Navigating Bullshit

Finding substance in lectures at university that I don’t think are important 😖

I never went to University. My story is somewhat predictable. I did really well in school early on, coasted in the middle, and ended up as an underachiever whose grades weren’t quite good enough to get into any of the good courses in University. I couldn’t afford to go to the private schools, and I didn’t want to either out of principle – I knew too many people who had spent good money to get their paper qualifications and then didn’t do very much with it afterwards.

My story changes slightly each time I tell it. Technically, at some point, I was trying pretty hard to get into University – a little too little, too late. I was hoping to do Political Science, or Media Studies, or Journalism. In a way, I got really lucky that I didn’t get into any of those things. I have friends who ended up doing them, and practically all of them have complained to me at some point or another just how vapid their classes are, how tedious their assignments, how boring it all is.

So I’m pretty glad I never went. It seems to me that some of them are carrying around some trauma from their University experiences – they endured something that they now have to unlearn.

Anyway.

I remember when I was a kid, I once talked to an older guy I kinda admired. (There have been very few people in my life that I have admired. I have very high standards for admiration.) He was a lawyer, who seemed to be pretty successful, and had a positive attitude, was fun, thoughtful, intelligent. I wanted to be like him. I met him for coffee once, and I told him about how stressed I was at school, and how none of it seemed to matter or make sense, and how I couldn’t wait to be out of it.

I still remember the gist of what he said. He said… “In life, you’re always going to find yourself in situations that you didn’t quite ask for, where you have to do something that you don’t quite want to do. How you handle yourself in those situations speaks volumes of your character, and in a way defines who you are as a person.”

I thought it sounded very virtuous and wise. I was completely unable to follow his advice. I practically flunked out of school.

On retrospect, I wish I hadn’t even bothered to try and compromise. I would be happier and better off today if I had spent my time making things, reading, writing, playing music, meeting people. All of those things add value to my life. School really did not.

(This is very irresponsible advice that I’m giving. If you’re reading this, and nodding your head and taking it seriously, please consult a mature adult for a contrasting opinion.)

But my life is not yet 100% bullshit-free, and it probably never will be. To live in civilization is to be swimming in voluminous sludge-slides of bullshit. To bathe in it, to breathe it, to choke in it. How do we deal?

Different people will have different strategies and coping mechanisms. The mature, smart thing to do is to try to frame things positively. How is this painful, disgusting thing that you’re facing going to help you get what you want in life? I never really did that very much, and sometimes I still regret it a little bit. If I had studied harder in school, I might have gotten a shot at getting some scholarships and gone overseas on exchange and had some interesting experiences. But that never happened, and if I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I could’ve done it any other way. Reality seems pretty deterministic on hindsight.

Another thing you could do is… laugh. Laugh at how ridiculous it is that you’re sitting in some bullshit lecture in some bullshit university, and realize that this too will pass. You’re just kind of stuck in a shitty zone until you can get out. And there are lots of shitty zones in life. Lots of waiting on the phone with shitty dial tone.

This blog is called “Productive ENTP”, so I should try and end with some productive advice. Erm. I’d say… take yourself out on a walk when you can, and ask yourself why you are where you are. It could be that you’re in University because your parents insisted that you go, or it could be because you want a degree so you can apply for some sort of job that you want. There’s always something you can learn even from the shittiest parts of life – sometimes these things aren’t obvious until later on. So I guess I would say… pay attention. You might not be paying attention to the lecture itself, but pay attention to whatever it is that’s going on that you think is interesting. Maybe pay attention to your classmates, pay attention to the body language of the professor, or write notes to yourself about how ridiculous the whole approach is. Get SOMETHING out of it. Even if it’s just some laughs. It adds up to something eventually. I really believe this.

Know what you want

Sometimes I’ll hear someone saying something like, “I feel like I want to be an entrepreneur but I don’t know where to start”. Or “I want to be a writer, but I just can’t write.” I used to try and say encouraging things, but lately I’ve gotten a little pessimistic. A part of me almost wants to outright discourage people. (It’s a lot more complex.)

