Absolutism—Yikes!

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Absolutism: another one of those cancerous temptresses. Just the other day I wrote a piece about Donnie Trump’s tweet concerning flag burning (he suggested jail time or revocation of US citizenship for flag burners). The tone of my piece could probably most aptly be described as being absolutist. I took the line that there were no two ways of looking at it, that if you were a true defender of freedom, you must defend flag burners (or at least their freedom to burn the flag) and not our Führer-Elect’s asinine despotism.

I couldn’t help myself. But I’m writing this to warn you (and me) against absolutism in all its forms. If the human race proceeds as if answers to certain questions have been irrevocably decided—NEXT!—we’re doomed to fail. This is one of my chief qualms with religion. It insults my intelligence when you tell me that the question of creation has been answered, and nothing good can come of questioning it. I’m supposed to just stomach it, as someone who wants to see the human race progress, when someone intones, “Some questions just don’t have answers.”

Back to the point, absolutism is dangerous and sinister. There’s a lesson I learned from my main man Milton Friedman, and it has nothing whatever to do with politics or economics. He said to always consider the alternative that there are alternatives you haven’t considered. Absolutism doesn’t allow for this kind of rational reasonableness. But it’s a lesson I remind myself of whenever I’m tempted toward the A Word. So should you. A human race voided of absolutism is one that’s more empathetic, inquisitive, connected, and, one has to assumed, enlightened.

Some of my language against absolutism sounds sort of absolutist, doesn’t it? The difference is I welcome criticism and correction. Absolutism and its adherents welcome neither of these. I’m open to the idea that perhaps absolutism actually is good for the human race, but I think you’d have a really hard time getting people to accept it. We’re naturally curious beings. Asking questions and finding answers is one of the great joys of my life, and I absolutely don’t want anyone trying to take that from me.

 

Falling Behind

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It all gets to be too much sometimes, and we fall behind. In school maybe, or at work, or in our personal lives, falling behind is a part of life unfortunately. To err is human.

A vicious cycle consumes me. Perfectionism leads to a crippling fear of getting it wrong, leads to not doing it, leads to regret, leads to the feeling that it’s too late to catch up. This is a tough hurdle to clear, and I still snag my back shoe on it and stumble from time to time.

Maybe some people can succeed being perfectionists—Steve Jobs, famously. That doesn’t mean that those people, or any other successful person, achieved their success through inactivity. Doing it is the only way to achieve success. More is lost on indecision than wrong decision. I learned that from Tony Soprano.

There’s also a logical conundrum for which perfectionists have to answer. Assuming that you can’t start out being perfect, how do you mean to get from conception to perfection? Presumably by trial and error. If there’s another way to do it, I’m not aware what it is. Even if the trial and error process is done entirely in your head, it is still done. So why am I afraid to pass by the imperfect iterations of my vision on my way to perfection? I don’t know.

The one part of my vicious cycle that is most demonstrably false is the part about it being too late to catch up. It’s never too late. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. I think perfectionism is just another in a long line of excuses I use to let myself off the hook too easily. The only beneficial way to proceed is to realize you fucked up, own it, and keep on truckin’.

My college experience was wrought with mediocrity because of the harmful perfectionism that exists in my mind. It’s something I fight against constantly. I’ll only respect myself as a writer, entrepreneur, philosopher, whatever else, as I get better; the only way to get better is to practice. Speaking of self-respect, I sure as hell don’t respect myself when I allow myself to fall victim yet again to the cycle and end up falling behind.

I ask myself questions to remind myself how the world works. What if John Lennon hadn’t picked up a guitar because he was afraid he wouldn’t be very good at it? Thomas Edison? Hemingway? A million others.

Falling behind is fine. Wallowing, stubbornness, immaturity—staying behind? Not fine. Perfectionism is a great mindset to have only when it manifests as a mental and emotional funnel of productivity. More often than not, in my experience at least, perfectionism manifests more as a mental and emotional vacuum of productivity. Perhaps perfectionism is like a cancer. It infects us and spreads and ruins us and there is not yet a comprehensive cure. Doing it is the chemotherapy to the cancer that is my perfectionism. I’ve got to always bear this in mind.

I was meant to post a blog every day of December, and I made it only a few days before I missed a post. I went to a hockey game and completely forgot about posting. My instincts tell me to pinch my mental nipples, to bite my mental tongue and iron my mental hands to punish myself. But I’m not gonna do that. I’m going to dust myself off and get back on track. I’ll see you at the finish line.

