Monthly Archives: November 2008

Industriousness, Day 9

The previous day, I finished every item on my to-do list. I don’t know when’s the last time that happened. I felt pretty damn good about myself.

I awoke relatively early this morning. This was a good sign, I thought to myself. Then, I proceeded to do nothing for several hours straight. I had become complacent and completely forgotten about industriousness. I have to remember to put success behind me.

In the end, the day wasn’t entirely wasted. I got some writing done. My e-mail inbox is getting much closer to 0.

Tomorrow, I’ll make sure to write down “Are you being industrious?” on my hand.

By the way, I’m making a list of possible virtues to concentrate for other months. So far, I have compassion, honesty, positivity, initiative, detachment, and cleanliness. I’ve also been thinking about taking things down to a weekly basis (as Franklin actually did), but I do like this several-week endeavor with industriousness.

[Note: Today is actually day 10, but I’m writing this late at night for day 9.]

10,000 Hours

I found this extract of Gladwell’s new book via Quad. I also saw Gladwell’s book discussed on Slate, and somewhere else. I want to highlight this section:

This idea – that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

“In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, “this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”

So… 3 hours a day for 10 years to achieve expertise. That’s very practical advice. That’s a lot of time to spend in a day, but I do watch a lot of TV and I could easily cut most of that out without having lost anything. The real question is do I want to put in the work to master oratory or writing? It doesn’t seem as if I can do both. I guess that leads to another question: Which one will be more useful to me? Or maybe which one do I value more? If we look at past experience, it may seem as if I already have a penchant for writing. Yet when I imagine myself in the future, do I see myself as a writer or as an orator? If I want to be in front of crowds, I guess I have to work on my speaking skills.

Industriousness, Day 7

I’m not backsliding. I finished up almost everything on my to-do list for the day. In fact, I finished most of it before lunch (short list, haha). Still, I feel good. I woke up around 9AM after waking after consistently after 10:30 for the past several days.

Also, I finally launched the Chalkboard Manifesto blog. That project has been on the backburner since summer. Now it’s off the backburner. Things are looking better for me.

Industriousness, Day 6

I looked at my hand today and said, “Fuck this. I’m taking the day off.” I watched the Ravens game on TV.

Shouldn’t I be industrious all the time? Don’t I need to work out and out-hustle everyone to get ahead in life? Was this a terrible idea?

I still think industriousness is a mean, and that you do have periods of relative inactivity. There are probably weekly cycles, and maybe yearly cycles too.

I just worry if I really needed the day off, or if this day was an indication of some slippage. Hm.

Industriousness, Day 5

Five days isn’t that long. I’ve read that it takes 30 days to develop a habit. I’ve also read that that statistic is total bullshit. Regardless, it isn’t too surprising that within five days, I haven’t turned into this amazing industrious machine. At this university, I’ve tended to cultivate an image of not being a hard-worker. I live on the edge, writing essays the morning they’re due and then getting an A- anyway. I don’t do half the reading I’m supposed to. I’ve never read Immaneul Kant, despite it being required in two separate philosophy classes. That’s the image I’ve given, and sometimes I actually live up to it. (Confession: I have actually tried to read Kant. I’ve frustrated myself reading and re-reading certain passages, comparing them with my notes, until I finally understood them.) It’s unsurprising that I’ll have to work hard to change this aspect of my character, which I’ve been practicing for almost 3 and a half years now. I have to cultivate a different image. See even now, I’m embarrassed to admit all the hard work I put into understand Kant. On the one hand, you want people to think things are easy for you. Yet at the same time, you don’t want to cultivate the image of a slacker.

Now where was I? Ah yes, five days. Yesterday, I woke up at 10AM. I didn’t do anything productive until after 1PM. Most of that time was just surfing the internet. However, I kept looking down at my left hand and I felt guilty. This didn’t stop me, but I think it’s an improvement. At least now I’m mindful of being a lazy bastard, instead of feeling guilty after-the-fact. Actually, my hand didn’t even have anything written on it, but I still was mindful. It wasn’t a completely wasted day, in fact. I submitted a story of mine to a digital magazine run by some students at this school. Who knows if it’ll be selected, but at least I’m putting things out there. I also read an RFK speech aloud, in order to work on oratory.

Today, I turned on the television after waking up at 12PM. All the college football games looked uninteresting. This does not normally stop me from plopping myself on the couch and watching football all day. I managed to do some laundry and finish a book, Revolutionary Characters, about the Founders.

