Lucas Weismann

Choose Your Suffering

Here’s some writing from this January when I was working in a shop.

It’s Friday. I’m tired. I’m sore. I want to give in.

For the last three weeks, I’ve been working at a new job, working with tools and projects that have turned out to be very interesting.  I like the people, I love the work and yet, each time Friday rolls around- I want to quit.

Monday is exciting, Tuesday is good, Wednesday is normal, Thursday is fine, but Friday- somehow Friday is the opposite of what it should be.  Five days of waking up at 5am to get to work by 8am have taken their toll and all I want to do is sleep through the weekend.

Whether it’s the deservedly low pay (I’m the new guy, gotta pay my dues), the lack of sleep, or maybe the fact that it seems to be a universal that the job you sign on for is almost never what the job ends up being what you end up doing, somehow I’m just done by the end of the week.

Most of my adult life I’ve been a freelancer, someone who comes and goes as they please on a project-to-project basis.  Being knocked back into w-4 status feels like a huge step back.

There are really only two things that keep me coming despite the lack of bathrooms, difficult to find first aid kits, and hide-and-seek fire extinguishers.  I’m learning new things constantly and I don’t have anything better to do.

Okay well, when I say I don’t have anything better to do— that’s not exactly true.  I have better things to do, but most of them are either long-term payoffs or they don’t pay at all.  In either case, it is impractical of me to do other than I am doing at the moment.  Where else am I going to find someone who will pay me to train me in skills I want to learn?

Like I said, I like working for the West Virginia Good Old Boy and the Gruff North Woodsman whose laugh sounds a bit like The Penguin on the old Batman television series.

—> Recently I read a book that made the point (though with more profanity) that all of life is suffering.  Poor people suffer because they have nothing.  Rich people suffer because of their worry about their possessions.  Orphans suffer from their lack of family.  The rest of us suffer because of our family.  Life.  Is.  Suffering.

When I read things like this, I usually smile and think of the moment in The Princess Bride before the Man in Black reveals himself to Princess Buttercup who complains that he mocks her pain.  He responds angrily, “Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says otherwise is selling something!”

Obviously, there are other parts of life than suffering but we all suffer the same.  The lazy suffer because they’re lazy, the ambitious suffer from their ambitions.  Right now, I need to remember this when I’m tired and crabby and want to quit.  I need to remember that this is my suffering because like most people, this is the suffering I’ve chosen.

The question is not if I should suffer gladly, but rather is my suffering worth what I gain from it.  Can I care more about something I want than the suffering it costs to purchase it.  Is it a price worth my time and focus and soul?

Action to Motivation

Sometimes motivation breeds action, but just as often action breeds motivation.

This is one of our pre-release black walnut presentation boards being used as a serving tray/centerpiece for dinner at a friend’s house.

Yesterday (Sunday), I spent the evening with my dad Jake; cutting and sanding some boards that should become our next batch presentation boards for our soon-to-drop online store.  They’ll become slab furniture and presentation boards.  A piece that should last at least four generations if treated well (more on four generations later soon, I promise…)

Afterward, I performed some minor repairs on some leather items in the house and worked on a design for a sheath for one of my knives.

I should probably be exhausted, but for some reason, my stupid mind brimmed with ideas of what I can do next week and the week after! This is especially true given that I’ll be flying to the Tucson Gem Show this weekend and won’t have all of my tools with me.  I could barely sleep.
Today, I spent the day working on the final phase of an ash entertainment center for work. Assisting the designers in the basic skill-related aspects of it and keeping an eye out for questions I have about design.

Afterward, I went home and practiced using a plunge router for the first time to cut a Mortise into some scrap I brought home from work.

Finished up the day playing with West System Epoxy and Waterlox Poly Finish on some walnut. Things are moving and that movement is helps to build inertia.  What kinds of things do you do to build inertia?

 

What is the Point of Teaching

Why the hell do I spend the effort teaching?  What do I hope my students will gain from it and what what do I gain from helping them to learn?

Why do I spend the effort teaching?

There are several reasons I suppose.  

1) I like people who are skilled and the confidence with which they can approach the world.

