Day Forty: Inspiration Stuff 5; Action is Eloquence

True confessions: until this morning, I had never heard of Coriolanus, apparently one of Shakespeare’s last tragedies and not one of his better-known plays. But I was looking for inspiration from the Bard — yes, I’m a nerd — and “Action is Eloquence” leapt out at me.

Coriolanus is about a guy named Coriolanus, he’s a great Roman warrior, it goes to his head, things end badly. Ba-dump.

And, as all great wisdom should, the wisdom in Coriolanus comes from his mom:

Audio courtesy LibriVox. 

Action is eloquence: show humility, stupid

Given that I have never heard of Coriolanus before this morning, I’m playing a bit of catch-up here. What I gather from this whole scene is that Cory, who has been a great warrior and springboarded that into a bad move into politics, has pissed people off with his arrogance. His mom is telling him to get out there and show some humility.

Not say something humble, but show some humility. I assume the knee bussing the stones means actually kneeling. I’ve been a busboy, and it’s not a job you can do with your knees.

So my initial takeaway from “Action is Eloquence” is the same as my takeaway from Barry Bostwick’s finest hour: MEGAFORCE.

Are YOU man enough for MegaForce? DEEDS NOT WORDS, BARRY.

DEEDS NOT WORDS. Damn skippy, Barry Bostwick.

But thanks to Coriolanus’ mom, I’m now looking at “Action is Eloquence” in a different and more specific shade of “show humility, don’t say it.”

Humility is important.

So I guess I’ve learned a bunch of stuff this morning: action is eloquence, Coriolanus is a play, listen to your mom, Barry Bostwick is just the best.



Day Thirty-Nine: Inspiration Stuff 4; 10 Seconds

Females are strong as hell. That’s not the only takeaway I have from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — there’s the titular 10 seconds thing — but it’s also a good thing to bear in mind.

For Inspiration Week, though, the bit I am carrying with me from the show is definitely this: a person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds. And then, you start on another 10 seconds.

Exercise is where the 10 seconds thing shines.

I mean, I guess you could use this to get through meetings, but it might be a little conspicuous after a while. But it concretizes a kind of “mini-milestones” approach I’ve had to exercise for a while, in a really compact way. Can I make another lap? Can I just get to the end of the block? Two more pushups, just two?

Compartmentalizing things into achievable goals isn’t a new concept when it comes to getting things done — even “make a dent,” earlier this week, is kind of the lead-in to this idea.

But it’s a nice easy way to give myself a half-second pep talk when I’m struggling with something, especially something physical. 10 seconds is easy to conceive and easy to count. And I can stand most things for 10 seconds.

There is, inevitably, the time when you say “I can do this for another 10 seconds” and your body responds with a hearty and absolute “nope.”

But you can get a lot of micro-goals into those 10 seconds before you reach that point. Maybe more than you think.

Also, it’s nice to revisit Kimmy Schmidt every once in a while. I like that show.  It’s a bit like Bojack Horseman — it looks like a comedy, feels like a comedy, is a comedy — but it’s about trauma and recovery, like Bojack is about depression. It’s a helpful and interesting lens to give people who don’t experience these things a window into them.


Day Thirty-Eight: Inspiration Stuff 3; Invictus


by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
One last trip to the MetaFilter well, as user kimberussell suggests the last two lines of Invictus. No context, but none is needed — what more do you need?
Nothing like classic poetry to get you going. “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” DAMN STRAIGHT, WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY.

Invictus: bloody, but unbowed

This is pretty super macho stuff for a guy who was nearly felled by tuberculosis as a child and spent his whole life a writer, editor and poet, but who cares? “Invictus” is Latin for “unconquered”, and it’s up to you to define the context of your… unconqueredness.
Let us all go forth and be masters of our fates! Huzzah!