The important thing is to be honest with yourself about something. Do you want to do X, or do you want to be a person who says they want to do X? Most people seem to turn out to be the latter.

If you’re a writer, you should know. You should have a history of having written things. In my case, I didn’t really know that I WANTED to be a writer until maybe 2012 – and that was when I had been answering lots of questions on Quora, and got quite a bit of validation for it. But the fact is that I was writing a ton of answers on Quora before anybody gave me that validation. I was already a writer, I just didn’t recognize it myself.

I don’t say that to boast about myself. Being a writer is not a status symbol. It sometimes gives you access to tremendous joy and pleasure, but you’re not entitled to it. It’s not a guarantee. Being a writer is a lot of slogging away, struggling to try and convey something meaningful – and failing. Failing over and over again.

Another thing that helps me know that I’m a writer – if I haven’t written in too long, I start to feel it. If I write everyday, I feel good. If I haven’t written in a week, I start to feel shitty. If I haven’t written in two or three weeks, it gets really bad. I find myself drawn to Facebook or Twitter or SOMETHING – reddit, whatever – just to get stuff out of my head onto paper (or pixel). Sometimes it’s infuriating because I feel like my mind is blank – but I’ve learned over time that a blank mind is really just a sort of ‘loading screen’ – there’s all sorts of interesting things going below the surface, behind the curtain. You just don’t know it yet.

Anyway. What I wanted to say was – be careful about what you think you want. Be very careful not to bullshit yourself. Ask yourself why you want to do it. If it’s because you think it’s cool, or because you think people will like you for it, or because you think it’ll make you rich, or famous, chances are you’re barking up the wrong tree. You have to want it because you want it.

I know this is tough advice to follow. When people say things like “follow your passion”, I think they’re typically full of shit. I think they’re often playing a status-signalling game, communicating to you that they had it All Figured Out, and you should too. Steve Jobs’ commencement speech did a fantastic job of this. But if you examine Steve Jobs’ life, it was a lot of experimentation and near-random tinkering. He was just doing a bunch of things, and some of them worked out.

You might think that Isaac Newton’s passion was physics. But he also spent like half his time trying to do alchemy, I believe. It seems weird on hindsight, but it makes perfect sense – at the time, it wasn’t clear what was going to yield the best fruit. He was just doing whatever he was curious about, really.

I do also believe that you probably already know what you want. By that I mean – the answer is already inside you, inside your brain, you just probably haven’t woken up to it. Steven Spielberg had a quote that went like…

The thing I really want to emphasize is, I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have a choice . . . the dream is something you never knew was going to come into your life. Dreams always come from behind you, not right between your eyes. It sneaks up on you. But when you have a dream, it doesn’t  often come at you screaming in your face, “This is who you are, this is what you must be for the rest of your life.” Sometimes a dream almost whispers. And I’ve always said to my kids, the hardest thing to listen to—your instincts, your human personal intuition—always whispers; it never shouts. Very hard to hear. So you have to every day of your lives be ready to hear what whispers in your ear; it very rarely shouts.  And if you can listen to the whisper, and if it tickles your heart, and it’s something you think you want to do for the rest of your life, then that is going to be what you do for the rest of your life, and we will benefit from everything you do.

Your instincts are drowned out by the insane noise of living in society, living in civilization, of being bombarded with advertising and with all sorts of expectations and notions of prestige and so on. You have to listen for the whisper.

The Plan

One of the things I like to do as an ENTP – which I think is generally not a great habit to have, but I love it – is to talk about what I’m doing, to talk about my plans and so on. There are broadly two opposing schools of thought about this. For and against.

Derek Sivers is against it. He argues, compellingly, that articulating your plans in public makes you self-satisfied too early, and you then are less likely to following up. It’s better to keep your plan secret.

The alternative perspective (I’m not sure who’s the patron saint of this one, maybe it can be me) is that stating your plans publicly makes you more accountable. This isn’t always true – I’ve definitely stated plans in the past that I ended up not following up on. It’s slightly embarrassing, but it also helps me become more self-aware about my limitations.