2) I like to share the experience of dance with someone who can understand music similarly to me.  After all, every class any teacher teaches on the subject of social dance for example, is how to dance with that particular teacher or teaching couple.

3) I like to see the inspiration in the student’s eyes as they realize they can do something that they couldn’t do before.  This is a big one.

What is it that my students are actually gaining from learning?  Well knowledge, for one thing.  Knowledge of a particular art.  This knowledge gained from disciplined practice for a long time is called Kung Fu in chinese.  Kung Fu isn’t necessarily anything to do with martial arts, though the most common way people think of the idea is a martial arts master.

One of my favorite philosophers and Kung Fu practitioners Bruce Lee said that “all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge.”  If I follow that line of thinking, what we do when we teach, is to teach our students about themselves by taking them along the path of discipline we’ve used to discover who we are.  

As the student learns or doesn’t, we gain further insight into who we are and so, achieve greater self-knowledge as teachers.  

There is never a teacher who is not first a student, nor a student who is not a teacher.  The best teaching relationships are those with greatest discipline, though not necessarily those that are most serious or those that push the hardest.

The best teaching unlocks the potential of student and teacher and helps to discover and grow the joy of the art (no matter the specifics of the art) in both.  This means that the best students and teachers are combinations that are made based on the personalities of each as well as the art in question.

If you are teaching something like medicine or hang gliding, where lives may be lost, perhaps a more serious approach is warranted.  If you are teaching something that is difficult, but not life-threatening or inherently risky, perhaps a lighter touch can be used.

There are different ways to achieve the same end, and as with raising children, no approach works perfectly with everyone.

On the Noble Art of Setting Goals

Setting a goal is like getting a map and compass to orienteer your way to your desired end.  In another section, I’ll talk about the value of a mentor or teacher and we’ll see how much easier it can make things.  After all, asking for directions (though a possible blow to the ego, can help us get where we’re going better than having no one to ask).

The nice thing about goals as opposed to physical maps is that they don’t really have to correspond to physical reality as strongly to be useful.  Again, if I have no wings, no fitness goals will make me strong enough to generate enough lift to fly.

Here are the features that distinguish a goal from a wish or unrealizable desire:

Possible – Again, no flying under your own power as a human, but… if we adjust our expectations of what human flight looks like to include mechanical contrivances?  Now flight is a potential goal.

Achievable – A goal must have a clearly stated “win state”.  You need to know that you achieved the goal.  That means working on the clarity of your vision so that you know exactly what your desire looks like.  The fewer words you need to define your goal, the more likely it is you can achieve it.

Time-Sensitive – You need to set an amount of time in which you intend to complete your goal.  This will give you a sense of urgency, as well as help you for when you need to set the intermediary steps that will help break your goal into bite-sized chunks.

This is a hugely under-valued part of setting goals and one of the most important.  A warning though:  Urgency will add stress to your life.  This is only a bad thing if you think that stress is something to be avoided.  Stress can be quite beneficial, as with the case of building muscle via working and stressing the tissues, which become stronger and allow you to do more later.

One technique I learned from my father can be used to great effect: adding a non-goal-related reward for achieving your goal on time.

For instance, if I did X pushups with good form in a row, we would go out for Ice Cream.

You can do this for yourself, or better… with a friend.  Then when they ask, why you’re doing the fun thing, you can tell them about the goal you’ve accomplished and reinforce the positive feelings associated with accomplishing what you’ve set out to do.  

It is more useful if the reward is something special that you wouldn’t normally take the time or expense to do.  For instance, if you always have a wednesday coffee date with someone, then taking them for coffee on wednesday isn’t much of a reward.

Taking a groupon for a spa or going away for the weekend might be a good idea, depending on the size of the goal.

Also, the goal’s reward should not undermine the work you did to accomplish the goal.  For instance, if your goal is to lose weight via improved health habits and exercise, staying home to eat cake and watch a movie is a bad reward.  It will reenforce the idea that cake = reward and exercise = punishment.

A better reward might be getting a new outfit (second-hand if you’re on a budget) to reward the work.  Then, you’ve earned it and solved the problem of your now-baggy wardrobe.  Plus, you’ll be amazed how great you look in your new (or new-to-you) outfit.

