Monthly Archives: April 2015

We Restrain Ourselves

“THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”
– “Harrison Bergeron”, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron“, is a dystopic short story (a 10 min read).
It asks and answers the question: What if everybody were forced to be equal?

I understand now that to produce a dystopia from equality requires a set of false assumptions. The very same false assumption that I’ve uncovered lately: that there is a measurable and fixed amount of intrinsic worth available to each human being. For one person to have more, of anything, another must have less.

Taken to the extreme, this fixation of the fixedness and limitedness of the resources of the planet and the internal resources of each person, combined with a desire for equality, leads directly to a world of mediocrity.

What’s incredible to me is that we don’t need a “Handicapper General” to diligently limit people’s abilities. We limit ourselves.

I feel like we’re all Harrison Bergeron: great in our own unique way.
We’re also our own Handicapper: putting on our own shackles and distractions, weights and masks…

Continue reading We Restrain Ourselves

The Lies I Tell Myself

On the morning of April 4th, my “self reliance” ritual was cut short when I looked at the calendar and saw the day before was an empty box, where there needed to be a checkmark. I felt a dull ache rising in the back of my gut.

“Did I forget to write yesterday?”
“Did I break my unprecedented 123 day streak?”
“No no no! This can’t be!”

My panic rose steadily, but I simply wasn’t sure. So, I seized the benefit of the doubt, slowly filled in the missing checkmark, and went about my days, trying to forget this lie I told myself.

Exhibit A: The lie I tried to tell myself.

It’s now 3 weeks later. My mini-habits of writing, programming, and exercising daily have lost all their former power. Even my morning ritual is starting to slip.

Rationally, I know that one misstep shouldn’t matter. That I should brush it off, learn from it, and keep going. But I can’t stop myself from feeling that it does matter.

Worse, this pattern is disappointingly familiar.
Something is deeply wrong here… Continue reading The Lies I Tell Myself

Lessons from Living Without Time

Here are some fictional diary entries, reconstructed from actual events:

Six months ago:
My PhD is almost complete! And I finally received my citizenship. Both of those open loops are now closed. I’ll finally have more time to focus!

Three months ago:
Gingko’s server crashed. The cause was a silly mistake from two months ago. No big deal. I just brought it back up, and made a note to fix it more thoroughly… when I have the time.

Two months ago:
We noticed a poster for a children’s play that our son would love. Great! I’ll just put a note in my inbox, and process it later. I’ll get tickets… when I have the time.

One month ago:
We missed a meal again today. It was sunny out (and a “warm -5 C”), so we rushed out for a walk. But we didn’t have snacks at home, or much in the fridge. Ended up “hangry” at each other most of the walk. We need to figure out meal plans or a more regular grocery schedule! If only we had more time…

And now? My PhD is done, but I don’t know where all the “extra” time went. I never did get around to fixing that issue, and the server crashed briefly again a few days ago (sorry!). The play for my son was sold out by the time I managed to look into it.

So. I’m a 31 year old husband, father, and business owner, with full control of my schedule, goals, and income, yet still find myself with an empty fridge or an overflowing laundry pile like I did as a teenage student. My customers missed some work time, my son missed a play, and I could list countless other instances of small and big failures that were predictable and completely avoidable.

A heavy question hangs over this, that I’ve always been afraid to ask: Why?

It took living without time for one week
to finally answer it.

Here’s what I discovered by living without clocks for just 7 days…

Continue reading Lessons from Living Without Time

The Pump and the Generator

Productivity and wealth are both powerful aids in enabling flow.
But we need to keep these in their place, as a means to an end: Freedom.

If you must do a great deal of work that is unsatisfying and dreary, you are poor.
If you can do only what you love, you are rich.
There is no other definition that matters.

We can achieve this for every one of us, but we must first change our beliefs and our mental models…

Continue reading The Pump and the Generator