The synthesis of these two perspectives would be – it depends. It depends on who you are, what motivates you in particular, how you respond to others, and to failure, and so on. Bloggers are not typical people – we’re unusually public-facing.

Anyway, so here’s the plan.

I never actually wanted to setup an “ENTP blog” – I wanted a “productivity” blog. But productivity is an overly broad concept – there are millions of productivity blogs. So I’m deciding to focus on the ENTP niche. People with ADHD. I was listening to an Elliott Hulse video and he described his audience as addicted lovers and smug magicians. I think that’s my audience. It’s not the smartest audience to go after if you want to make money, or if you want to minimise your misery. But I want some misery. Those are my people. That’s who I was growing up. So I want to serve those people.

I’m going to start building my traffic and chops by writing about 20-30 posts about stereotypical ENTP things. I’m going to look up content on Reddit and Quora, and then put my spin on it. Once that is done, I’m going to start pivoting to focusing on writing about productivity experiments. Ultimately I’ll want to come up with some name or concept or idea that’s separate from “ENTP” – because that’s a niche that I want to grow out of. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As a start, I’m going to build the best “productivity for ENTPs” blog I can. Once that’s saturated, we’ll look at what we can grow into.

I think I’ll still need to break productivity down into more specific things – mindset, frameworks, motivations and so on. I think my secret sauce will be focusing on the deep psychological issues that we tend to have and then gloss over. The reason we aren’t as productive as we want to be ISN’T that we don’t know about timeboxing and scheduling and prioritization frameworks. It’s that we have childhood issues, or we’re afraid, or we have an unhealthy self-image, and so on. Those are the things I want to help people address.

One post at a time.

Motivational Quotes For ENTPs

“You’re never gonna get the same things as other people. It’s never gonna be equal. It’s not gonna happen ever in your life so you must learn that now, okay? Listen. The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbour’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” – Louis CK, Louie

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I hate that word – ‘lucky’. It cheapens a lot of hard work. Living in an apartment without any heat and paying for dinner with dimes – I don’t think I felt myself lucky back then. Doing plays for 50 bucks and trying to be true to myself as an artist and turning down commercials where they wanted a leprechaun. Saying I was lucky negates the hard work I put in and spits on that guy who’s freezing his ass off back in Brooklyn. So I won’t say I’m lucky. I’m fortunate enough to find or attract very talented people. For some reason I found them, and they found me.” – Peter Dinklage

“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.”

“I understand there’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.” – Anthony Bourdain

“I constantly get out of my comfort zone. Looking cool is the easiest way to mediocrity. The coolest guy in my high school ended up working at a car wash. Once you push yourself into something new, a whole new world of opportunities opens up. But you might get hurt. In fact you will get hurt. But amazingly , when you heal – you are somewhere you’ve never been.” – Terry Crews

“We all must suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”

“You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.” – Alan Watts

“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – Joanne Rowling

 

Solitude

One of the great misunderstandings about MBTI is the idea that having an E– means you’re automatically extroverted in the traditional sense – gregarious, getting energized by social encounters and so on. This isn’t always exactly true.

There’s an interesting quote I once read somewhere about how “ENTPs are the most introverted of the extroverts”. It’s sort of true, if you can get past the vagueness of the terms.

For me personally, and in my understanding of other ENTPs (from reading biographies, etc) – ENTPs are all about connections and ideas. And this is something that can happen amongst people, but it’s also something that can happen in solitude. And I actually highly recommend that every ENTP seeks out some solitude in their life. Because we often get so busy following threads and making connections that we can forget to ask if they’re necessarily the most important connections we should be making.

In practical terms – if we wake up in the morning and look at social media, we’re often immediately hijacked by the impulse to come up with witty responses to things. But is that necessarily the best use of our time? You get the idea.

Similarly, we might get carried away trying to figure out how to participate cleverly in some social group, without first asking if that social group is actually worth participating in.

