Consistency is the glue that holds life together. Cause like glue consistency is consistent. It is the stickiness that lets you keep all the little parts of your mind and soul intact.
What I mean is that following a discipline in any one area is absolutely vital. I think this is why people are drawn to things like Church or meditation. But your view of consistent discipline shouldn’t be limited to stuff like church, work, and meditation.
Everybody today knows how to read and write, how to find out new things, and how to tinker. We really don’t celebrate this enough. So how do we begin celebrating? Do we throw a big party?
Nah. We celebrate by taking these realizations and living them out.
I noticed the other day a thing that made me happy. It was a very small thing but produced a sort of glowing comfortable energy that has carried me smoothly through work this morning.
I noticed that I didn’t have to triple check that I had reset the alarm. A thing I have often had to do because my mind has been a bit of stew from time to time. I was very confident in the recent memory of having seen my phone display: the alarm is set for eight hours and thirty-five minutes from now.
If you’re unimpressed by this minor accomplishment I wouldn’t blame you. But I don’t think that things have to be impressive, to be wonderful and worthwhile. If you’re somebody that juggles a lot of ideas, experiments, and projects then you know how easy it is to get lost in a vast ocean of thought. Even the most even-tempered and unimaginative (I’m not using that as an insult. It takes all kinds.) of folks will experience confidence problems and little slips of the mind.
The reason that finally being able to set an alarm without spastically checking that I’d done it properly was so thrilling, wasn’t the action itself you see. It was the realization of the impact of a virtuous cycle of actions. A virtuous cycle known as consistency. Having isolated the source of my new found confidence to be consistency I felt doubly overjoyed.
Since high school and perhaps even earlier, I’d had the thought that a proper sort of person gets a bit of reading done nightly. A chapter, or a section, at the very least, was, in my opinion, a daily requirement no matter your vocation or schedule. As I grew older and the internet shot wildly away from the simple thing it had been in the early aughts I slowly forgot about my firm resolution.
Fortunately, it had only faded and not disappeared. The impulse was slowly burning ember-like in the recesses of my subconscious. I wouldn’t say that I ever became intellectually lazy but I certainly felt a bit of mental sluggishness that I didn’t think native to my character. This led me to take on more reading and other little learning ventures.
My suspicions were quickly confirmed. Deep attentive reading really helped me to form more coherent concepts, more quickly, and to enjoy life more. I realize that this is anecdotal but I’m almost certain that there are some studies out there to back up the benefits of reading. Since I am being anecdotal I will also say that my dreams became richer and more varied.
I really think that the reason that this works is it gives you more nodes for new information to connect with. Novels, essays, anything really so long as you’re actively reading exposes you to novel frameworks of thinking, to new facts, and perhaps even sensations. I’ve seen a study somewhere that pointed to a link between vocabulary and intelligence. I think the node theory fits in well with that observation. The more ways that you can express or comprehend a thought (vocabulary) the more nodes for building new and nuanced understandings you will have. Since reading is arguably the best way to improve your vocabulary I think you can see what I’m getting at.
About the same time last year (February/March 2017) I decided to reread Michael Crichton’s Sphere and take notes and outline every section nightly. This would force me to not only read but to read in a focused manner and to reproduce the ideas and scenarios that I had encountered. As I did this I noticed that my comebacks were snappier, my ideation richer, and my social interactions were smoother.
It didn’t take long for me to get in front of my makeshift standing desk and type out the first few paragraphs of the Sketch of Sam Monroe. Everything came very quickly, intuitively, and naturally. It wasn’t something spectacular but I now had clay to work with.
This was all of course set against another form of consistency. That of going to the gym and eating more protein (within reason). I believe that my creative spark and mental clarity would still have been vastly improved by reading alone. However, I think that proper sleep, diet, and exercise were indispensable to giving my ideas and energies the requisite robustness.
From that point to the present I’ve experienced an uphill sort of march with steady gains in stability of function. Due to the fact that I focused on reading and engaging in other activities with a consistent focus.
Montage vs. Entsangung
Many of our ideas are shaped by films. And that’s absolutely fine because films can be very wonderful things indeed. However, they are primarily meme machines. One meme that they seem to have produced at least as far as my own worldview once functioned was the overstatement of the ‘montage.’ Or really a particular type of montage where the hero (say Rocky Balboa) goes on a marathon session that takes them to the next level.
That’s fine cause one really can through a few weeks of stern discipline gain a marked increase in skill or strength. But this conception has a problem. Its problem is that it’s a sprint. It lacks consistency. And it makes you prone to thinking that you can always do ‘the whole thing later’ so you don’t bother doing ‘a bit of the thing’ every single day.
‘Doing a bit of the thing every single day’ is what this essay is about. It is also the key idea in my opinion behind Goethe’s Entsangung which you can find here. I think it may be what Linus Torvalds meant in his recent email regarding a kernel update: boring is good. That is that the day to day or the tortoise of incremental progress wins over the sprinting hare. This is because it is what allows the hare to sprint.
This very essay was written at a hare’s pace. It’s been perhaps half an hour now. I’ve just gotten off work a few hours ago and was planning to take care of some chores and meet with friends. This whole thing was really going to just be another ‘starter paragraph’ instead I’ve pretty much completed it and shall in the course of a few paragraphs. The purpose of this sort of awkward mid-essay update is to support the effectiveness of consistency.
I’ve been writing and doing focused reading nearly every day. This has made it much easier to write and do focused reading nearly every day. I’d lament the fact that I don’t write and read every day but I think that would begin to become one of those marathon things. We are creatures who digest and a proper balance that allows time for digestion is healthiest and produces the best results.
If reading and writing are not your cup of tea that’s perfectly alright. I have several brilliant friends of a more mathematical bent who would tell you the exact same thing (consistency wise) but regarding programming and mechanical projects.
Whatever it is that you aim to do well: Do it with consistency. Not only because consistency will help you do it well but because it will allow you to actually experience life more fully. When we are not consistent in at least one or two challenging arenas then our capacity for experience suffers. We do not see the rich interconnections of life as readily because our wits are dulled by inaction. Just like if you do not use your muscles they will atrophy and you will have less fun because moving has become a chore.
Consistency is what allowed me to have the idea for this essay when I celebrated the life-enhancing victory of beating my neurosis regarding alarms. That victory itself is a product of consistency.
So get consistent and get healthy, and if you are, stay that way.
As always thanks for reading.