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Plugging the Holes

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I was touring the Parisian subway system a few days ago.

Since it’s Christmas-time, there are ads everywhere telling us that the malls are open late, or on Sundays (gasp!). But there was one more thing: Massive amounts of jewellery ads.

The purpose of jewellery as a Christmas present is as follows: To convince your girlfriend/wife/significant other that you treasure her. The real reason for the jewellery purchase, however, is different. It’s that you basically ran out of time, couldn’t think of what to get her, and finally decided that something expensive would convince her that you really thought this through. Come on, you know I’m right.

Jewellery isn’t the only example of this. There are so many that I can’t even begin to count them, but their purpose is always to plug a hole by throwing in money, or effort, all at once. Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, all of these mean the same thing. “Damn you do a lot for me, and I don’t really appreciate it very much, so I’m going to try and plug the hole right now to avert disaster.” But these tricks don’t really work, do they?

I mean, they might work for a while, but in the long term it’s not like your wife is is convinced by the ring/necklace you bought. She knows how forgetful you are– and if you’re lucky, she loves you anyway. 😉

You know this, but it bears repeating: Nothing really replaces the day-to-day upkeep, whether in love or work or anything else. Starting a project is easy– you’re excited as you get out of the gate, you go off with a flash, and you tell everyone. What’s wrong with that? Let’s see.

Get Excited

Sure, if you’re not excited by something, then you probably won’t start. But excitement shouldn’t be what leads to action; if it does, you’re dependent on it to get anything done. No, you should be excited when you first think of or decide on work on something, but basing the work you do on inspiration or excitement is death. Fuggedaboutit. Submit to the machine instead.

Start Quick

No. Pace yourself. Don’t get exhausted by doing it for 8 hours a day at first– instead, do it for a short period and then force yourself to stop. If you’re writing, you should even stop in the middle of a sentence to give you a great place to start up tomorrow.

But either way, don’t get exhausted. The road is long, so chill out. Don’t get impatient.

Tell Everyone

Oh man, this one is the worst. What Henry Emerson Fosdick said it best:

No steam or gas drives anything until it is confined. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.

Submitting your idea to the public domain by telling people is crazy. First of all, you’re dependent on them mirroring your excitement. If they don’t, you start doubting yourself and risk halting everything.

Second, all the thinking you should do about your idea should be done by yourself first, until you prototype it or otherwise make it real. Containing it (like steam) will give you more fire. Do that instead.

Wow, I went off on a tangent there. What is the point of this again? Oh yeah, I remember. You can’t plug the holes all at once. Forget special days. Routine is king. Daily work will always beat bursts.

In other words: Never trust the sprinter to deliver a message. Always trust the long-distance runner, instead.

* Filed by at 6:11 am under random


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3 Responses to “Plugging the Holes”

  1. Whitney Says:

    In terms of your initial assessment- from the “girl” side of thing, I don’t really look at jewelry as a “I can’t think of anything else” gift, because at least in the Mom set, the jewelry is actually bragging rights with friends. The conversation goes like this “What a great looking ring!” “My husband bought this for me when we were on our 10th anniversary trip to _________(insert exotic location here).”- Women actually remember all this stuff and it serves as a launching point for stories and to a certain extent, showing off for your friends. It’s the equivalent of a love bowling trophy, a talisman, a memory, a souvenir.
    That said, I agree- the day to day value and showing people you care (regardless of family or friends or community) gets you much farther than an occasional “yeah, I love you- here’s the annual fealty present the culture says I owe you in homage for your stretch marks.” And it’s why we’ve tended to move towards much more travel and experiences as a family and away from just stuff, because in the end, it’s the experience and the memories that we carry around with us more than the “stuff” souvenirs.
    Translate this into business, and it means its important to show up and have real human experiences more than just watch a talk on the net- because the being there part is important, even when we try to tell ourselves it’s not.

  2. Mel Says:

    Too tired to comment on the jewellery part of your post but wanted to say that I recently read a study that people who discussed their ambitions/goals/plans (short or long-term) with others and received positive reinforcement simply from stating they were going to do something were less likely to do it in the end. I agree with the “tell everyone” part of your post, but for different reasons.

  3. Larry Says:

    Regarding your first point: I couldn’t agree more. I used to do the standard things on the standard holidays because… well, because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? But the older I get the more I realize that we’re just falling prey to manipulation. And that holds true for both sides of the transaction: not only do we send Christmas cards, but we expect to get Christmas cards. And flowers. And jewelry. And whatever.

    Now, oftentimes when I think of something nice about someone I call and tell them exactly what I was thinking. I’m finding that a heartfelt phone call on some vanilla Wednesday morning means as much (if not more than) whatever card it is that I’m “supposed” to be sending.

    But still, you ignore the flip side of that argument at your own peril: Since they’re not expecting it, I’ve never had anyone get mad at me for not making that Wednesday morning phone call. But miss a birthday or other required event…

    Regarding your subsequent points: I’m glad you got off on a tangent. I had what I thought was a good and important idea and was crushed – and I mean crushed – when I told family and close friends about it, only to have it land with a resounding thud. The hurt was something I’ll never forget and it almost dissuaded me from creating my first prototype. (BTW, thanks for that “prototype” link – good article.)

    And excitement? That simply can’t last. I still believe in what I am trying to do, but there are a lot of days (more than I care to admit) that I’m really not all that psyched to have at it. I find that you just have to try to suck it up, sit down, and do what needs doing. The excitement will ebb and flow, so just hang in there the best that you can.

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