Solitude is excellent for the ENTP. It helps us clarify what we really care about, what we really need, what really matters. And that allows us to return with a more profound engagement with the people who matter, too. It’s a win-win.

Shiny Object Syndrome

ENTPs tend to have Shiny Object Syndrome. What does that mean? Check out this short video of our spirit animal and it’ll all make sense:

ENTPs are wired to see connections between things, to see lots of possibilities. Alternate perspectives, ways things could be different. This leads to a massive generation of new ideas for new projects.

The problem is the followup. This doesn’t come so naturally. It’s always going to be easier for us to think of something new than to take the next step on something that we had already thought about earlier. And having thought about something, we’re going to second-guess it immediately. And then second-guess THAT. And on and on until the original project idea starts to seem sterile, or overwhelming, or suffocating, or boring.

What I invite my fellow ENTPs to consider is this – becoming predictable means becoming boring. How many times have we responded to an article about procrastination with “I’ll read it later”? Why do we pretend that this is somehow original or interesting?

I believe that the ENTPs most underlying commitment is to curiosity and interestingness. And we need to realize that our oversimplistic approaches to creativity – always coming up with new ideas and never executing on them – is itself boring and limiting. If we want to learn more, see more, we need to execute. We need to make things. There are things that we’ll learn and see about the world only if we develop a practice, a discipline.

A prototype is worth a thousand brainstorms. So prototype things. It’ll lead you to new paths that you’ll never be able to see or consider otherwise.

Common ENTP fears and how to deal with them

I’m going to list out things that I’m afraid of. I’m going to try and avoid virtue-signalling and be useful to myself.

I’m afraid of making mistakes. Why? Because I’m afraid people will think I’m stupid, or incompetent.

Reality: It’s okay to make mistakes, the worst mistake is to be paralyzed with inaction. I don’t need to make big public mistakes. Instead, I can share my work with people I trust and get corrections and recommendations before I share it with the world at large.

I’m afraid of making decisions. Why? Because I’m afraid that I’d get things wrong.

Reality: It’s better to get some things wrong than to do nothing at all. If you want to have a good life, you’ll want to make as many good decisions as you can. And it’s a good idea to just practice making as many decisions as possible. Live an intentional life, don’t defer to the default setting. When you were a kid, you didn’t trust yourself to make good decisions and you were willing to drift along. But you’ve learned now that you can get better at making decisions, and that drifters don’t drift anywhere great. Nobody drifts to the Olympics, or to the top of a mountain, or to anything worth doing. As Chris Hadfield said, don’t let life kick you around into becoming a person you don’t want to be.

I’m afraid I’ll never accomplish anything great.

Reality: That’s a good fear. But that doesn’t mean you avoid trying. Great things are achieved with baby steps. What are the baby steps that you need to take in order to achieve the great things that you want to achieve?

I’m afraid I’ll never be able to become a productive person, that I’m cursed to constantly be playing catch up with my life.

Reality: Other people have had this fear too, and overcome it. It’s all about learning a new skill. Didn’t you once believe you’d never be able to squat your bodyweight, or that you’d never be able to play music? You can become a productive person. You just need to be clear about how and why.

You already know that obligation debt is a painful, miserable thing. You have a very good reason for becoming a productive person. You’ll be able to contribute more. You’ll be able to be a force for good for everyone in your life. You can challenge and inspire your friends to become better. You can repay debts to everyone that you feel obligated to. You can come out on top and have a net surplus. So that’s that for the why’s.

Now, the more important things – the How. Listen, I know you look at your history and you see a series of mistakes. Like every minor success is just a stepping stone to the next failure. But here’s the thing, that’s entirely a function of your perspective. (Your perspective in turn is colored by things like your physical state, so make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercise, healthy food, human contact and so on– because if those things are on the fritz then your perspective is going to shit).