Day Thirty-Seven: Inspiration Stuff 3; Make a Dent

Wow, that’s a lot of numbers for a single post title. Sorry! But Inspiration Week continues here at Jerk in Progress. For a second day, I’m going back  to that rich and abundant MetaFilter well for short motivational thoughts. Today: “Make a Dent,” as contributed by user fussbudget. 

They say “This was always my mom’s advice when I was having trouble starting homework, and I still use it when I’m feeling balky or unsure about a project and just need to get started.”

That’s some solid get-started wording right there.

Make a dent.

Make a dent: advice for anyone (except limousine drivers)

I kind of wish I’d had that one back on January 1 of this year, and especially for the first couple of weeks, when there were a lot of early pains associated with stopping drinking and eating more sensibly. Make a dent… set a target and start working toward it.

My initial goal for the year, and for this podcast is 100 days. My not so secret goal is to have that be inspiration to keep going for the medium term. And for that to energize me for the long term.

So what does “make a dent” mean when the dent’s been made?

I love it as “get started” advice, and I’m going to probably wind up using this at work. I do a lot of project-based things, and often they seem insurmountable.

Make a dent.

Maybe it’s a matter of saying “make the dent bigger.” If you’ve made a dent, there’s no reason not to keep making it.

Or maybe it’s something to hang onto for those tough days, or tough moments, when you have to reframe your worldview from the next few months down to the next few hours. We’ve all been in the grip of immediate temptation, so having “make a dent” in the back pocket as a guide to the next hour of our lives isn’t a bad idea.

Either way, it’s a good one. Nice and short, too. Make a dent. Let’s do that.


Day Thirty-Six: Inspiration Stuff 2 – MetaFilter

Wow! So I’ve been a member of MetaFilter, the best community on the Internet, for a while now. I thought I’d ask for short motivational thoughts there, and as always, they excelled.

There’s a treasure trove to explore in that thread, but I don’t want this to become a megapodcast, so I’m just going to pick one or two things a day.

Today, I’m a big fan of user liber hair‘s proposal of “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”.  He mentions Sheryl Sandberg as his source of the quote; i t may be older than her, but she definitely said it.

Inspiration in a constant state of anxiety

I wouldn’t say I’m afraid as much as anxious, but I am anxious an awful lot of the time. Doing the wrong thing is something that weighs on me pretty consistently. It’s not always a paralyzing state, but it is sometimes.

There are a couple of outpoints to anxiety, too — one is what anxiety prevents me from doing. I don’t know if I’m going to succeed at this. That makes me anxious. So I don’t try it. I don’t feel confident about that. So I won’t do it. Anxiety… fear… keeps me from things.

But anxiety also drives me to things. What is drinking but a response to anxiety? It’s literally a toxin whose effects dull my natural threat sensors. Maybe overcalibrated threat sensors, but that’s essentially what’s going on there, right?

If I think of people I know that don’t drink, and are public and open about not drinking, “afraid” is not an adjective that applies to them. They do not seem like afraid people. But if I think of people that know they should stop drinking, but don’t… there’s often a lot of fear there, when I think about it.

So “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” kind of works on two levels for me. It’s a single-problem motivator… I don’t want to try this, I don’t want to do this. Get rid of your fear and do it.

But on another level, it works as kind of a big switch as well. Would you drink if you weren’t afraid? Would you be stress-eating if you weren’t afraid? And then you focus on what you’re afraid of and how to attack that, rather than just doing things to alleviate that constant state of anxiety and fear.

I’m liking Inspiration Week! This works for me.

Day Thirty-Five: Inspiration Stuff 1 – No Matter Where You Go

Day One of Inspiration Week!

As promised on Friday, I’m trying to shake this up a bit, and this week, I’m going to be looking at little internal motivators — things you use to help keep yourself on track.

I thought one good way might be to look at a short saying a day; something I use for myself, or that people I know use to get themselves or keep themselves on track.

We’ve covered “Kill the bear!” before (don’t kill bears). So that’s done.

Inspiration from my favourite movie of all time

A lot of my earlier favourite things have passed with time. Two decades ago, I would have told you my favourite band was Skinny Puppy. My favourite food was lasagna. My favourite place was New York City. All of those things have changed.

