Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
~ Bre Prettis (Cult of Done Manifesto)
I have this terrifically frustrating habit — I always want things to be entirely cleaned up and done well. I’m unusually satisfied when I believe I’ve completed something well, cleaning a room is one of the tasks that works best for me. However, finishing a contract that I’m pleased with the outcome of is just as satisfying.
This trait comes out in negative ways as well.
I hate seeing food in the cupboards. It just seems to be taking up room and you can’t just clean the cupboards with it there. So, when I get frustrated with my lack of progress elsewhere, I find myself either eating food or throwing out food which has gone bad from the fridge simply because it is there. It took me a long time to figure this strange habit out, and it really actually explains the swings I have in weight. When I’m getting a lot done, my weight goes down dramatically, when I find myself struggling to get things done, it goes up. I don’t have an eating problem as much as a ‘need to feel like I’m accomplishing something’ problem.
In other circumstances, it has taken away from the joy I see everyone else have at large pomp and circumstance celebrations. To be honest, the day I graduated from Waterloo was probably one of the more sad days I can remember. Not because I didn’t feel proud that I made it, but rather because I didn’t feel like I had completed everything I wanted to. There were still courses in the C&O program I wanted to take, there was still things left to be learned.
I was successful because I had accomplished what was needed to pass. That wasn’t what was driving me though. I wanted to collect all the credits, I wanted to get much higher marks than I got. I didn’t feel like I’d done what I’d come to do. Sadly, I didn’t feel that accomplished.
This has also combined with another personality trait of mine which Ze Frank calls the FILDI (F*ck it, let’s do it.) In general, I cannot stand waiting on the sidelines of anything. If I see a book in a field of science or theology, I generally want to read it – no filter, I mean anything. I’ve read advanced books in post modern political science and books on how to write comedy for children. I bought them and read them in the hopes that I would have some interesting thought that I could expand upon and create something actually new, interesting or helpful.
I will note that people who recognized this habit in me have abused my friendship around it. Thankfully, over time I’ve recognized those people quicker and I address the matter much sooner than I used to.
I always reflect that perhaps in an earlier age, this could have been a really amazingly useful trait. At one point it was actually possible for a person to know a significant majority of human knowledge. With that, there was the possibility I could have a new and unique thought that pushed forward the boundaries of our knowledge, or created a new machine that improved all of our lives.
Yet, this FILDI combined with the “Complete all the things!” is more of a curse in the modern age. As anyone who has tried to be a renaissance man will tell you though, a jack of all trades is a master of none and you succeed in modern society by drilling down in one subject and being indispensable for that one topic. Something, I’ve tried to do, but haven’t fully succeeded. I get too distracted by too many subjects to get deep enough to create. At least, I always feel when I have a unique idea I quickly discover someone else has beat me to it. How do you find out if an idea has already been discovered, you read books and papers, and then you hit this frustrating realization: There is not enough time.
One day I stared at my massive library and worked out that to read everything in the library at the rate of 1 book per week would require four lifetimes and that would miss the entire point of why I owned a lot of the books. I also deduced that on average most books drove me to wanting to read more primary source material, so regardless of what I did, I always ended up behind.
I bought them because I wanted to create, not because I wanted to absorb. I wanted them to know what was at the edge of their fields so I could, in theory, create something new and interesting. Instead I kept on jumping onto the Red Queen’s treadmill. I had to run as fast as I could to stand still.
I haven’t honestly found a way around this habit. However, I recognize it, and I work on it by targeting specific tasks and trying to throw out ones that I acknowledge I cannot complete successfully. This has involved me throwing out entire baseball card collections, large chunks of my library, and old blogs (anyone remember 1337hax0r?). I would stop when I eventually realized the goals I desired behind them were simply not achievable with the effort/capital/support I had available to put into them.
What to do next? Well, at least now I know my order of things in importance. Something that was forced on me in stark terms recently. As I try to follow it, with God’s help, I’ll figure out some balance.
Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll get something big completed in the fashion I want.