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Letter from Bruce Springsteen

Up early again. I woke up at 4 and got up to pee, then got back to sleep till 6, but that was it. So I’m up! First cup of coffee is finished and I have the urge to write out my thoughts, so that’s what I’m gonna do.

It strikes me that some of my previous morning pages entries have ended up more like blog posts that brain dumps, and that’s kinda not the point of morning pages as I understand them.

I watched Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You last night and it was fantastic. It helped me with a decision, which was whether to help a friend out or not. I decided that I would. Dónal asked if I would like to record with him for a support slot to go out on one of his friend’s music channels. He wants me to bring my video gear and record and edit the whole thing as well as play with him. It’s actually a LOT of work, and that’s why I balked at first. My thought processes went like this:

  1. Do I fuck want to play (my typical spectrumy response to pretty much any request for me to leave the house for anything at all).
  2. I kinda would like to play, but fuck me, that’s a lot of work for someone else’s channel.
  3. Actually, tearing down my gear out of my studio is far too tall an order.
  4. Is this a room for growth in any way? Is it a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset thing (based on this book that I’m reading just now).
  5. Is there any way I could do it without having to unplug my digital mixer?
  6. What’s in this for me?

So I walked the dogs and turned off the audiobook (Mindset) so I could think about it. By the time I got home, I was no closer to making a decision. It was dark and I was wet and cold. In fact, I was probably closer to saying no if I’m honest and I didn’t like how that made me feel.

I decided I would put on the new Springsteen studio concert movie Letter to You for some down time, wondering whether that would influence my decision. And d’you know what? It really did. And the decision I made was that yes, of course I would like to record.

It was partly thinking about the signal chain that tech that prevented my getting back to sleep at 6.

Systems Thinking Book

Am I continuing with the Systems Thinking book because of my all or nothing approach to life? Is the challenge I’m finding in understanding it a mindset thing? It’s very scientific and I’ve always said simply and emphatically that ‘my brain doesn’t do science’. That’s a fixed mindset right there. Languages? Yep. Music? Uh-huh. Science and maths? Nope.

If I look back on that, it’s almost certainly linked to my high school. Every single pupil in my O Grade chemistry class dropped it. We used to play cards. I got chucked of maths for bad behaviour and was permitted to take only arithmetic after that, which I failed.

Prestwick Academy was the worst.

And now I’m left with the fixed mindset that I don’t do science or maths. To be fair, I do find them difficult and I really have no desire to get better at them. But when I come upon a book like Thinking in Systems: A Primer and I know it’s a concept that I want to understand, I find my brain struggling to parse the diagrams and understand the jargon. I mean it’s fairly jargon free, but you can’t describe a thing without using the words that go with that thing really. As a linguist I can understand that.

So, do I continue? I’m half-way through and have understood some of it. That’s better than understanding none of it, right?

I write this knowing full well that I will continue because that’s my character. It’s almost like I want to be able to check the box and say that I’ve read it, even if it means skimming some of it and not really taking it in. Is there any point in doing that? That’s my question.

Playing Guitar

I played the Gretsch White Falcon a bit yesterday while watching the Springsteen movie. It was unplugged, so kind of silly, but it felt nice. I think that’s the first time I’ve picked up the guitar in over a week. I’ve been thinking about that as I read the Mindset book. It talks about how talent is overrated and that perseverance is a super power. If playing guitar REALLY is my passion, how come I’m not playing all the time? Yes, that old chestnut again. I got good because I played ALL THE TIME. What happened? I mean I’m not going out to work now and am home pretty much all the time, so how come I don’t play every day?

I don’t know.

I tell myself that the environment isn’t right. The house is so cluttered you wouldn’t believe it. I don’t have a comfortable place to read and the clutter really weighs me down. That’s why I love sitting out on the porch so much, but I won’t be doing that again until spring. And I like to have a relaxing space to play guitar and to read. But I do still read. I go and lie on my bed and try to block out the clutter and it kind of works. But I couldn’t really play guitar in the bedroom as there’s nowhere to sit. I tried using my daughter’s bedroom as she’s out at school on the mainland through the week, but her room is cluttered too and it’s not comfortable sitting on her bed.

I can’t really get rid of the clutter for reasons that I won’t go into here, so now I find myself wishing we had a bigger house, instead of being grateful for the fact that we have a house and that ain’t right.

Wait, that wasn’t really about playing guitar, was it? Hmmm.

Building a Personal Operating System

I’ve been enjoying reading over the past few weeks, both for pleasure and for education – not that education and pleasure are mutually exclusive of course!

Having started August Bradley’s course on building a personal operating system with Notion last week, I chose a book from his recommended reading list and started it yesterday. It’s called Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows and it’s very good.

I’ve tried many different personal operating systems to help me achieve my goals, but have never really understood how to plan for the weak points. I tend to have an ‘all or nothing’ character, so I’m either merrily ticking off my habit tracker every day or not ticking it off at all on any day. I’ve tried bullet journalling, OmniFocus, GTD, Things, Streaks. They all have the same problem – me!

What I like about August’s course is that its fundamental focus is on systems with flexible software that you don’t have to try and shoehorn into your personality. He’s just put up his Notion template, which I haven’t duplicated to my own Notion account yet or even really looked at. I’m a little hesitant to do it because it will have that ‘shoehorn’ feeling, but I’m pretty certain that the course will teach me not only how his system works, but how to change it to fit my own goals and aspirations.

