Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

Yearly Goals are Worthless

Friday, January 10th, 2014

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This time last year, I planned goals for the year. Spent a few days on them. It felt good, hopeful.

I accomplished precisely zero of them. Not that it was a bad year — far from it. Just the goals were speculative, things that sounded like they should be easy, rather than things I could actually see a path to solving. And it turned out, things that sound like the should be easy, sometimes aren’t.

Here’s the problem: Problems I know how to solve, get solved in 1-3 months. Problems I don’t know how to solve take 6-60 months. Neither is right for “yearly goals.”

And trying to solve a hard problem in a year is counter-productive — solutions don’t come by banging on the problem over and over, they come from exploring other areas of magick, learning unrelated skills, and eventually, the sum of those unrelated skills offers an insight.

For 2014, I’m dumping yearly goals. Instead, I’ll do monthly goals (problems I know how to solve) and long-term goals (that I’ll return to every so often, after exploring unrelated skills). Next year, I’ll update you on how it worked.

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Goals Are For Losers

Monday, October 14th, 2013

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Scott Adams (Dilbert creator), writing in the WSJ:

To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.

If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize that you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or to set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.

Instead, he advocates systems: Ways of solving a problem that you do, continuously, trusting that it’ll work, even if you’ve gotten unlucky the last few times you’ve tried. His examples include continuously looking for jobs (because it’s unlikely that the best job for you happens to be open when you happen to be out of work), or selecting a sales field based on how likely current customers are to renew their subscription (and therefore, give you another commission for zero extra work).

This resonated with me. Because I enjoy magick more when I just explore, rather than picking a problem and trying to solve it. And exploring is a system: Find something you don’t understand, figure out how it works (which may include asking a spirit), learn to use it, then find something else you don’t understand. Over time, once you understand enough bits, new techniques just become obvious, and they usually work the first time. And each part is exciting: Finding something you don’t understand, teasing it apart, finding something else, and seeing a new technique that ought to work, and then finding you’re right (most of the time). Compared to the cycle of permanent pre-success failure, there’s really no contest.

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Overcoming Resistance with Physical Exercise

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

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This morning, I was looking forward to my magick training. I’d had another relationship end last Tuesday, and I hadn’t done much new magick in that week. I was excited to be back to normal.

But I just wasn’t quite there. Each time I opened my notes, I stared at them for a minute, then put them down. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t find the right mental posture. It just wasn’t working.

I tried introspection, thinking about what I wanted, seeing if I really believed in my plan. And I did: It’s a good plan, this is what I need to learn next, it’s a skill I care about knowing. Introspection didn’t help.

I gave in for the morning, watched a movie and played some games. That didn’t help either. Not that I was terribly surprised.

Then I remembered my post about physical exercise getting me out of a depression. I had made good on my resolution to exercise more, first doing curls with a coffee table to make sure I would actually exercise, then buying some adjustable dumbbells. I’d used them until the breakup, then had let them rest for that week.

I did a set. It was fast — I’d lost some strength from resting. But I worked until my arms couldn’t move the weight. Then I went back to my keyboard, rested for another 10 minutes. Then I did the magick training. And everything just worked.

Physical exercise fixed my resistance today. Have you had a similar experience?

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Becoming a Mage

Monday, August 12th, 2013

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Kol asks:

How many posts does a ‘non-mage’ have to read before they qualify to ‘be’ a mage

One of my friends in college ran a student-taught class on the history of magick. Everything from Pythagoras to the Rosicrucians to Crowley to Chaos Magick. We was better-read as a freshman than I am today. But only ever read. He never actually did magick.

To answer Kol: Reading doesn’t make you a mage any more than watching baseball makes you an athlete. What makes you a mage is awakening your ethereal muscles and altering the world. There is no substitute for doing the work.

The natural next question is, “How do I do that?” The answer will be coming soon, in part 2 of the initiation. But remember: Those answers are only useful if you actually do the magick. Reading is the easy part.

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Work Less, Think More

Monday, July 15th, 2013

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The more I practice magick, the less I find that work correlates with results. Sure, work is required. But it’s a distant second to figuring out the actual problem that needs solving.

An example: After learning more about communication with spirits and ethereal software, and updating my technique, I was finding communication exhausting. But no big deal — that’s common after learning a new technique. I just practice for a few days until all the changes settle in, my ethereal muscles learn the new motions, and my brain catches up. Do the work, and you’ll get the results.

Except I wasn’t. Four days went by, and I was just getting even more exhausted. It was like I was over-working my muscles, or my brain.

So I stopped. Rested half a week, and thought about what to do next. I didn’t know what the problem was, but about a year ago, I’d set up a bunch of connections from my ethereal muscles, through my brain’s energy layer, into my brain. I hadn’t updated those connections since then, and since my new technique involved putting more signatures into my brain, maybe those connections needed some improving.

I asked the spirits that train me. They thought it was a reasonable guess (though they didn’t know for sure), and they showed me how to do it. For an hour, it was even more exhausting than before, but after that, I felt great. The next day, my ethereal muscles for communication were fast and responsive, easy to engage and use, and I’m tentatively calling this problem solved.