I’m encouraged. I think I’m making baby steps towards my goal of changing my character. In my journal, back when I just started this experiment (day 2?), I was very discouraged. However, I know that focusing on the negative cannot result in a change in character. Keep telling yourself, “I should stop being lazy,” but you’ll never actually stop because all that’s on your mind is how lazy you are. You have to praise your positive activities, and not harp on the negative actions. So, after reminding myself, I wrote that I did a good job focusing on reading my book when I turned away from my computer. This from doing reading that took three times as long as it should’ve been. I chose not to focus on that and focus on those moments when I was able to be productive. That’s what I’m going to keep on doing, using this weblog as a tool to keep myself on track.

I’m going to keep up this experiment at least until the end of the month. That means 15 days more to be more mindful about industriousness.

My Distinct Lack of Accomplishments

As I reflect back on my young life, I see that I have no accomplishments. If I were to write an autobiography, there would be little to note. In fact, why the hell would I even write an autobiography? I have a couple of pieces of writing in college publications, and I have a relatively obscure webcomic. No fame, no glory.

I can’t help but think of what young people have done. At age 20, Alexander was already king. Newton was inventing calculus in his twenties. Goodness, I don’t want to be accused of being arrogant, but I am ambitious, and I want to emulate the best. (Of course, I don’t want to be a warmonger like Alexander.) I just want to use these people as examples of how far I have to go, and it appears as if I’m not making any significant progress to doing significant things.

Then, I read this about Thomas Paine: “Paine’s campaign on behalf of the excise service collapsed, and in 1774 he was again dismissed from the excise service and compelled to declare himself bankrupt. The future scarcely looked promising; at the age of thirty-seven he had failed at everything he had ever tried” (Revolutionary Characters by Gordon S. Wood). Okay, so I’ve still got a little more than 15 years — I’m almost 22 — to mess around before I can make my mark on the world, and then die in obscurity and be maligned as a dirty atheist for a century. Just kidding.

If I even want to be in a position to do anything, though, I’ll have to practice writing and speaking. I have to be ridiculously prolific when it comes to writing. I don’t have to do it all at once, but I want to at least put myself on the right track. I can’t wait for inspiration. I have to produce and produce, and in that time I will hone my craft. In 2 years, I want to look back and be proud of that body of work, even if it’s not all published.

Thoughts on Industriousness

I’m trying to be more mindful of being industrious. I’ve only been doing this experiment for a few days. I already have doubts. Is industriousness really what I want? I’ve thought up different goals. One question: “What are you building for tomorrow?” Another: “Are you being prolific?” To me, industriousness conjures up an image of plodding. All these different things race through my mind, but I resolve to keep with the original experiment for at least another week.

The Industrious Revolution

I’m convinced that to do anything even remotely approaching success, I must take an active approach to crafting my personality and personas. I must mold myself into the person I want to become. I’ve decided that the proper approach, taken from Ben Franklin, is to focus on one virtue for a month. These may not necessarily be the ones Franklin used, or match any set of classical virtues. The first virtue to cultivate is industriousness.

Written in pen, on the back of my hand, is the phrase, “Are you being industrious?” I’ve decided to utilize a technique from lucid dreaming. I would constantly ask myself, “Are you dreaming?” Eventually, this habit would find its way into my dreams. I would ask myself if I was dreaming, and then realize that I really was dreaming. Back when I found myself working on positivity, I noticed that even in my dreams I actively worked towards the goal of positivity. I gave advice to dream-people based on that paradigm. The goal with the industrious question is to be constantly mindful of industriousness. I want it to permeate my thoughts and influence my dreams. That will be when I know it has started to become part of my character.

Now, this does not mean I will become a workaholic. I’ll take a cue from Aristotle and say that industriousness is a mean. It is between being a slacker and a workaholic. I just want to be productive.

This is an experiment. I do not know if it will work or fail. I know that I did become a more positive person after actively managing that part of my personality. I am a perpetual procrastinator, though, so I may have trouble. I will work on it for the month and see if I become more industrious.

Hate Mail

It’s been a long time since I’ve received any hate mail. I’d get some good hate mail back when I was running I love hate mail. There’s nothing more invigorating than receiving hate mail. On the flip side, there’s nothing more devastating than receiving a critique that you realize is mostly true. I think something I’ll have to keep in mind is to be as invigorated when receiving the latter, as I am when I receive the former. Certainly, the latter is much more valuable for self-improvement or improving one’s product.

