The Secret to Practicing More

Honestly, when I started this blog, I had no idea how easy the writing part of it would be.  I mean heck, where does all this material come from?

One of the things that has made it possible for me to write 340 posts in a year was the invention of the notebook and the mini-ball-point pen.  Actually they were invented before I was born, but I only discovered how valuable they are in 2007.  They make it possible for me to stop what I'm doing at anytime of day and quickly jot down my thoughts.  With out a notebook the blog would be impossible.

There is a rule of thumb in management circles (so I'm told),
"If you want to make sure something gets done, give it to someone who is busy all the time."

I have a corollary to this rule of thumb which I discovered through Daoist experimentation,
"If I want to make new people I meet hate me,  I tell them I'd really like to meet with them again--at any time they are available because my schedule is totally open."

You may be thinking at this moment, "Mr. Weakness, where are you going?"  And honestly, if I were asked, I'd have to admit, I don't know.  Improvisation also makes blogging possible.

The management rule about giving things to busy people is counter intuitive, but true.  I've been really busy this year, and so if I wanted to have any chance of blogging everyday, I had to schedule the time very carefully.  Since I'm less busy this Summer, I haven't had the obvious need to schedule, so I haven't.  If I have 8 hours free tomorrow, why do I need to schedule?  It will be easy to squeeze in a an hour of blogging, right?

Not so fast lefty!  That 8 hours can slip by before you even know it!  Gone!  With out a blog!

It's a mistake many martial artists make, they think they can "find the time" to practice.  Nope, in my experience, it doesn't work.  You have got to schedule that time, you have got to pre-designate that space.

And with that I have a brag/confession to make.  I have not missed a day of practice in five years...until last Friday.  (Do long international flights count?)  I missed practice on Friday because I had food poisoning so bad, I forgot that I even practice gongfu.

So what about that rule of thumb above that gets people to hate me?

Well, about 10 years ago, I started taking various Daoist precepts.  It turns out that what makes keeping precepts difficult is not in the nature of the precepts themselves.  The difficulty is in the hundreds of conflicting commitments (call them accidental precepts if you like) that we accumulate over our lifetimes, starting at about age 3.  Some of those "accidental precepts" are small, personal and childish like, "Why should I go to bed," others are big and idealistic like, "We hold these truths to be self-evident...."

So, following this line of thought, I just started saying "No" a lot.  The less "other" commitments I had, the easier my Daoist precepts would be to keep. My first internal response to a request was no.  Then I would think, "Is this necessary to maintaining other commitments that I've made? (like paying my rent, and not overly worrying my loved ones).  Is there a simpler way?  Is there a more flexible way?"  After saying, "No" for about six months something very unexpected happened.  I suddenly had an enormous amount of free time.

Most people will say they want more free time, but believe me, it can be a scary thing for an American.  Anyway, the free time allowed me to slowly make new commitments that were more appropriate to my true nature (de).

And then came the shocker.  When I was saying "no" all the time, people just kept coming.  But when I tried to get new and interesting people to meet with me for projects or to talk about ideas, I got no takers.  Conversations would go something like this:

I'd say, "Wow, you're doing really interesting stuff, would you like to get together and X about Y."

They'd say, "Sure, that sound fun, especially the Y part.  When would you like to do it?"

I'd say, "Well, I pretty much have an open schedule, we can meet anytime you're available."

They'd say, "You know...I'm really just too busy."