***

It is at this point that I should stress (hehe) the importance of taking small steps if you’re new to the goal-making habit.  This can be done in two ways.  

1) Make small goals- this is a habit and you’ll be tempted to overdo it and take on more than you can cope with at the beginning.  Consistency and teaching you to associate goals with positive feelings of success is going to make building this habit a lot easier.

2) if you have a large goal, break it into manageable bite-sized chunks.

On How to get what you want.

In life there are three ways to get what you want.

1) Adjust your expectations.  You can’t always get what you want, so one of the ways you can is to realize you want what you have.  That’s a good aim in situations where you need to adjust your expectations.  I want to fly by flapping my wings, but since I have no wings, I need to adjust my expectations to fit reality.

2) You have to know what you want.  This is sort of the literal version of a lot of the “manifesting your bliss” type advice you hear, but this doesn’t have the lens of spirituality.  Here’s the deal:  In life, there are opportunities around you all the time.  Most of us are too busy with little things in life or don’t know that we might want something and so we’re not looking for it.  Then those opportunities pass us by and we missed our chance. 

We can flip this script.  By knowing what you want and focusing on it for a few moments (as a starting point not an end).  You start to notice the opportunities around you.  The clearer you see what you want, the further from you your desired end can be and still exist within reach.

To one using their logic backwards one could think:  I really, really wanted something to eat as I walked down the road and ‘lo I manifested the apple tree as I came around the corner.  No.  No you didn’t.  You used the desire of nourishment to focus your mind and prime you to see food as you came across it.

In fact, if you’d broadened your mind to include grubs and crickets, you might have eaten sooner (principle 1 in action).

If you had desired specifically a pear, you might have walked by and thought the apple not worth your time.  Sometimes gaining what you can now with the apple, in order to keep yourself going until your pear arrives is the best option. 

This is obvious in the case of a hungry person and food.  Less obvious when the ends we seek become more complex.

3)  Set a goal.  This is taking steps down the road toward a known likely end.  In example 2, we’re still opportunistic and so, it’s a matter of chance whether you’re going in the right direction.  Perhaps you walked the wrong way and found only twigs and branches or a desert.  More on goal-setting in an upcoming post.

Asperger’s Moment of the day: Why Do You Think You Shouldn’t Be Judged?

Everything you do will caused you to be judged by people who see it. No matter who you are. So what? Why do people think they are unique this way?
 
Hell, there’s a very good chance I’ll be judged for posting this. Possibly even by you the reader. And you should judge people based on the evidence they provided.  And then when they provide you with more evidence, you re-judge them.  Obviously.
 
So here’s what I propose.  If you are going to post something on the internet, pretend you’re in person.  If you would’t do it or say it with someone in person, don’t do it online.  Anything public is not controllable.  Most people will be kind people unless you’re very unlucky.
 

If you’re wondering why this is clearly something that is provoking a response from me, it’s because I have Asperger’s Syndrome.  No, let me rephrase that.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome and have developed fairly good coping strategies for dealing with Neurotypical (read: non ASD individuals, like you know… normal people)

And for you out there who have survived or gone through some trial (read: everyone).  The specific trial I’m talking about is the one where you go through much of your life unable to relate to people and in a well-meaning attempt to make friends end up alienating people at random and being unable to tell why.

 
Why because all of the Normal (read: people who just “get it” when it comes to nonverbal communication) don’t even realize there’s something to get).  This is where the few true friends who are able to recognize what’s going on and are kind enough to help you with your situation come in.
 
Step 1: awareness.  Realize people are going to comment on what you do.  That’s their right.  If (when) they notice something, they will comment on it.  If you say it in person, they will let things slide.  If you record it, they will have the time to go over what you said and see if it actually makes sense.  And uncomfortable as it is, this is actually a good thing.
 
Sharpening your rhetorical skills is not a bad deal for you.  If you constantly make ad hominem attacks in your defense of some greater good you aspire to, rather than dealing with your detractors, people will call you on it.  
 
When they do, they’re giving you an opportunity (generally without realizing it) to make you harder, faster, better, stronger.  No one likes receiving correction.  Particularly unsolicited correction from people who disagree with us.  But if you’re receiving it, there are a few options- 
 
1) ignore it.
 