The Day After

It was rather gloomy today. Overcast. The post-Bush world isn’t really going to look any different than the Bush Era, is it? Where are the magical unicorns? When is racism over? When is bin Laden going to turn himself in because he sees the shining beacon that is America? When are the troops coming home?

Also, hung over. Was that the hope or the tequila?

Liveblogging 2008

9PM – CNN won’t call AZ for McCain right away. HAHAHA! I don’t expect Obama to win that state, but this is a good sign for the national trend.

9:21PM – McConnell wins his tight race. *sigh* That would’ve been a good win for the Democrats.

9:26PM – O-H-I-O! Woo!

9:31PM – No Republican has won without Ohio (in a long time or forever, I don’t know)

9:34PM – 200 Electoral Votes for Obama, from MSNBC. I’m currently watching Fox News. This is a “center-right” nation, lol. “Obama will try very hard not to press a liberal agenda,” says Kristol.

9:38PM – Talking with Lloyd on AIM. New Mexico called for Obama (hence the 200), and it looks increasingly unlikely for a McCain victory. I’m still waiting on NC, IN, MO, or FL.

9:41PM – “To call it a narrow path is generous…” says Chuck Todd.

9:44PM – 200 for Obama still. California has 55. Oregon has 7. Washington has 11. That is more than 70. It’s over, I think. I swear the math isn’t right. I can’t believe it.

9:54PM – With more results from “fake” Virginia, the race is tightening. So said Lloyd a bit back. Almost time for Daily Show/Colbert coverage.

10:39PM – @ 11PM, it’s going to be called, when polls close in CA, WA, and OR.

11:15PM – Daily Show had the best sketch ever!

11:15PM – Ladies and gentlemen, we have witnessed history. America, for the first time ever, has elected a half-white president. It gives hope to half-white people like me, who hope to be president one day.

11:19PM – Concession speech. Keep it classy, McCain.

11:34PM – McCain was gracious. Thank you for dropping the demagoguery at the end.

So far, Obama has 333 electoral votes. It’s a landslide, folks. We’re not far off from my 375 prediction.

11:45PM – Prop 8 is leading. Damn.

12:27AM – Before I say good night, one last thing: U-S-A! U-S-A! I love this country.

Election Crack

I’m supposed to write a paper today (or a lot of it today, and some of it tomorrow), but I don’t know how that’s going to be possible. There’s too much election crack out there, and I will be snorting it up. My addled brain won’t be able to write about Aristotle.

Electoral Guess

Here’s my guess: Obama wins with 375 electoral votes (Kerry states + CO, NM, VA, OH, FL, VA, NC, NV, IN, MO). I figure if Obama takes North Carolina, that’s a bellwether for how the other swing states are going to go. Georgia will go to McCain, there’s no way McCain loses AZ, and I don’t trust the polling in Montana and North Dakota. If Obama doesn’t win North Carolina, I think he’s got a good shot at it. If Georgia is “too close to call,” then we’re in for a landslide. Whatever the margin of victory, I’ll be happy.


Vote no on 8! Vote for Obama!

All signs point towards an Obama victory. It’s kind of weird. I’ve never had a (living) politician I’ve actively admired. I supported him through this election, being one of the first million donors to his campaign. As time went on, I definitely became more of a partisan — I really don’t want McCain elected. One could say I am “in the tank” for Obama. I’m still angry about his telecom immunity vote, but I’ve put that aside. With any other politician, and with a more credible opposition candidate, that would probably be a deal-breaker. What I really don’t get is what I do after the election. I will feel more free to criticize him, but I won’t stop liking him. Honestly, this will be really weird having a politician in office who I actually admire.

I have a paper due Wednesday, so my blogging will be light until after dinner time. Of course, I’ll have to write some type of post-election essay.

Non-Movement Conservative

I feel like this thought-provoking piece, The Right to Remain Silent, is aimed exactly at people like me:

Take a hypothetical young talent with contrarian inclinations. Movement conservatives would counsel him to make his way up their ranks. But suppose he ignores their advice and joins the New York Times—or the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. There, even if he never classifies himself as conservative, he pursues stories that expose the perverse incentives of well-intentioned policies, the human costs of mass immigration, or the reality that, as Steve Sailer puts it, “families matter.” Not only are his eccentric interests not a liability, they may even prove to be an asset. His ability to see the world differently gives him a monopoly on stories that his colleagues cannot or will not spot themselves.