Decide that you’re going to level yourself up. That you’re going to learn how to do things that you weren’t able to do before. You are capable of learning and growing. You’ve learned to cook, haven’t you? You’ve learned to navigate an unfamiliar environment (the kitchen), to use unfamiliar tools (pots and pans), to work with unfamiliar material (pasta, meat, oil, spices), to put them through an unfamiliar process (cooking), and you’ve created something amazing – food that’s so delicious that you actually look forward to eating it again. You did the same thing when you bought a squat rack to teach yourself how to squat.

You can do the same thing with your time. Remember how scared you used to be of food prep, of going into a kitchen, feeling like an idiot about it? Now, remember how scared you used to be of schedules? Of deadlines, and so on? It’s the same thing as the kitchen. You’re going to navigate an unfamiliar environment (clocktime), use unfamiliar tools (calendars, task plans, sub-steps), put them through an unfamiliar process (careful monotasking interspersed with reflection) and create something amazing – an output that exceeds your commitments. And you’ll feel great about it. You vaguely know this to be true from moments of accidental or incidental effectiveness. Let’s make it your new default state, as if you were going to be cooking every day. As with cooking, don’t start out with massive expectations of getting everything done. Just think of it as dipping your feet in unfamiliar waters. You just want to get used to what it feels like, and then you can start experimenting.

I’m afraid I don’t have enough time, and I’m afraid to face that so I have this habit of ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away. Of course, it never goes away, but eventually I get too tired or exhausted to be able to do anything about it, and then nobody can fault me for it because I sat there and ran out the clock. Nobody will ever have the patience to spend their entire life policing me; they have their own life to live too. So as long as I’m sitting here running out the clock, I have some sort of autonomy or control over my life. It’s a very shitty, limited autonomy, like a tiny-ass blanket that doesn’t cover anything, but it’s all I knew at some point.

Reality: You already know the answer to this. Yes, you don’t have enough time, but that doesn’t mean you give up and avoid your problems. That just makes things worse. If you don’t have much time, you’re going to have to be smart about it. You’re going to have to renegotiate. Simplify things. Do some bare minimum for each thing. Make some progress. Let go of this sad life of misery and guilt. Throw away the safety blanket – set it on fire and watch it burn.

Why sleep late

What’s the real reason why insomnia is such a thing? Why do ‘ENTPs’ sleep so late? (I need a name for this group of people.)

Superficially, it’s about devices, internet, distractions.

But underlying it I think is the fear of not having time for oneself, the fear of spending all our time and all our life just working (badly), screwing things up, making mistakes and falling short. Life seems relentless and escapism is tempting.

My theory is that it has to do with the silence and appeal and allure of the night. People leave you alone at night.

Todo: Zoom out, see the big picture, make changes, accept discomfort and unfamiliarity (it will hurt less)

Sleeping early -> waking early.

reminder: you make good decisions when you wake early
it’s pleasant to start the day at your own pace
it sucks to have to rush to start the day

–

Bad sleep

  • Cigarettes – low blood sugar
    • How to quit?
      • stop buying
      • deal with triggers
      • get an app
      • tell friends
  • Screens – Work incomplete / want distractions
    • How to change?
  • Lack of exercise – Tedious / unsatisfying
    • Why? How to change
  • Don’t feel like waking up
    • Why? Life is painful, hard, work, endless obligations
      • Want to get out of obligation debt

Don’t eat late

Visualize your day, visualize going to sleep

change your limiting beliefs about not being a morning person

move your body, get up get out go for a walk

Word vomits

0386 – soooo sleepy – I get rambly sometimes when I’m sleepy.

0215 – why do I not sleep better? I don’t make it a priority. I worry that I won’t have time for myself in the mornings, and so I try to squeeze out as much time as possible at night – often on my laptop or phone, which is a horrible thing that makes things worse. But the devices are symptoms, not the root of the problem. The root of the problem is that I feel like I don’t have enough time for myself. I need to address that feeling. I should experiment with sleeping early for a month – but those experiments have failed in the past because I didn’t have a hard and fast reason to sleep.