A decade ago, all I had to do was put in the work. Now, working fails at least once a month. What changed?

I think it’s the problems I’m tackling. Ten years ago, I was learning simpler techniques that my trainers fully understood. They’d explain it to me, I’d do what they said. Easy.

But now, my trainers mostly understand these techniques. They can sort of explain it to me, and they agree that a solution might work. Which means pausing to figure out the solution, rather than just putting in the hours of practice.

If you ever find your trainers saying, “I’m not sure, but that might work,” watch out: You’ll need to debug your own techniques soon.

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Pre-Hindsight

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

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A story from a recent workshop:

An engineer sent a chip for testing. The report would say whether the chip broke under stress, or whether it worked properly. As the guy is coming to deliver the report, the engineer can see from the man’s face that the chip failed. Instantly, the engineer knows how the chip failed: A crack in this location from this much heat. He didn’t read the report — simply knowing the chip had failed was enough to make his mind come up with the most likely explanation. And as an expert, his most likely explanation is usually right.

That’s hindsight: Once X fails, your mind is great at telling a reasonable story for why X failed.

Which brings us to pre-hindsight: Before you attempt X, imagine a future where you know X failed. You’re getting that report. And let the hindsight part of your mind engage and tell you the most likely reason X failed. Then, in light of this insight, consider if you want to adjust your approach and instead do X+1.

I’ve been using this in my own magick work, when considering how to research certain techniques, and it’s been quite useful.

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The Importance of Eating Well

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

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I’m consulting this week. In Florida, where it’s all chain restaurants with mediocre, unhealthy food. And I’m realizing, eating poorly impacts my magick practice.

It ought to be obvious: It’s hard to focus if you’re hungry or just feeling out of sorts from eating something too heavy. And eating unhealthy makes you tired, which makes me more likely to make excuses and watch TV, rather than doing work.

Today, I had a food bar when I got home. Nothing fancy, but whole grains, low sugar, reasonably healthy. And I feel much better, ready to write — that’s this post here — and maybe ready to do some magick practice too.

So, add this to my checklist when I’m practicing magick less than I’d like: Am I eating healthy?

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Thoughts Need to Incubate

Friday, March 1st, 2013

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This will relate to magick, but I want to start with writing. I’ve been wanting to wrap up the Intent and Implementation series, and post more on grounding, and update you about psychic intuitions (they’re working now), and a few other things. But I just can’t today.

The problem is, all of those posts need time to incubate. I need to load the Intent and Implementation series into my mind, assemble the ideas that go together, and create a simple, straight path. I need to recall the grounding technique, explain it to readers with a different background and skill set than I had when I developed that technique, and make it relevant to readers who can’t learn that technique yet. And getting psychic intuitions to work involved three techniques that somehow added up to a success, not a straight line I planned then executed.

While thinking about what to write, I realized: My mind was simply refusing to explore. I couldn’t juggle ideas around and create new connections between them. My mind was totally happy to explain connections I’d already made between ideas, as long as I’d talked about them before. But exploring a half-formed idea, or a half-realized explanation? Not gonna happen on a deadline.

Magick is the same way, I think. I can practice known techniques on a deadline. But when I need to understand a new idea, explore a new aspect of magick, figure outwhy something works, I need an empty day to simply watch all the moving parts I’m working with, load all the concepts into my mind, and let it all incubate. That’s what I need to have a new insight that I can build into a new technique.

And, having realized this, I’m going to block off more days for quiet writing and magick.

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Perfection vs Shipping

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

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There’s always space between what you want to do, and what you can do in the time you have. And you have a choice.

You can cringe at the imperfections, at the post you wrote in 30 minutes that could really use another hour of work. At the magick technique that didn’t work, or worked for a day then faded. Cringe that your attempt isn’t as polished as someone else’s final product.

The other option is to trust that shipping is more important than perfection, and that shipping 3 posts or 4 magick techniques will get you farther than waiting for perfection.

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Forgetting the Hard Path is Supposed to be Hard

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

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Today, I want to talk to other mages who intentionally choose the hard path.

As I wrote Monday’s post (about reactivating psychic intuitions), I started to write about the debugging involved, but I kept flinching away. I just didn’t want to talk about the problems I’d had to fix, even though that’s the most useful part for readers learning my style.

The basic reason was simple: No one else talks about these problems, at least not publicly, and I feel inferior for having them. Even though I solved them, I felt like I shouldn’t have had them in the first place.

Initially, I thought it was a matter of comparing my insides to someone else’s outsides. I mean, if I didn’t tell you about these problems, you wouldn’t know about them, right? So maybe other folks have the same problems but just don’t share.

That definitely happens, but it wasn’t what happened here. Because I realized, other mages don’t have these problems. At least, not the ones I was imagining and comparing myself to. But there’s a very good reason:

I intentionally chose the hard path.

That’s right. I said, “Let’s do this the hard way. The way with more problems, because I’ll learn more by solving them, and wind up with a more flexible technique that I can use to build even better techniques later. Yay for the hard way.”

And then, after winning, I felt bad for having had those problems.

The hard path is supposed to be hard. But sometimes, you forget. Something to watch out for.

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