If the climate of opinion ever shifts, it will not be thanks to non-movement conservatives working within mainstream establishment institutions. My advice to young conservatives: avoid the movement, eschew its enticements. Above all, ignore debates as to the true meaning of conservatism. Heed instead the words of Ezra Pound: Make it new! After 60 years, the movement has succumbed to bureaucratic inertia and regression toward the mean. Conservative ideas will flourish only after conservatism is forgotten.

I’m not sure I will completely eschew all these debates. I do want to talk to the new movement conservatives to get a sense how the right is changing. I would even like to become friends with the conservative leaders of tomorrow. Still, while I want to interact with that world, I think it would be better to stay outside the bubble. I’m really tired of the labels conservative and liberal, and they don’t mean anything when applied to my own views. I’m conservative insofar as I am heavily influenced by Burke. I will follow my own views wherever they take me, and join the party that’s closest to me when I choose to enter politics. I won’t choose a party, and then change my views to fit it.

I’ve stopped reading some of the conservative blogs I used to check out. The only reason I’m where I’m at now, idea-wise, is because I read reasonable liberals. I will stagnate if I keep reading people I tend to agree with. Any advice on where the reasonable conservatives are?

Unusually Quiet

I’ve been unusually quiet, considering the importance of this election. I haven’t been writing enough. Instead of writing about politics, I’m going to take a little time to write about myself.

I was probably feeling best about myself over summer. I enjoyed my job, and I was doing a lot of reading. I was learning a lot. I was working on being a positive and confident person. However, I was very afraid of losing that when I went back to Hopkins. I thought that confident guy would disappear.

He kind of did. Through September and October, he started fading. I felt less confident about myself. I got that old feeling of being “adrift” and not knowing what to do with myself. But now, I’ve been working on focusing on the positive. I’ve been trying to become the person I want to be, and not dwell on my mistakes. Slowly, I’m becoming even better than that person was in the summer. My confidence is stronger now.

I’m also filled with a renewed sense of purpose. I know that I can’t get away from politics. That’s what I want to do. It dropped out of my life for a while, for some reason. Maybe I was afraid of what it might do to my soul, or maybe I was just afraid that I wasn’t cut out for it. So I’m going to have to do the requisite studying and talk to the people who’ve been there.

I’ll be honest, I want to work my way up to President. If you’ve been reading this weblog since the beginning, you’ve probably heard that before. What’s different is this time I want to do the work. I want to work for the people, and deserve to serve them.

I am a fan of Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser. I want to be able to bring that kind of approach to my political career.

I’m going to study, study, study, and work on my oratory. More importantly, I’m going to work on becoming a more virtuous person. That is most important, for a public servant. Everyday, I’m going to work on becoming a better person and working towards my goal. I need to refine my writing, through constant practice, as well. I’m going to find places to publish. I’m also going to need to find the right people, who’ll help me on this journey. I need people with a deep respect for the truth, and for the American people. And they need to be smarter than me on the issues (not too hard to do). They’ll also have to keep me grounded, and make sure I don’t lose my moral grounding or become narcissistic or desire power for power’s sake.

I’m really, really going to have to get over my fear of asking people for help. I have to build up a network of people.

I already have one friend signed up for the ride, who wants to be involved, behind the scenes in politics. I told her, “Tell me the truth, no matter what, and we’ll change the world.” I’m excited.

An image just popped into my head. It’s from a book I read this year, but I don’t remember which one. It’s an image of a person throwing their sack over the wall, thus committing to going over that wall. Here I am. This is the path I’ve chosen. There’s no turning back now. And when I feel doubt (as I most definitely will), I will simply have to put one front in the other and force myself to move forward.

Joe the Celebrity

And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think?

McCain, back in the summer, with one of his first lines of attack called Obama a celebrity. He compared Obama to Paris Hilton. He wanted Americans to think Obama was vacuous and was only around because he was famous.

Enter Joe the Plumber. McCain has turned this so-called “everyman” into an integral part of his campaign (at least for the latest news-cycles). I don’t know about you, but I have trouble relating to a guy who became famous for asking Obama a question, and a guy who’s trying to secure a country record detail. Plumber turned country singer? He’s famous for being famous. He has no qualifications or foreign policy expertise. He’s trying to cash in on his fame with a music career. Just like Paris Hilton’s musical adventures. What’s next for Joe? A DUI and a reality TV show?

I can’t relate to Joe the Plumber. Maybe I’m just not a real American.