task if you prefer, this has consistently failed miserably.

The problem is that progress on such projects doesn’t have to be do-it-every-day perfect. I simply need to do it often enough. If I have a row in my health grid, it stresses me out if I go days without ticking it off. The same happens in my tasks and projects software; A recurring to-do item for “reading” just sits there with an aging “was due on” date, adding stress. When January rolled around this year, I removed all my forever-projects from both my health tracking grid, and my tasks and projects software. Perfection, in those two systems, is now something that I can actually achieve.

Now, what to do with the never-ending projects? I spent some time whipping up a spreadsheet of “don’t break the chain” style tracking. (This is not a new idea, I’m aware.) Here are three sheets, for three different groupings of never-ending projects: “Writing” for three different publication places; “Community Building” efforts in three different contexts; and “Reading/Listening” in three different mediums. (On one, I was drawing empty squares, but decided simple dots were fine for “didn’t do.”) I like the filled in panache of which ones are done… they are really done.

Most days, I set myself a rough list of tasks with any things at specific times marked as well, in a small notebook. The tiny size of the notebook helps remind me to not plan too much for each day. It’s an eternal struggle of course. I do not look at these sheets when I’m planning a day. I know what needs to be done—all 9 of these dashes are never-ending projects which I want to see move forward.

“I need to write some blog posts today…” goes on my day’s plan, and that’s going to be one dash, and blog writing is often much longer than 40-minutes. “I’m in an accountability session that’s part of Movers Mindset, and I’m being held accountable to write every day for that…” goes on my day’s plan as a dash. And some other things get added to my day’s plan. Then as my day goes on, I might spontaneously do some reading, or go for a walk and listen to some podcasts. At the end of the day, (or the next morning,) I pick up these sheets from where they site out of my sight and I fill the day in.

Several lessons are being taught me. 9 freakin’ dashes in a day is literally not possible; the most I’ve done is 5 so far. 2+ is the average, and 3 feels like it could really work. It’s interesting that 3 is the number, right? How often do we hear to pick no more than 3 “big rocks” to put into each day? It’s also really clear where my commitment actually falls; That “plan/outline” dash is not just a dash. I start by planning within an enormous outline document which contains all my plans for two entirely different and very large projects. And then I often spend an hour or three working on things from that plan. I should be able to get through that entire plan, and then retire that “project” from the dashes tracking.

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~ Original Tagged OmniFocus, Planning, Sand timers



Listen to the answer

Always ask: What am I missing?
…and listen to the answer.

~ Strauss Zelnick

~ Original Tagged Perspective, Quotes, Strauss Zelnick



Note to self

It never ceases to amaze me how strong is the sense of urgency to dive into doing things.

…but, oh, it is sooo nice to sit still, in the quiet, pre-dawn, with a bunch of cool, (in my opinion of course,) projects.

How cool would it be, if ever day I eliminated one thing? one app, one habit (or an addictive behavior rejected), one item of clothing, one responsibility, one random thing from the myriad of things…

Choose wisely.

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~ Original Tagged Choose wisely, Yearly touch phrases



Fear

Don’t let the weight of fear weigh down the joy of curiosity. Fear is really false evidence appearing real.

~ Peter Guber

~ Original Tagged Quotes



Slip addresses with a “/” in them

Sometimes some small little niggling piece-of-sand-in-my-oyster gets resolved, and all is right in the world. This is one of those cases. This is a tiny, but irrelevant if you don’t have a slipbox, little thing that was bothering me…

Crash-course/reminder:

  • Every “slip” (which for my slipbox is a 3×5 card, but one could use anything) has a single address.
  • If a slip’s address is “address31” (that is NOT actually an address) it must be unique, because I’m going to note that address on other slips, as a way of saying “see also the slip at address31”.
  • There are two competing needs: The need to be able to infinitely insert slips between existing slips, and the fact that one cannot know the structure of the final assembly of slips. (Both because the assembly is never technically finished, and because you don’t know what you’ll assemble.)
  • The solution is a hierarchic address system. The address of my first slip is, literally, “1” then “2” then “3”. When I need a slip between 2 and 3, I go “down” a level: The address “2a” is between 2 and 3. I have slips with address like 4a800 — literally the 800th slip between 4a and 4b. I also have addresses like 4c1fi.

“4c1fi” is interesting. “4” is my commonplace book. “4c” is for slipbox indices. “4c1” is for people. (There’s a 4c2 for themes, like “farming” — I just stuck my finger in there now, and was surprised to find “farming”.) But what is going on with that “fi” part?

I mentioned above that “4a800” is the 800th slip under “4a”. Does that mean “4c1fy” is the fy-th slip between “4c1” and “4c2”? Yes, sort of.

Sorry, did I lose you with “counting with letters?” On the slip addresses, I’m alternating letters and numbers as the addresses go down in layers. So in the letter-based levels of an address, I’m using: a, b, c, d, e … y, z, aa, ab, ac, ad, … fg, fh, and finally fi. This is counting in base-26, using roman letters as the glyphs. “fi” is 159 in the more common base-10. So is “4c1fi” the 159th slip between “4c1” and “4c2”? Yes, sort of. It’s actually about the 20th slip between “4c1” and “4c2”.