But my favourite movie of all time has steadfastly remained the pure distillation of ’80s alt-pop genius: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension.

For too many reasons to get into here. And not for the watermelon.

But one of the reasons is the the movie is, in many odd ways, kind. That’s not one of the things I loved about it as a kid, but that’s one of the things I love about it now. It’s a movie about kindness, in a lot of weird ways: extending compassion and camaraderie.

My go-to inspiration from Buckaroo

And one of the moments that sticks with me, that I actually to turn to from time to time, happens at the mid-point of the movie. Buckaroo, a dimension-hopping genius neosurgeon physicist adventurer, is also naturally a rock star.  He looks great.

Inspiration from Buckaroo Banzai
From out of the mouth of a very, very groovy Peter Weller: inspiration.

He’s playing a club when he sees a woman crying. The crowd is not having it. And Buckaroo spakes thusly:

Hey, hey, hey. I know. Don’t be mean. We don’t have to be mean. ‘Cause remember… no matter where you go, there you are.

“No matter where you go, there you are” is kind of the bumper sticker there. I’ve gotten it printed on things, it’s engraved on my iPad, if I ever get another tattoo, that might be it.

But the “Don’t be mean. We don’t have to be mean.” is getting to be a bigger part of it too.

It’s an oddly comforting, kind of ur-Buddhist, statement. It seems to have no confirmed antecedent before Buckaroo. I choose to believe Earl Mac Rauch made it up; or, even better, it was whispered into his ear from somewhere across the 8th dimension.

No matter where you go, there you are.

I need to start digging — I haven’t done my homework for the week, and I’m looking forward to exploring some of these as we move on.


Day Thirty-Four: Precaffeination

Precaffination is, if it needs defining, the state I’m in before coffee in the morning.

I know there are funny posters with Garfield looking like he’s coming off a heroin bender, and mugs with hilarious sayings on them, but it’s really not that bad. I usually feel pretty okay pre-coffee. Coffee is for after exercise, and on non-exercise days, coffee is for… when I get to coffee.

Awake, precaffeination routine, morning dip, caffeine.

That’s the pattern. Coffee isn’t a first-thing thing, for me. The precaffeination routine is exercise, pack a lunch, eat my breakfast, and make coffee concurrently. Coffee is something that works best an hour or two into the day, when I start to hit a kind of early-workday dip. Two or three cups of coffee through the morning, nothing in the afternoon or I can’t sleep at night.

My espresso machine broke a while ago, which I now take to be kind of a mixed bag, because I loved it, and it was how I could afford espresso. But I was also probably drinking too much espresso. And financially, the moka pot and/or French press make pretty good coffee using a lot fewer grounds per… dose? Unit? Whatever you call a thing of coffee ranging from a shot to a mug.

I’ve tried to be a tea guy many times. I’m not a tea guy.

Caffeine: The Okay Drug

While we’re woolgathering, it seems like the number of okay drugs has shrunk a bit since I was a kid; nicotine used to be socially acceptable — you could smoke in movie theatres when I was a child, which seems balls-out insane now. People are certainly more tuned in to the problems with alcohol these days.

My Okay Drugs are caffeine, and sugar, and I kind of feel like sugar’s day is coming. Deservedly so, for things like high fructose corn syrup, which by all accounts is an unholy food chimera. As I said a few days ago, you gotta have some bad habits or you don’t feel like a whole person.


Day Thirty-Three: Bad Habits Creeping In

They nibble around the edges, don’t they? Bad habits.

When I started this, I honestly kind of expected to break before bending. Past attempts at total sobriety, good diet, etc. have almost always terminated in some sort of bingey freak-out, or a total exercise stoppage.

This time, though, I’m noticing a kind of failure creep.

One more cookie than I need (really I need zero cookies, but you get it). A little less exercise in the morning. Taking the short walk to work.

