Showing Up Is Not Enough - Make It Worth

Showing up is just half the battle, be it a big one.

We don't have the first day enthusiasm on the 100th day. So we end up producing half-assed work : meh article, meh code, meh dish, etc and when we finally look back, we have successfully created a series of meh events in our meh life.

Showing up just for the sake of showing up is not useful. The reason we are excited on the first day is because of the novelty. Learning zeal, anticipation, initial rush - unbridled beginner's enthusiasm. But soon the novelty wears off and you kinda do it just out of commitment till you start hating your own passion.

We become the prisoners of our own learning - we are blinded by it that we fail to see anything other than what we have learnt. We become hard wired. Boxed. And then we get disappointed when we realize that our work is just mediocre or outright bad even after all that showing-up.

Showing up is not enough
Different roads to the right destination

Two things become crucial when we are learning or growing in some field:

1. Keeping the spark alive to keep going:

How do we keep the spark alive? By re-introducing that unknown factor in every day life that can bring back the novelty. This can happen only if we keep learning new things every single day. But this shouldn't be too much that you get scared and frustrated by all the unknown ocean of things. You gotta raise the bar everyday- slightly.

I hated cooking when i was supposed to make annam-pappu(daal-chawal) everyday- but when I tried new recipes every single day, I was enthusiastic to cook(even if the output turned out bad). The new recipes, new cuisines, new ingredients all made me curious and got me anticipating about the output - it made cooking fun even if I struggled doing it.
(Did I just say that cooking was fun? 25 year old me would never believe this!)

Be it any field, however specific/niched it is, there would be zillion things to learn, zillion ways of doing it, another zillion ways of optimizing it.

Tired of coding in a specific domain? Try coding a game. A utility. A different language to implement. Re-design it.
Tired of cooking? Try Italian. Middle East Cuisine. Experiment with different food combinations.
Tired of reading? Try new genres - magic realism, philosophy etc.
Tired of writing? Write about the back of a thumb(Zen). Challenge yourself.

Remember to keep some part constant and introduce the unknown factor little by little. Hit that sweet spot - not too unknown but enough learning scope.
Don't just keep practicing the same old stuff which you have already mastered. You will know when you get too comfortable. Move on to the next thing to be conquered.

But how do you keep learning more when they just seem like random dots - when you don't know where some particular basics will come handy?
This is where it would be helpful if we can see the big picture.
In Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the protagonist is a professor who proposes abolishing grades in university so that students can learn only for the sake of gaining knowledge and not for grades. In this context, the evolution of a student who is not interested in learning is described. This student would "flunk himself out" as day by day he drifts away from the concepts being taught (because there are no grades). Then with his set of skills, he would engage himself in some mechanical work. After some time, he would get bored of manual work and would want to do something creative - perhaps design a machine. But he doesn't have the theoretical knowledge needed for this and will find himself craving to learn. This is when he would re-join the grade-less university and get aggressive in learning - now he knows the big picture and he knows what dots are needed for a particular purpose/application and he need learn all about those dots.
*(See footnotes for excerpt)
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
No motivation to learn all those coding concepts? Jump into coding something fun. Struggle with the requirements.Then learn what is needed.
See the big picture. Know the potential of what is being learnt. May be those people responsible for launching Tesla into space somehow knew the potential of their learning and tapped all those curves (integral) in Math.

2. Producing the "right" kind of output:

Practice makes perfect? Nope.
Practice makes permanent. 
If you are doing things everyday in a wrong way, it's going to stick and unlearning will be way more difficult than learning it in the first place.

This is where we need mentors, peer reviews and feedback. If you have no such support system,at least check in forums, how others have approached the same problem - know if you are missing something and tackling it by the long or round-about Brute Force approach.


Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the theory of 10,000 hours of practice - time needed for mastery. He quotes several examples ranging from Beatles to Bill Gates. They all tried different things(within their own field) and had a great feedback system(Beatles performed live, Bill Gates had experts around him) to correct them.

"Surprise yourself, surprise the world."
                                                         -Black Swan


*Excerpt from Zen:

Instead of wasting money and time as a high-status mule, he would now have to get a job as a low-status mule, maybe as a mechanic. Actually his real status would go up. He would be making a contribution for a change. Maybe that's what he would do for the rest of his life. Maybe he'd found his level. But don't count on it.
In time...six months; five years, perhaps...a change could easily begin to take place. He would become less and less satisfied with a kind of dumb, day-today shopwork. His creative intelligence, stifled by too much theory and too many grades in college, would now become reawakened by the boredom of the shop. Thousands of hours of frustrating mechanical problems would have made him more interested in machine design. He would like to design machinery himself. He'd think he could do a better job. He would try modifying a few engines, meet with success, look for more success, but feel blocked because he didn't have the theoretical information. He would discover that when before he felt stupid because of his lack of interest in theoretical information, he'd now find a brand of theoretical information which he'd have a lot of respect for, namely, mechanical engineering.
So he would come back to our degreeless and gradeless school, but with a difference. He'd no longer be a grade-motivated person. He'd be a knowledge-motivated person. He would need no external pushing to learn.
His push would come from inside. He'd be a free man. He wouldn't need a lot of discipline to shape him up. In fact, if the instructors assigned him were slacking on the job he would be likely to shape them up by asking rude questions. He'd be there to learn something, would be paying to learn
something and they'd better come up with it.
Motivation of this sort, once it catches hold, is a ferocious force, and in the gradeless, degreeless institution where our student would find himself, he wouldn't stop with rote engineering information. Physics and mathematics were going to come within his sphere of interest because he'd see he needed
them. Metallurgy and electrical engineering would come up for attention.
And, in the process of intellectual maturing that these abstract studies gave him, he would he likely to branch out into other theoretical areas that weren't directly related to machines but had become a part of a newer larger goal. This larger goal wouldn't be the imitation of education in Universities today, glossed over and concealed by grades and degrees that give the appearance of something happening when, in fact, almost nothing is going on. It would be the real thing. 


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