I’ll be diving into his videos over the weekend, while keeping my all-or-nothing character in check so that I don’t get grumpy when my daughter needs to use my studio to record her audition pieces. To that end, part of setting up my own personal operating system will have to include a way of adding flexibility and the expectation of distractions. It’s probably more of a Mindset issue, the idea that what I call distractions are actually distractions, or if they’re just life encroaching into my unrealistic expectations of myself. So not over planning will be important, and also being able to focus for fixed periods of time and plan for that by not picking up my phone when it buzzes and by actually communicating with my family in a nice way that I’m unavailable for this chunk of time.

I’m really looking forward to this!

Mindset

Oh, and speaking of Mindset, I’ve also started another of August’s recommended reading books, Mindset, by Carol Dweck.

So far it’s okay, but not really telling me anything that I didn’t already know. Still, I’d never really had it explained to me before by someone else so I think it will be helpful in the long run.

It talks about the growth mindset vs the fixed mindset and I think my characters has elements of both, but probably tending towards more growth than fixed. I’m sure I’ll be able to use what I learn from this book to tweak my personal operating system and make allowances for potential points of failure.

Or will it end up being Yet Another Course that I’ve spent money on and changes nothing? Again, I refer you to Mindset! I think I’ve got this!

Ali Abdaal has Inspired Me BIG TIME!

Who the fuck is Ali Abdaal? I didn’t know either, until lunch time today. Since then, he’s changed my life.

I don’t know if you know, but my mental health hasn’t always been great. I came out of a bipolar downswing at the beginning of this week, a downswing that I wasn’t even really aware that I was in until I wasn’t. And it felt fucking amazing. Wheeeee! I was feeling a glow, an energy, positivity in waves that I hadn’t felt for months.

That led to productivity. I can do anything when I’m on an upswing; everything seems possible. All the ideas and plans that I had on my last upswing suddenly feel good again. Time to get to work!

Knowledge Working Space

I’ve always been interested in the knowledge working space. I remember signing up for Backpack in around 2006, listening to Merlin Mann’s interview with David Allen of Getting Things Done, reading David Sparks’ posts about OmniFocus, reading Shawn Blanc, starting a blog, and another blog, and a music website and a photography website.

Then the downswing would come and everything would seem pointless and I’d feel like I was a fraud. ‘Who cares, right?’.

I’ve been going through these ups and downs for as long as I can remember. Now I’m in an upswing and feeling like it will never end, and so I’m going to go with that and not think about the fact that it always does end. But I’m going to try and ‘bank some creative capital’ this time, and every time from now on.

Ali Abdaal

This is where Ali Abdaal comes in.

Let’s rewind a little, back to a couple of weeks ago when I discovered a new-ish note-taking service called Roam Research. I can’t remember how I found it. No, wait, it was from one of my favourite newsletters, Iain Broome’s. He just happened to mention it on his Substack blog.

I signed up because it sounded fantastic, but the upswing hadn’t kicked in and I did nothing with it until this weekend. I’ve spent the last two days watching YouTube videos on how it works, and that was how I found Ali Abdaal. I’ve watched four or five of his videos today and am now reading one of three books that he recommended.

Side note: this is another danger zone for me on an upswing – I buy stuff like I had ALL the money! I even made a note in my journal to reign that in this time around, because it never ends well. And of course I can justify every single purchase! I’m now staring at the Joker keyboard on the IQUNIX store and trying hard not to buy it (I already ordered a Keychron K4 earlier in the week — oops!)

But the books, right. I’m now reading Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. It’s really good.

I’m highlighting it in the Kindle app, which highlights will then be added to a page in Roam Research via Readwise. It’s the sort of workflow that really excites me. Naturally it’s going to involve buying a subscription both to Roam Research AND Readwise when the trials are up. This is what I was talking about!

Banking Creative Capital

Ali talks about passive income in this video.

He’s a doctor, working for the NHS in the UK. And he’s making a comfortable living making content and from affiliate marketing. But wait, he’s a doctor? Working for the NHS? I’ve been around UK hospitals enough to have an idea of how much work that is. And I’M complaining that I don’t have time to make videos? What?

Nuts, right?

Not only that, but Ali’s down-to-earth style in his videos really appeals to me and makes me feel a little less like an impostor. So, that’s why I’m feeling inspired af right now. I have multiple projects in my head, some of which have content created going back to June 2019 and which I’ve done fuck all with because ‘I don’t have time’. So from now on, whenever I think I don’t have time, I’ll remind myself that I’m not a junior doctor for the NHS and stop fucking complaining!

So while I’m feeling positive, I’m going to get to work with some content and a new website that’s in the works for my network marketing ideas. I know from having been part of the knowledge space for a long time that consistency is perhaps the main ingredient when it comes to algorithms and audience building, so if I can just get enough content ready and schedule it out, it could just work.

I think it’s that lack of consistency that has held me back. I hear YouTubers talking about how they’ve been on YouTube forever, meaning five years. I published my first video in 2007 before even Google bought it. But I’m not going to regret the past; I’m going to start today and send a big shoutout of gratitude to Ali.

THANKS ALI!

**Featured Image copyright Ali Abdaal.