Prepare to act

It’s a bit funny that this is a ‘chapter’ in the book. And a whole page and a half, it’s more a segue from discussing perception to action. Because it’s so short, long excerpts would mean basically writing the whole chapter up.

Here’s the core message:

The demand on you is this: once you see the world as it is, for what it is, you must act. The proper perception–objective, rational, ambitious, clean–isolates the obstacle and exposes it for what it is.

And, that makes sense. After all, what good is seeing things for how they are if it just makes you apathetic.

I think what I like about Stoicism is that it requires action. We (I mean ‘I’) imagine a stoic person as a person who just sits there and takes whatever life dishes out, uncomplainingly. But, who needs a philosophy that reduces to “shut up and take it”?

Instead, a philosophy of “accept things for how they are, and then look at what you can do and do it.

When I’m rationalizing it in my own head, it’s like sitting down to card game every day and saying “what can I do to improve the cards I get tomorrow? Is it worth it? How can I play these cards to make the most out of today?” And then figuring out what needs to be done and doing it.

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Alter your perspective

This is another post in my ongoing series on the individual chapters in “The Obstacle is the Way.” I don’t know how useful or interesting it will be out of context.


This is the first chapter in The Obstacle is the Way that didn’t really blow me away. The fundamental lesson seems like it can be summed up very briefly: how you look at things changes the way you react to them. And, either I haven’t properly internalized how profound that is, or it’s not Earth-shaking news following up on the previous chapters.

I get this. I was frustrated yesterday because I tried twice to make a sort of explainer video for the worksheet project. Both times, the webcame video didn’t record. (And I even put on a nice shirt for the occasion.)

I already said I was frustrated. I didn’t have time for a third run-through before work.

But, on the other hand, I had two great rehearsals. In the first, there were a few minor things that frustrated me. (I wanted it seamless, and there were a few vocabulary that didn’t have definitions in the system when I made it, to there were about two minutes of me entering vocab.) And the second one was smoother and much shorter.

When I get around to recording the same thing today, I expect it to be tighter, shorter. And that’s valuable.

I probably would not have, on my own, run through the whole video twice in preparation, but the whole webcam-not-recording thing upped the quality of the finished product.

That’s changing the perspective, according to the book. The obstacle itself cannot be changed. The idea seems to be that changing your perspective doesn’t necessarily change the amount of work you have to do, it changes your perception of the work, and that can be enough.

I’ll finish this with the two paragraphs that finish the chapter:

How we interpret the events in our lives, our perspective, is the framework for our forthcoming response–whether there will even be one or whether we’ll just lie there and take it.

Where thehead goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.

The Discipline of Perception

After reading the Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday, I recently resolved to re-read it more slowly, writing about what I read in order to reflect. This is part of that, and may only be of interest to me.


 

The first story in the Obstacle is the Way is of John D. Rockefeller, and the education he gave himself — basically — by remaining level-headed in times of panic. The lesson seems to be that there cna be a financial panic happening around you, but if you choose to see it as an education, that’s what it is.

My favorite line from the chapter is actually from Warren Buffet, who is credited with summing up Rockefeller’s mentality this way: “be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”

The actual lesson of the chapter seems best summed up here:

Outward appearances are deceptive. What’s within them, beneath them is what matters.

We can learn to perceive things differently, to cut through the illusions that others believe or fear. We can stop seeing the “problems” in front of us as problems. We can focus on what things really are.

This comes at a good time. In fact, I’m several weeks late in writing this. I’ve been working as hard as I can on the dynamic-efl worksheet app and consistently feel as though I’m almost there.

I’m so very almost there that I’m getting lazy. There is a (growing) list of minor things that I want to fix, once I get it so far that I can start asking others to take it for a test drive. But, it’s getting harder and harder to reach that point, because I didn’t do something I should have: I hard-coded everything to use the new domain name.

That means that it’s almost impossible to run in development mode on my notebook, and everything has to be tested out on the website. No big deal, really, except that everything is slowed down by committing every minor change to GIT, pushing it to Git Hub, and then pulling it to the Linode server and restarting the uwsgi service. Gah, it’s frustrating. (And that frustration is part of why the list of things I’m going to fix ‘later’ is growing.)

The reason I thought to read this now was that it was just this afternoon that I realized “I could be using this as an opportunity to practice overcoming problems, rather than feeling sorry for myself.” And that’s what this could be. Should be.

There are all kinds of lessons that I should focus on learning:

  • using django’s url tags to avoid hard-coding anything at all
  • setting up a project so that it can be easily changed over to ‘production settings’ with only a few changes in the settings
  • serving static files with django (turns out just copying a template from startbootstrap.com is not enough to make a landing page)

And that is what I’m going to try to do. There isn’t really a rush, as long as I can use it to make my own worksheets.

The trick is not seeing what it looks like, it’s seeing what it is.