Context: Reddit user GetMeThePresident posted in the Get Motivated subreddit about his plan for bettering himself, which included quitting his job and living off his savings while he goes all in on teaching himself to write code, eight hours a day five days a week.
Reddit user jelliknight’s response (see below) is really awesome and worth reading, especially for anyone like me who’s fallen victim to going all in a grand and super unrealistic plan for something they want to accomplish.
Michel Lotito eating that plane is now my go-to metaphor for what human beings can achieve when they are focused and use the right approach.
"This is how it’s going to go:
At first you will be excited, energized, and eager to prove us all wrong. You might even manage to get through a regular work day schedule doing the things you want to learn.
Very quickly you’ll realize this was more difficult than you expected it to be. It’s hard to focus (8 hours of menial work is 100x easier than 8 hours of intense study), you reach a part of your learning that you don’t understand, you completely flop on one of your tasks suck as cooking. You take a short break to get your focus back or for some other quite legitimate reason.
Then after a week or so you realize that you’re behind on your goals. You wanted to get this all done in 5 months and at the rate you’re going you’ll only get about half of it done. You’re deeply disappointed and ashamed of yourself for failing. You decide that you just need to work harder, you redouble your efforts, trying to work longer, focus harder. You will also accept that you’re not going to get it all done but if you can get most of it done you’ll be happy.
The work becomes harder, the time drags out, and all the while there’s a voice in the back of your head telling you that there’s no way you can reach your goal now so you might as well give up. You start procrastinating and avoiding tasks because remembering how far behind you are is so crushing.
After a few weeks you just stop trying entirely. You’ve still got time, you can start up again and get things done. You’re just going to take a week off to rest and then go back to 40 hours a week.
Over then next few months you will make several attempts to restart. You spend hours motivating yourself and setting up and then after starting you very quickly revert to procrastination and avoidance.
About a month before you planned to return to work you realize that you haven’t achieved any of the things you set out to do, you wasted thousands of dollars that you could have spent on a fancy holiday or a new car, and the only thing you have to look forward to now is several more years of mind numbing work as you edge closer and closer towards your grave. Oh, and now everyone you have ever met will ask you how your 6 month life overhaul went and you’ll have to either lie to them or admit you’re a complete failure. You will sink into depression. For years afterwards any attempt to improve yourself, no matter how minor, just reminds you of your 6 months of failure and causes you to give up before you start.
Listen, I want you to succeed. I want you to have what you want. But if you can’t focus on one of these tasks for one weekend at a time how on earth do you think you’re going to maintain focus for 6 months straight? You’re thinking of “you then” as somehow more able to do those things than “you now” but you’re the same guy with the same abilities. You have the time right now, what you lack is the discipline to use it effectively. Getting extra time won’t help that. Committing to something this extreme can only end in failure and it will make it hard for you to ever try again.
Here’s what I propose instead. Every single day, come hell or high water you do 5 to 30 minutes on CodeAcademy. Never less than 5, try not to do more than 30. Even if your dog dies and you get explosive diarrhea you can do 5 minutes while crying on the toilet.
Relax on your weekends, but still do that 5-30 minutes. Relaxing the other 47 hours and 50 minutes is enough and you know it’s enough. You can record the days you do it on the calender if it helps.
Every time you finish any part of the program I want you to print yourself off a certificate of achievement and hang it over your computer. It’s both a reward and motivation. You are proving to yourself that you can achieve things in your life, without having to take drastic measures. Have you heard of Michel Lotito? No one gets to walk on the same planet as that man did and say “It’s too hard, it can’t be done”. If he can eat a plane bit by bit over 2 years, you can damn sure learn to code the same way.
If you’re considering taking time off I’m assuming you’ve got money saved up right? Once you finish codeacademy take a holiday, think about how great you are for achieving things while working and how nice it is to have a holiday. Then move onto the next item.”
Today, we mourn of the loss of Harold Ramis, one of the most influential comedy directors of all time.
austinnormancore said: Do you have any ways of finding inspiration to write when there's just nothing there?
I addressed this a little in a question about “writers’ block” a while back - nobody’s going to be feeling inspired every day, but if you regard writing as work (and regard work as a positive thing, a thing we want to do, a thing that is part of our nature: mine, anyway), then you can take inspiration down a peg or two, which is useful. Writing is work. Some degree of inspiration is needed — the initial spark, the idea, the desire to convey something to another person or to explain something to yourself. But that’s a very small amount of the process, in my view. After that it’s work — good work, valuable work, rewarding work. Asking inspiration to do the work is like trying to make bread with only yeast. You can make bread without yeast — the bread you make without yeast can still be good, the work undertaken without inspiration probably less so — but you can’t make it without the other stuff: some sort of flour, water, maybe a little salt, maybe a sweetening agent to feed the yeast. Not to get to over-precious with the metaphor but as sugar feeds yeast, lived experience tends to feed inspiration — I think people maybe misconceive of “lived experience” in this context as Big Life Events or whatever but it’s really also any thing or combination of things that takes you out of thinking about yourself and your creativity and into the realm of momentary experience, any small thing: a walk to the store, some work in the garden, an hour in the kitchen. Presumably, to finish out the details of the metaphor pre-modern style, the flour and water are the essential tools of the work: words or sentences or colors or notes, the raw materials without which inspiration is just a feeling. (I say “just,” but sometimes lately I just let that inspired feeling bubble a little, maybe save it for tomorrow: this has become a powerful practice, for me, and relates to some ideas I have about how live performance is ultimately where it’s really at.)
tl;dr: if my writing seems dry and I’m not firing on all cylinders I usually go into the kitchen and bake some bread.
Confirmed: Darnielle ‘GETS IT’.