There’s no reason I have to use all the addresses. Sometimes I want to pack some meaning into the address itself. That’s what’s going on with the slips under “4c1”. That “fi” in the address tells me the card contains {people whose name,} (that much I know, because I know “4c1” is an index of people,) starts with an “F” and whose next vowel is an “i”. That sounds nuts, I know. Let it go for today, because I’m about to get to the point of my title about the “/” in addresses.

Suppose I want to have the address on a slip tell me something, like a date?

Slips have a date on them— the date I created the slip and put it in the box. But what if I want to see, on the slip for farming (!) a reference to another slip… and I want to know something interesting about that referenced slip? What if I wanted to put the date in the slip address? October 4, 2021, for example, could be written as “211004”. (I’ll be long dead before 991231 rolls over to 000101 in the year 2100.)

One day, I decided to keep a slip for every recorded conversation I’ve done. That’s another blog post. That happened to be slip “3”. The slips under “3”—the ones for each recording—would then be “3a”, “3b”, “3c” and so on. But I wanted to somehow put “211004” in the address. :(

That’s what the slash if for.

Farming has a reference to “3/211004b” because “3211004b” would suggest I have 3+ million top-level slips. The slash makes it clear the address is “3”, then down a level to “211004”. (Then down a level to “b”, because this was the second recording on that day.)

So, I randomly grabbed “4c2fa”, which I discovered has “farming” on it, and which mentions the {second audio recording I made on Oct 4, 2021} (I can see that from “3/211004b”. flip flip flip Ah, yes, I now remember this conversation with Kate

Apertif: Here’s one way the slipbox grows. I was looking at the “4c2fa” card with “farming” on it, and another conversation popped into my head… with Chris Moran. There’s a slip for that recording — flip flip flip find Moran, who I can tell would be on “4c1mo” just based on his name, that mentions “3/181125a”, and I can see without even looking at that slip, that’s a recording from November 2018. And I just added “3/181125a” to the slip with “farming.”

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~ Original Tagged Slipbox



Busy

Of the many, many excuses people use to rationalize why they can’t do something, the excuse, “I am too busy,” is not only the most inauthentic, it is also the laziest. I don’t believe in, “too busy.” Busy is a decision. We do things we want to do, period. If we say we are too busy, it is shorthand for, “not important enough.” It means you would rather be doing something else that you consider more important.

~ Debbie Millman

~ Original Tagged Debbie Millman, Quotes



Knowledge of oneself

To resist the influence of others, knowledge of oneself is most important.

~ “Teal’c”

~ Original Tagged Quotes, Teal'c



Brain-slipbox alignment

A faithful reader hit reply recently and asked…

How do you get your brain to be consistent with your slipbox? I’m thinking it would be an excellent thing to do/have, but I also know that if I was filing thoughts under a tab where I thought it should go, there’s a good chance that when I look for it later, a different tab is where I’m going to think it should be.

The short answer is: I don’t get them consistent; I don’t actually want them to be consistent. That’s not what the slipbox is for.

And then a two-part longer answer:

First: It is vastly better than my brain at keeping track of things. For example, if I have a name, I can find entry points into the slipbox by using the index of people. That’s at “4c1”. “4” is the common place book. “4c” is slipbox indices. “4c1” is for people. It’s a visually easy to spot section of the cards though. I use 3×5 tabbed dividers to find the main letters. Grabbing a random card— “4c1lo” (that’s four-C-one-L-O) has people whose last name starts with “L” then first vowel of “O”. The card has “London, John”, “London, Jack”, “Lombardi, Vince”, “Loomis, Carol”. In this case names that actually start “LO…” but that is not usually the situation. Next to “Low, Steven” is a reference “3/211027a”  … and I know what the “3” section of the slipbox is: recorded conversations. So that’s a conversation I had with the person on 21-10-07. To summarize: Given any name, I can find them in the slipbox; or I can tell they’re not in the slipbox. In other situations, I can go into the box: “what were my notes on that book?” I can find books (digital, physical, essays and papers too) are in the “2” section of the slipbox.

Second: The slipbox is not meant ONLY to be a card catalog system. It’s not ONLY a giant index of things. It’s primary goal is to have a conversation with the entire collection [whatever I’ve put in the slipbox so far] of my thinking. It’s not a database of bits of information (“Harrisburd is the capital of Pennsylvania”) but rather a database of thoughts about things.

I admit it’s all very obtuse. After a year of fiddling with it, I’m convinced that it’s adding value to my life, but I still find it very hard to explain. One parting thought from a book about note taking is that one needs a context and system within which to think. Not a strict plan for how to think. The context and the system need to be as UNstructured as possible to enable the flexible thinking.

Finally, there’s a tag for all the slipbox posts, that might yield additional breadcrumbs if you flip through them, https://constantine.name/tag/slipbox/

Hope that helps :)

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~ Original Tagged Knowledge systems, Slipbox




 






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