By missing a connection, I wound up spending fourteen hours in an airport or on a plane yesterday. This wouldn’t normally be an ordeal, except that my laptop (which has been hanging on by a thread for months now) chose this particular moment to die on me, leaving my iPhone as the only outlet to the wired world. I could check my email, but that was about it – and the battery was running down badly, so I didn’t want to use it too often. Which left me lots and lots of time to kill.
So I got to thinking about ways of living. Or maybe patterns of living would be closer to it.
Tim Rumbinas, a buddy of mine, wrote a passionate essay in his blog a couple months ago about the importance of mastering the basics before attempting arias. From a technician’s perspective, I agree with him completely. But I could never succeed in that approach, because it’s simply not my style.
My style, which repeats itself throughout my life, has always been to dive in, pick an impossibly challenging goal, and voraciously acquire anything (tools, books, relationships) that might prove useful in achieving that goal. Usually I get myself in at least partway over my head and need to call in an expert of some sort to help me figure out what I’m doing. Eventually I sort it all out, produce something that (while distinctly imperfect) approximates the goal, and wander off to another adventure, having learned a considerable amount in the process.
What interests me is not the degree to which this differs from other people – everyone’s got a different style. Instead, what interests me is the way in which this pattern ripples through my life, creative and non-creative. If I look at my failures, they almost always occur because they didn’t fit into the pattern – typically because the “adventure” lasted too long and I got bored. My successes, on the other hand, follow this pattern without exception.
This suggests a couple of things:
First, by observing my pattern of living, it is easy for me to figure out what goals I can likely achieve. My attention span is anything up to about six months (a year is a long time), so anything that requires sustained, consistent effort is unlikely to succeed unless I break it down into “sprints”. Anything that is not of intellectual interest is unlikely to hold my attention for long enough, unless I find a way to delve deeper into it. And if there’s no “story value” in it, it’s much less likely to hold my focus. 🙂
Second, looking at the pattern allows me to identify my weaknesses, and how to work around them. A big goal, for example, might have to be split into four or five smaller sprints for me to finish it. Some goals are going to be a lot harder than others because they don’t fit the pattern. Losing weight is one of them; it’s not glamorous, not particularly intellectually interesting, and requires discipline (vs. impulsivity), so it’s something I’ll have to work at – or, ideally, reshape to fit the pattern.
And, finally, I can look at ways to reshape the pattern itself, making it more effective for myself. It’s unlikely I can change the basic pattern – nor would I want to, it being an essential part of my core personality – but by looking at how my experiences and adventures repeat themselves, I can strive for a variation that is more effective for myself.
At any rate, that is what I noticed yesterday….life patterns repeating themselves in theme and variation…very interesting, and worth reflection.
Today, on the other hand, has been all about weaving…but that is another story, and (later) another blog post!