A Particular Kind of Quagmire

I know what you’re thinking.

You read my last post, and you thought, after tearing yourself away from the misdirecting cuteness of the puppies and cupcakes, what’s this guy really saying? After all, history and myth are rife with the perils of setting your sights too high. Icarus, for example. Flew too close to the sun and melted his wings, falling to what was no doubt a hideously gory death.

Point is, it’s really, really easy to say stuff like “set your goals high”. It’s not like it’s a new idea or anything; plenty of people do it. You might know some of them. You’ve likely seen the crushing disappointment as those people fail to reach the goals, or worse, the growing delusion that they are reaching them when they’re not even close (see American Idol auditions for some particularly brutal examples of the latter.)

So let’s flesh this out and see if we can make it a bit more robust.  Consider the following three ideas

  1. Set an ambitious goal
  2. Figure out where you’re currently at.
  3. Crush your weaknesses, one at a time.

This is the approach I’ve used in all my endeavors over the past few years. It’s a coarse set of guide lines, of course (hah!), and as with everything else, it largely comes down to the execution. I think the most difficult of these  is the second. The human brain is a gloppy quagmire of emotions and biases and false assumptions and lots of other irritating things. (This is sometimes called the human condition, but I like the term ‘gloppy quagmire’ more). A lot of this blog will be about my various ways attempts to navigate those problems to try to achieve a more precise understanding of my own weaknesses and strengths.

The third item is tough too, but I feel like if you’ve done the second well and you’ve correctly identified the weaknesses, it’s the most fun. It’s where you actually feel like you’re improving. Or, at least, you get ephemeral moments where you feel you’re improving between longer periods of feeling soul crushed.

So, there you go. Want to be the best in the world at StarCraft/Writing/Shuffleboard/whatever? Just do that! Tada!

Okay. Fine. It’s harder than that. I’m somehow not the best in the world at any of those things. We’ll spend a lot of time talking about the obstacles one might run into trying to implement these ideas.

I’m going to start off with what I think is the biggest obstacle to all of this. I will even claim that it’s the number one reason people fail at things.

Ready? It’s about the simplest reason in the world, but one that I’ve found very difficult to truly internalize.

The number one reason we fail at anything is…

(this is called tension)

(powerful stuff, huh? It’ll make whatever I say seem REALLY awesome)

(okay, now I’m just being a jerk.  I’ll stop)

…is because we give up before we even try.

In my next post, I’m going to share with you a story about this mistake, and how it stopped me from even attempting something I always wanted to do for a very long time.


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