0117 – sleep – “I don’t really care for resolutions but I’m going to experiment with a month of sleeping early. (2014 edit: HAH.) I’m starting now to get a running start. I believe it will make me Fitter Happier More Productive. I believe it has worked for me in the past and I believe it will work for me moving forward. I find that when I sleep before 11pm, I wake up earlier AND more well rested. This was most clearly evident during my NS days and during other brief periods.”

0075 – sleepy and unfocused – “Have been a bit sleep deprived or something the past couple of days. Maybe dehydrated too. Wasn’t very productive at work. This is frustrating because I love my work, I should be progressing much faster!”

Links:

What is the real reason we sleep? | Hacker News

Why ProductiveENTP?

(WIP)

There are literally millions of productivity blogs on the Internet. Why should this one exist, and what makes it different?

Why?

The why is simple – I somehow managed to go through over 22 years of life without being diagnosed with ADHD, without having someone recognize that I was just different, rather than a nuisance or a problem.

I want to write the blog I wish existed when I was a teenager.

How is it different?

1 – The target audience are people who fit the ENTP stereotype – people who are highly scatterbrained, like to do a million things all at once, have trouble focusing, and very likely have ADHD.

2 – I’m going to focus on my personal story and experiences rather than dispense advice.

3 – I’m going to try and dig into the details that most people don’t quite seem to capture.

What?

Categories include…

 

  • Fitness – meatbag maintenance. Breathing. Sleep, food/diet, nutrition, hydration. Exercise is psychoactive.
    • Sleep.
  • Mental health. How to think about it.
    • Respect your time.
    • What are values and principles?
  • Execution.
  • Money. How to think about it.
  • Career. How to think about it.
  • Peopling – Marriage, family, friendship, colleagues, acquaintances. New strangers. Broader internet.

More soon.

How to deal with brain fog

[NeedAdvice] How do you guys deal with brain fog (especially in the morning)?

You just described exactly how I lived from 2012 to 2015 or so. Man, I do not miss those days. They don’t seem that bad while you’re living in them day to day, but when you look back on how the years go by, it’s quite devastating. You are, in a sense, your own prisoner. And you don’t quite fully realize it. You have an inkling of it, which is why you wrote this post, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I notice you didn’t say anything about your diet or exercise. That’s where I started solving the problem for myself. It’s one thing you can change without having to address the more difficult things.

Work out. You need to work out instead of playing Sims or watching YouTube. (Hell, you could go for a walk or jog while listening to YouTube if you really wanted to.) If you can’t get out of the house, a few pushups or jumping jacks a day can make a difference.

Eat healthier. Cut down on carbs. Get more protein and fat. It’ll instantly reduce the fog. Drink plenty of water. It makes a significant difference, and it’s free.

Visualize your future. Wasting several hours time at work is something I used to do too. It’s a sign that you don’t really value your own time, and you’re not properly imagining what your future is going to look like 5, 10, 20 years down the road. Imagine you’re a Sim, and visualize multiple different futures playing out for you. What is your life going to look like if you continue on your current path? What do you need to do if you want a different path? If you had a clear picture of how your current actions are affecting your future outcomes, you’d act differently without even particularly making a big deal out of it.

Screw the Zone. “Takes me forever to physically get in the zone” is partially a sign that you’re probably not exercise enough, and partially a total bullshit excuse. You shouldn’t wait till you get in the zone, you should just work anyway and enjoy the slipstream benefit of the Zone when it arrives.

Seek deeper enjoyment. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to focus on your interests and hobbies – in fact, it’s a necessary part of a happy and fulfilled life. But “I neglect everything else because I simply don’t enjoy it” is quite a warning sign. Because there are unenjoyable aspects to everything. Nothing worth doing is 100% fun 100% of the time. So your avoidance of uncomfortable, unenjoyable things is keeping you from living a more full, enjoyable life. Your enjoyment is currently stuck at a superficial level. Again, I think you do sense this subconsciously.

It’s possible that you’re not going to make any changes for quite some time. It took me years. You really have to feel kind of disgusted with yourself – have a burning platform moment – before you really start changing properly. For me, I think it’s just getting older and starting to feel like I don’t have much time left to dick around. Your mileage may vary.