 

Committing is Tough

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Do you like my whiny title? How millennial of me, right?

Committing is tough for me and lots of others. The toughest. Maybe it’s the fear of failing to follow through that leads to our shying away from commitment. Maybe it stems from emotional claustrophobia. Everyone is a little bit different.

I really don’t like commitment. But I never get anything done without it. More honestly, the amount of stuff I get done when I don’t commit pales in comparison to the amount of stuff I get done when I do. Still, the hate and the fear are still always there for me.

How to get over our aversion to commitment?

Baby Steps – have you ever seen What About Bob? In that film Bill Murray plays a man, Bob, with all sorts of mental problems. He can hardly move around for one of his phobias acting up. His doctor tells him to take baby steps. Bob no longer has to worry about making it downtown for his appointment, he only needs to worry about getting to the door, and then to the end of the hallway, and then the elevator, and then the lobby, then into a cab. Baby steps. The difficulty we have committing might just be alleviated if we employ the same method as Bob. Smaller commitments are no doubt easier to stomach than gigantic ones. You may still hate committing, but you’ll hate it a lot less when you break your commitments up into baby steps. At least, it’s worked for me (and Bob).

Practice – I feel slightly foolish just writing this one. But, like Batman, one effective method to overcome our fears is to immerse ourselves in them. Throw yourself into uncomfortable situations. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot more about yourself, which is always a good thing. Make a small commitment and stick to it. You’ll feel good about yourself. You’ll realize that you didn’t miss out on much because you made the commitment or even because you followed through. The more you commit, the more you’ll get used to committing.

Psychoanalyze Yourself – Try to get to the root of the problem. Why do you hate commitment? For me it’s the claustrophobia thing. I don’t like feeling caged. The fact that the caging was done of my own volition makes it all the worse to contemplate. But I also know myself pretty well. I know that I’m most likely going to end up going with the boys to see the movie on Saturday night, so why won’t I just say yes when they ask me a few days before? So what if I decide on Saturday I don’t feel like going anymore? Almost nothing bad happens. I usually have a good time. If you can get to a point where you really understand your own aversion to commitment, the effect is usually that you’ll have an easier time committing.

Foresight is a valuable skill to have. It’s not possible to know exactly how you’ll be feeling at a given point in the future, but the more you learn about yourself, the better you’ll get at guessing correctly.

Be Polite – Realize that making others wait on your answer is pretty damn rude. Like when you get invited to an event on Facebook, and there’s an I don’t know button. I’ve never understood the function of that. Oh, yeah, I might be coming to the party. It’s the same as not responding. The only helpful responses for the host of the party are yes, I’m coming or no, I’m not. If you’re unsure, just say no. You’ll miss out on a lot of really cool experiences most likely, but at least you won’t be that jerk who flakes an hour before the wedding. Or even worse, the jerk who shows up when no one else thought you were coming. When others are involved, it’s polite to commit one way or the other.

Realize that the cage is in your mind – Everything is subjective and perception is reality and we’re all just insignificant specks of dust. But really, the thing with a cage is that the animal can’t get out usually. This is not so with commitment. Name me a commitment that you couldn’t break if you changed your mind. I can’t think of one. The cage is artificial. You can open the door and walk out at any point. (But that doesn’t mean you should. As I said before, committing helps people get shit done.)

Those are my tips. Commitment is scary yet useful. Especially for anything to do with creativity. You can’t half-ass it. Well you can, but it the end result will turn out half-assed. I’ve come to realize this especially about my writing. Very few people can “fake it ’til they make it.” You’ve gotta really put yourself out there if you want your art (or anything else you create) to be something special. Commitment is the only way to do that. But I do struggle with it. Hopefully this 30 day blogging challenge will help.

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 1

I’m challenging myself during the month of December to blog every single day. That is, to post at least one post on each day of the month. I can do more than one per day, but one is the minimum. There are no other rules to this challenge, no content restrictions, word counts, or anything else cumbersome like that.

The idea is to hold myself accountable to my goal (and the success or failure that follows). Given that the rules of the challenge necessitate only a few minutes’ effort per day on my part, I think I’ll easily complete the challenge. But I’ve been warned by others who have tried this before me. It’s tougher than it looks, they say.

We shall see.

Begun the Blog War has.