2) look at it critically and examine yourself
 
3) cry about it to friends over a beer, or your beverage/dessert of choice
 
4) stop posting things on the internet if you don’t like being criticized.
 

No where here is the option for you to spout off with some opinion and have people just not react.  No where is there a “Butters” for you to just get the good comments.  Public Space is not Safe Space.

Because we have freedom of association, of course we can set up spaces of like-minded sympathetic individuals to help support us in difficulties.  They are friend groups.

 
That is not what public space is for.  If anyone can go there, consider it public.  You have no expectation of the following in a public space:
 
1) privacy – you’re not at home.  Pretend everything you are doing is being recorded.  It probably will be in a few years anyway, might as well get some practice in now…
 
2) Safety – some people are assholes, it would be nice if they are and some places are safer than others, but no. if everyone can be there, so can the “bad” people.
 
3) not having to be confronted with something that offends your sensibilities – in the United States the KKK and the NeoNazis have the right to set up their bullshit stupid protests, but you know what?  That means that when conservative christian groups are offended by my swing dancing, I can do that too!  It also means that the LGBT+ community have (or should have) the right to have pride parades that offend other people.  This is a good thing.  Unfortunately that means that sometime you’ll see something you don’t like, maybe even have to have awkward conversations with your kids if you have them.  Guess what?  That’s what you sign up for when you have kids.
 
4) freedom from ridicule and criticism – This is awesome.  It means that we don’t have to respect other people’s ideas.  This is counter-intuitive, but that’s why awesome protests like the “God Hates Figs” counter-protest to the Westboro Baptist Church are allowed.
 
You might think that someone should do something about this state of affairs.  Someone should make it so you don’t have to see something you don’t like.  Well, guess what?  YOU can do something about it.
 
What can you do?
 
Well, you can stay at home and not watch television or be around people who disagree with you of course!  You can stay off of the internet, or at least not read the comments section if you do post something.
 
Alternately, you can take the opportunity to create something you think is special and realize not everyone will agree.  Realize not everyone is nice and that sometimes people will be mean to you, or hit on you, or harass you.  Does that make your message less valuable because some idiot in podunk, Nowhere was a vitriolic prick?  No, of course not. 
 
Use their critique, criticism and hate as selective pressures to sharpen your rhetorical game.  Make airtight cases with no fallacious arguments.  Engage with criticism of your ideas and realize not everyone is a true-believer.  You’ll never win, or win them over if you can’t deal with them as having actual ideas- even if you disagree with them.  If you choose to evangelize, then you have to first treat people like they are people.
 
Plan What you’re going to say before you say it.  Yes, this is actually not planned out, but I don’t really care much about that here.  This blog is mostly for my rough-draft ideas and my regular writing practice.  I’m happy if people read it, but I don’t expect them to.  I also don’t expect people to like what i have to say.  I fall much more on the “coach” end of the spectrum when it comes to ideas than the “camp counsellor” end.  As such, I’ll just speak my current conception of the truth and not try to coddle too much.
 
What should you not do?
 
Feed the trolls:  Trolls exist solely to mess with your day.  They want a rise out of you.  They’re mean, often juvenile (both in age and mental maturity level) and they want to make you mad.  If you engage with a troll, you lose.  Period.  They don’t actually care about the thing you care about, they just want to watch the world, or at least your YouTube/Facebook/Twitter account burn.
 
Turn off the comments: In addition to silencing your critics, you’re silencing your supporters.  You may just find there are people who will come to your defense when someone wants to start trouble.  This can be a powerful rallying-point for your cause if you just allow it to happen.

On When to Quit

There comes a time an anyone’s life when it is time to stop doing what you are doing and do something else.  Sometimes it’s for obvious reasons like the idea that if you don’t stop it will kill you.  Mostly though, the reasons people quit have nothing to do with that kind of risk.  Most of us aren’t taking the sorts of chances that would lead to this being a likely outcome.

In most day-to-day situations, we quit because of the momentum loss of breaking a habit we’re trying to establish.  Often times when we make a mistake, we end up feeling a sense of guilt or hopelessness that attaches itself like a parasite on to the thing we were doing.  This is not the time to quit.

