Decisions are Bullshit
So many new things to say, so many thoughts, so many feelings…I’m not particularly interested in leaving California (70°F as I write this, among other reasons) but I have affairs to settle in Dallas as well as people I’d like to see.
Again I’m struck with the feeling that I need to make better use of the time I spend in Dallas. Not only because life is short and I need to always be making the best possible use of the time that I have, but also because of a growing awareness that the sun is setting on my time with that city. Nine years has been quite enough; which isn’t to suggest that I despise Dallas—that’s not it at all. In fact, it’s the much more insidious case that I like it well enough to abide (and abide in), but don’t have any particular zeal for it.
There’s a larger theme here, however: that this kind of tolerance pervades my personality and I make these types of decisions to stick with things I don’t love across the board. It’s my nature to not be bothered by much. I tend to suck things up. In a way that I’m proud of and happy with because I think it represents a mature response to obstacles and discomforts, but it needs to be paired with a different kind of feedback-response mechanism. Complaining constantly about temperature, food choices, noise levels, etc.—that all seems to me a part of a shallow, time-filling, often consumerist psychosis that glorifies complaining but (paradoxically) leaves the complainer in a state of permanent dissatisfaction. Fix it or transcend it. Then move on to things of value. Perhaps if people got to the end of their list of complaints they wouldn’t know what to do with their lives, maybe that’s the explanation. Whatever the case, I’m quite sure I don’t want a part in it.
But the problem with being OK with everything is that it leaves you with less motivation to change. Discomfort (pain) is the most powerful and primal motivator of all, so to escape it is to escape much of what drives one to improve. I certainly have my areas of perfectionism (i.e. intolerance of the subpar) and I’m intimately aware of what those are, but for something like the question of what city to live in, my lack of prejudice + optimism + the inherent uncertainty of the opportunities available in something as large as an entire city = a dangerous potential for inaction. I’d do better with some of the more small-minded judgements like “LA’s fake” or “New York is just too dirty”.
For the past couple months I’ve been stuck on an idea I probably picked up from Amber Rae—that making decisions is the right decision. Make more decisions. It nicely parallels the lean start-up mentality that rough and shipped will beat the shiny, spectacular product that never makes it to market. That seems obvious, but the corollary that ‘pushing an unfinished product out the door can be a fantastic idea’ is anything but obvious. In similar style, we should push unfinished decisions out the door.
I don’t mean to push my dysfunctional decision-making problems on anyone else, but when’s the last time you took a while to “think [something] over” and actually thought it over for any meaningful length of time? Thinking something over generally consists of not thinking about it punctuated by episodes of feeling guilty over not having come to a conclusion terminated by a hasty decision forced upon you by the impending deadline. And thus, my Caltrain epiphany from Wednesday: decisions are bullshit.
So, I propose that all decisions should be made hastily. The only real exception to that is some sort of next-action–driven process where you’re actively waiting on a piece of information or you’re using some sort of evaluation process (pro/cons, whatever) that is going to terminate with a decision. But I bet you’re not. So make more decisions because our off-the-cuff choices are likely better than the ones life will make for us if we allow it to.
Now to apply that to my own life: I intend to move to California. But today is not the day.
For now I intend to apply more energy to a decision I made couple years ago and haven’t fully explored: I want to travel; I want to be nomadic. I’ve lived from a suitcase or two of possessions and not had a bed to call my own for a good year now, so I’ve paid my dues, faced the cons of the lifestyle, just reaped few of the rewards. The reasons for this are fairly private, but I’ve finally structured things and built my income situation to a point where I can make this a reality. There’s a lot of opportunity cost to live this way, but I think it’s the right way—I think it is to live.
I sometimes scare myself in a deep, deep way with my inability to get excited about things the way I could as a child. But with a bag on my back and a city to explore, something just feels right. I know I’m supposed to care about a promotion or a new house or a wife but I just don’t. I didn’t really ever expect to be in a place in life where I meant that with this kind of clarity but I am and it’s awesome. I care about experiences and people, and anything else is just a conduit to those ends.
But man is a draining creature and so must work to earn and earn to live.
I think the purest solution, then, is something like Gonzo journalism. Or, as it was called in days past, poetry. Foremost to live, and from that life to produce work. To take the best of life and distill it to its essence for the consumption of others. Doubly genius in that the best inputs produce the best outputs, therefore one must commit to living well in order to produce good work.
I’m not convinced I have the writing chops to take that kind of lifestyle on myself—despite the exceedingly kind words some of you have given me over the years—but I do think the idea of producing work based on one’s experiences makes sense for anyone. It keeps us on track, makes sure we’re actually doing something with our lives rather than just settling in waiting for death to comfortably take us in the night.
I think that a big part of how we understand and value our own lives is narrative (I’ll not delve into that here—that’s another essay in progress), and telling the story of us now helps us to understand who we are and where we’re going and if that adds up anything we (will) value. There has to be some sort of consistency (and conscious decision-making!) or we wind up this mediocre shade of brown like we mixed all the crayons with abandon.
I have some idea where I want to be, and who I want to be, and how I want to write my story, but I sometimes move rather too slowly toward that end when left to my own devices. But I have this feeling that with the right degree of sharing, with the right external pressures, I can really get where I want to be. So I’d like to put that content out there. I’m not sure if “there” means Facebook, my blog, or some sort of new friends-only location, but it’s something I intend to experiment with (/ am experimenting with presently).
I tend to be selfish with my ideas until I’ve worked them in a form I’m comfortable releasing. I think that might be a limiting attitude. I’m trying to convince myself that sharing is a good thing. That giving away ideas will result in better ideas, not simply someone running off with mine and making what I intended to make. That concept is fairly radical but it’s been used by people I respect with great success so I think it’s worth a try.
And who knows, maybe I’ll connect with other people who are interested in the same things. I know others with some inclinations in the same direction but it would be fantastic to find someone who’s onboard in a burn the liferafts kind of way. I honestly can’t imagine what that would be like except for the feeling of excitement that’s welling up in me as I write this.
So what am I talking about sharing? Well, something more like this. More unfiltered, more failures. More questions than answers. Admissions of faults and fears and plans to defeat them all. Goals and principles and working theories. Inconsistencies. I see life as a grand experiment but some aren’t comfortable with that interpretation and won’t do well seeing behind the curtain of one who does. I’m not sure how that’ll play out—I guess we’ll see! Frankly, the idea terrifies me—and I think that’s a big part of why it’s worth doing. But if you’re (still) reading this, and don’t think I’m positively daft, then you’re exactly who I’m talking to; who I need, and who I want to share with.