I want it my way

I've been meaning to create a blog for a long time, because there are things that are deeply matter that I don't hear talked about, and I that I want people to know.

But I've been putting it off, because I can't write an amazing post on my first try.

I have this really sticky idea that if I hold off writing a post, somehow, in the future, I'll be able to write something really good: that moves a conversation, or that is an authentic expression of who I am. Even though I know that bloggers need to write blog posts for awhile before they produce something that touches people.

However, the feeling is still there. Because I don't want to give up on the idea that this won't be as good as I want it to be when I publish it. That would mean a kick to my ego, and that would be bad. Why can't I just write something and revise it endlessly, so that it can be good enough first time? I don't want blogging to be how it is. I want it my way.

It seems that I'm a slow learner when it comes to this.

In 2017 I got into online dating. I'd been putting it off for awhile (years). Eventually what it took was a close friend sitting down next to me, watching me, whilst I messaged people, because I just wouldn't do it alone.

It reminds me of a Jordan Peterson lecture where he talks about treating people who are afraid of needles. They'll start with the smallest possible step: let's just have a needle in the room, and reveal this fact. Not even a visible needle. Just create awareness that there's a needle in the room. And go from there: first having the needle visible. Then having it brought closer. Then having the patient touch it, etc. Each session taking a small step, making progress little by little.

I was originally going to write an essay called 'holding hands' awhile back, about this dynamic. My friend said that sounded like a great idea. But I didn't ever write it, because I didn't follow my own advice.

There's a lot of humility required in something like this. A previous Nick would have judged. Aren't you ashamed of yourself? You can't even do that? That's pretty pathetic. You should just get over yourself, and start dating.

The thing is though, the judging didn't work, but the holding hands did.

It turned out that I really didn't want to be judged, rejected, or have people ignore my messages. 'Turned out' I say. No, I totally knew that was the case all along, but I wanted it not to be that way.

And then even after I went through that, I still wanted it my way. I would really read through someone's profile, thoughtfully, and picture myself spending time with that person, and then after doing that, send a really personalised, thoughtful, and kind message, before moving on to the next person.

There's something about giving up wanting it your way that opens you up to how a thing actually works. What it actually is. As a consequence of this you get better results with the thing.

But even knowing this, I still want it my way.

Way before actually doing it, I'd modelled out how online dating worked, in theory. I knew that most messages I'd send to women would be ignored, and that it was a numbers game. I also had a strong suspicion that certain kinds of messages would have better results. However, I still wanted it my way, and still needed to have the experience of having my thoughtful messages ignored, before I finally let go of all of that and accepted the way it actually is. And suddenly then the whole thing made much more sense, and then I could think about it and had better luck with it, because I'm no longer getting in my own way, and it's less about me.

In 2019 I decided to quit my job and commit my full time to coaching and personal development, because I love it so much. And what I've been consistently faced with since then is my own wishful thinking about every single aspect of that, with things that should have been obvious in retrospect.

I assumed I'd be able to scale clients easily, for example. After all, I already had clients, and given that I have way more hours in the day to throw at this, surely that will mean I can just expand my efforts and more clients will appear to me.

It wouldn't take me that long, right? After all, I'm a talented coach. People keep telling me how great I am at it, and this was without any formal training at the time. And I did a transformational coaching course with all these other up-and-coming coaches, and so by the time I did that I'm going to be super amazing. People should be knocking down my door. I'll transform their lives!

I mean, I've been working on myself for awhile, so surely I'm not going to assume that I know what's something's going to be like before actually doing it, and all that?

Deep down I knew I'd have challenges with many aspects of running a business. I even knew what all my challenges would be. But I allowed myself to induldge in a lot of wishful thinking anyway. It's almost like: I needed to go the motions of trying to start a business my way, before I yield to how running a business actually is.

Let me try to say something general about this, using some metaphors.

I take the view that the default position, in any new domain, is something like: childlike, egocentric, personally-oriented. All about you. I will make it work my way.

That's sort of like a fact of reality, when trying something new. So if you do try something new, you start in the default position. The default position 'wants it my way' and so resists how things are. Resists the way the thing actually is (even though deep down you really know).

So now, like a child, you dip a finger into the thing. It's cold, that thing, and wet. It wasn't a warm and soothing, like you wanted it to be.

But something funny has happened now. You now have this wet watery thing on your finger, and you can look at it, and it's interesting. And oh, look also, this thing, this thing you dipped your finger into, it has properties. It has stuff-ness. It's wet, I mean, that's something right? Before you touched it, you didn't even know that! I mean, ok, you intellectually knew it was wet, because you'd read a book and you know that things are made of water. But this wetness.. it wasn't how you expected it to be at all! In a sense, it was really nothing like the books.

Then, after awhile, you put a foot in. You can feel the rough mud beneath the surface. It feels different to the water. Yeah, you knew that there might be mud down there, you'd read that too. But this is your first time feeling it, and its so different to what you expected it to be. It's not what you wanted.... But really it's not even in the realm of wanting or not wanting anymore. It's in the realm of: this is what's actually there, now. Wanting or not wanting lives in a totally different realm, it would seem.

So now your attention has gone to actually being curious about how the thing is, rather than how you wanted it to be. That starts to dominate your experience of the thing.

And then maybe you go through a few more cycles and you learn to swim in the lake. Now you're fully immersed in the thing. Your identity no longer has anything to say about it, because it is how it is, and your opinion on it, although now informed, lives in a totally separate domain.

And also it gets in the way of your swimming, you see now. You can't both swim effectively and hold an opinion on it, simultaneously. You can't do both activities without the swimming suffering. And why? Well, because the 'rules of swimming' say so.

Do you still get worried about dipping a finger in now you're a pro swimmer? Not really. I mean, you can, but it wouldn't really be a valuable use of your time to relive that experience, although you can certainly empathise with a beginner.

Your psychological development in the swimming domain is now actualised. Your identity in this realm is reduced, ground down, almost nothing. You've yielded to the thing, to how it actually is. So there's nothing to protect or maintain anymore, with respect to you and swimming. And the resistance you had is no longer there, as a result. Not in the world of swimming, at least.

But try hand-gliding, and there it is again!

So what gives?

New domains are threatening to our main job to persist and survive as complex conceptual selves. I mean you have to get your ass kicked, before you learn to get out of your own way. And that's why you have the default position.

But surely I can make the cycle faster! I want it this way.

I do think you can make the cycle faster. The more you try new things, and see your own edges, the more ass-kicking you give yourself, so the speak, the quicker the cycle becomes. But I suspect it's always going to be there, just as a natural aspect of the growth and expansion of the consciousness of a human being.

Wanting things to be a certain way is a function of me, not of the thing itself. But that's pretty obvious, I knew that right? It's not going to stop me from wanting it my way.

But here's my biggest takeaway from all this:

What I really wanted out of the thing, in each case, wasn't the most valuable thing to get, or what it had to teach me. What I wanted was me, and my own beliefs, and for everything to stay the same, so that my identity could be spared.

But when I actually let go of that, I got something new.

I had to empty my cup a little, give up wanting it my way, and immerse myself in not-knowing, for some new possibility to arise.

I learned that when working in a new domain, its important to be open, to spend time in the not-knowing, and to be compassionate with myself, holding hands and taking small steps, in order to face the reality. The reason it's uncomfortable, after all, is because I'm risking a part of myself. In the end I have to let go of something, in order to have something new.

This process of mini-cycles of psychological development, and of letting go of the way we want things to be, for the way they actually are, seems to be a pretty natural part of human growth and development. So I shouldn't expect it to not be like that.

That said, I hope this gets received my way...