You are going to screw up.  Repeat this out loud.  (I don’t care if it’ll get you funny looks.  Do it).  I am GOING to screw up.  I am going to fail.  I am going to mess things up so badly that I need to bulk order duct tape and super glue in order to even THINK about fixing it.  Did you say it?  No.  Didn’t think so.  It’s true though.

You learned to walk?  That means you’ve fallen a lot.  I’m sure you probably got back up.  Well guess, what.  You need to be as tough as you were when you were like 13 months old.  Suck it up.  The alternative to tenacity in the face of messing up is misery and death.  

How do you do this?  I’ve had a few teachers and summer camp counsellors use the “how fascinating” method.  Throwing your hands in the air, taking a big breath and shouting “how FASCinating!!!” instead of beating yourself up is silly, but it can be really effective.  More importantly, you need to lear to forgive the sin and repent.  

What repent?  Luke, you adding religion to this?  No.  To sin means to error.  To repent means to turn away from that error (sin).  See?  No biggie.  That means, if you mess up and have dessert when it’s not your “cheat day”, you need to acknowledge it and move on.  No big deal.

This is not when to quit.  This is a minor setback.

 

***

 

There are a few times you SHOULD quit what you’re doing and they are as follows.

1) you realize your goals have changed.

2) you realize your actions are not leading to your goals

3) you realize your pursuit is harmful to yourself and/or those around you on a level you’re unhappy with.

 

You realize your goals have changed

Now is what you’d think would be the most obvious time to quit. 

On Returning To Something You Once Loved

Sometimes coming back to something is like coming out of a hibernation.  Take anything, a sport you love, going back to school or even writing. If it’s been a long time, you’re probably feeling aches and pains.  You might feel like you’re moving through molasses or honey.  That’s no real surprise.  You haven’t used those muscles or those neurons in a long time and it takes a while to get back into the swing of things.

After awhile however, things warm up and you’re going to start feeling good.  Really good.  This is something you love after all!  It’s amazing to hit that ball, throw that opponent, or get those words on paper.   You now want to do the thing!  Great!  Don’t go nuts.

“What? But I haven’t been doing anything!  I haven’t gotten off my butt in so long!  How am I supposed to catch up?”

Short answer:  You’re not.  Lost time is lost.  Just accept it.  You had other things that were more important to you at the time.  Video Games, The Netflix Original Series Marco Polo, or some member of whatever sex/gender combination you are attracted to.  Congratulations.  You spent that time.  You’re not getting it back.

The worst thing you can do when re-introducing stuff back into your life is to overdo it right away.  Why?  There are a few reasons:

  1. You could pull something.  Yes, even metaphorically.  You need to warm up before you can be at your old strength.  Sorry, that’s just the penalty you pay.
  2. You might uncover old patterns that lead to your burnout (if that’s why you took a break).
  3. You’re likely to exhaust yourself without having built up a reserve.

Part of your goal now is to build up a habit and make it stick longer than it did before.  Your goal is consistency, not marathon power sessions.  So, here’s what you do:

  1. Limit your time.  Leave yourself wanting more.
  2. Tell people how excited you are to be doing the thing.  People knowing you’re doing something will make them ask you about it when they see you, so telling people you see often will not only make you more interesting than if you’re just gossiping about celebrity nonsense like the rest of the people at the watercooler, it will also make them have something to ask you specific to you.
  3. Set a goal.  Goals come later, but right know just know it needs to have a specific “win” state.  We’ll work more on setting goals in a future thing.

Okay, these are some basic guidelines I recommend as someone who has taken breaks from things I love and returned to them sometimes, years later.  What things in your life do you wish you hadn’t given up?  Which things would you rather do than watch movies?  Maybe try one of them for a bit and see what happens.

Meditations – A reminder

When I am traveling and cannot get to the wilds and the quiet places, I must remember to cultivate the quiet place within myself.  To find the space and center in myself so that I can find peace and clarity, even when surrounded by the din and clamor of the city.

To find grounding in the bustle so that I’m able to think, and write and be.

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