The number one… friend… of bad habits… is complacency? I don’t know.

I feel like there should be a thing about complacency I can say here, but I don’t know what it is.

So what’s the bad habits buttress? Keeping motivation high is key, and internal accountability is key. External accountability structures are fine, but fallible… if I’m not driving myself, inside, to stay the course, no amount of external accountability will do it for me.

So I think that’s going to be my focus for today, and maybe all of next week — remember how I was talking about trying something different with this? Theme weeks are an idea I like. A week of ideas on internal motivation might be a good thing for me to start looking into now. I like that. Fending off bad habits with internally motivating strategies.

As another aside: I need to take more pictures. I keep meaning to populate these blog entries with photos I take, even just on my iPhone, but I keep forgetting to actually do it. I just need to block an hour in my calendar and get it done. C’mon, self. Get on the stick.



Day Thirty-Two: Future Plans

I started this podcast with no future plans.

It was a vague idea somewhere around December 28 to keep me motivated starting in January, and I think I built the site on January 1, starting this on January 2. No intention beyond just personal audio-logging and a kind of blog journal thing.

Over a month in now, I think it’s sticking. I’m glad it’s sticking.

It’s time to start actually thinking a bit more about the future, though.

Mainly because I don’t want this to get boring, or me to get bored.

Make no mistake: I can access statistics for this. This podcast has two listeners. Me, and my wife. Hello, darling!

And she doesn’t even read this blog. She has no idea this sentence exists.

But I don’t want to get bored with myself doing this. And who knows? Maybe somebody, someday, will start listening to this thing.

Future plans: mixing things up

So starting next week, I’m going to start messing with the formula a bit — doing series of things; maybe look at week-long explorations of a topic related to sobriety or motivation or accountability.

A week of great quotes. A week on nutrition. A week on different ways of looking at alcohol. I’m not sure. But some future plans to keep this fresh and interesting for myself, if not anybody else.

The number one enemy of change, for me, is boredom. It’s hard to maintain good habits when I’m not interested in them. I’ve definitely been slipping a bit recently in food logging, and diet, and I need to buckle that shit back down.

Not being bored is a bit part of that.

So: future plans. I’m making ’em. You can expect ’em.

Good luck to all of us.


Day Thirty-One: Maintaining Bad Habits

Bad habits are important. Important to manage, yes, but also in a way important to have.

I need to feel like I’ve got some sort of unvirtuous outlet. It’s just how I’m wired. Not like getting in bar fights or whatever, but I’m configured to look for ways to rebel in small senses. Even against myself.

Trying to live a better life doesn’t mean killing yourself to live a perfect life — I’ve cut out booze, a lot of bad food, and I’m exercising every weekday. That’s pretty damn good. I’m already mostly vegan, with occasional lapses. That’s pretty good too.

But I also need things that are not-good in the mix.

Bad habits I’m maintaining

  • Coffee. Probably not that bad for me, but not great either. I drink too much of it. Definitely a dependency.
  • Video games. And not, like, deep-thinking “I’m learning things” video games. Straight up time-wasters.
  • Netflix binging. Not great documentaries, or whatever — British crime shows, American melodrama, Japanese anime from time to time.
  • Comic books. I still read ’em. Sometimes high-minded stuff, yes, but often just garbage from the ’80s I get in anthologies from the library.

All of these things fall into a mild category of “being not great”; I know there are better things to be doing with my life, and my time, and my consumption. But I like to have some outlets where I feel like I haven’t become the world’s grimmest ascetic.

There’s been mention, and probably a whole bunch of future podcasts, about my ongoing inability to identify “fun” activities versus different types of work. I’m sure this isn’t just a problem I have. I need to unpack that a bit.

For now, I need to have some sort of substantive narrative, even if it’s just in my own head, about ‘badness’. It’s psychologically important to me to position myself as somebody with a rebellious streak. Even if it’s a pretty pathetic kind of rebellion, by most standards, I still need to have it in there.

To be continued, I guess…