Thinking about life

“Every day I write the book” – Elvis Costello

Last episode of the weekly wonder I referenced a book I hadn’t finished yet. I was in chapter 21 of 26.

I’ve heard that everyone is the hero of his or her own story. My friend suggested that lives could be viewed that way. What chapter is my life in right now?

I think about this a lot:

What story am I telling?

Do I want to go where I am heading?

What are the possible directions to head?

A week does not go by that I am not poking at these questions. I’m hard on myself too. At the end of every day, I judge whether I have put the most important things in that day.

I always wish I had filled it even more full. But at the end of the day the only thing I have the capacity to do is sleep.

And I’m not even that good at sleeping right now.

Those characters in books never have to think about what they are doing. They just charge about taking action. Kiss that girl, quit that job, and take that trip. No hesitation, GO!

Almost nobody shows the thinking. Very few characters show up and show us how. Hamlet, Leopold Bloom and Mrs. Dalloway choke on it. And they are mostly famous for not accomplishing much. Too busy thinking to actually do anything.

Real life has sleeping, prep work and planning in order to do things. And doing is not even the target. I want to produce, leave a mark on the world and make it a better place for others. It feels small to me to live a life that is only for myself.

That takes planning. Boring, behind the scenes planning. Set crew to my own life. If I want something in my life I have to go hunt it and bring it in.

But somebody has to. How else is this story going to be beautiful?

Adventures and Accomplishment

 

In preparation to my recent trip to Chicago I picked up The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. Augie’s story is almost entirely set in Chicago, and I will say he sure did have a lot of adventures. I’ve followed him around through all kinds of places with all kinds of people.

 

It’s very long, and I may finally be coming in for a landing. Here in Chapter 21 of 26 it dawns on me that Augie has done a ton of stuff but not accomplished anything. All that activity for what?

Dude, you’ve got 5 chapters to turn it around and leave a mark on the world. I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s most likely to be who he’s always been.

 

There is a big difference between adventures and accomplishments.

 

My day job is all about accomplishments. We call them Scope and Action Items. Accomplishments do not happen by accident. It takes intention and effort. And when multiple people are needed to do it, there has to be consensus on what the goal is.

 

Intention

Effort

Consensus

 

These are big expensive words. Even bigger ideas.

 

I’ve read some political books as well, large academic tomes that describe problems of sexism and racism. Big problems. The academics are full of notebooks and observation.

 

That’s one kind of effort. There is value is defining a problem. Famously, that’s the first of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

Those books define brilliantly specific instances and circumstances that make up the -isms. But I don’t see a plan for how to change it.

 

Just like Augie March. What are you doing with all this effort? He hasn’t put his effort into consensus with anyone else for long enough to follow through on a plan.

 

Adventures can be enough for some people. Not for me. And for anyone that wants to reshape the world more is required.