Saturday, January 23, 2016

Terry's Rules, The Last

Getting back to this series. Got distracted by travel, training and good questions.

Three more: #9 Think. #10 Do. #11 Don't Overcommit.

Think.
Rule#2 was "It's okay to stop and think." This might feel like a repeat. I don't think so. The fact that it's "okay" doesn't mean you will actually do it... but there's more than that. Fighting, counter-assault, hand-to-hand-- whatever you want to call it-- is very much a thing of guts and nerve, visceral, not intellectual. And yet, you have a brain. Use it.

When you have time to think, you think. Absolutely. And the quality of your thinking process allows for an amazing level of possibility. One tiny, basic, obvious thing is "reframing"-- instead of coming up with an answer, can I change the question? Powerful. But even when you don't have time to cognitively weigh all options, that doesn't mean "Be stupid." Your hindbrain is actually a very smart survival mechanism that deals with far more nuance than we give it credit for.

Fight smart. Efficiently. Stay alert to options, escape possibilities, unexpected threats... that's incredibly effective, but realistically, the ability to do that-- to deal with a potentially deadly threat and partition part of your brain to do something else-- requires immense experience. I couldn't do it for maybe the first hundred force incidents. I doubt I even considered the possibility before it happened. The people I know that can do it can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. Terry is absolutely one of them.

But the possibility is there. Your brain is capable of this. The human animal is kind of awesome.

Do.
This one is huge. Here's the deal: If you never act you are worthless. You affect the world in no way. You are a waste of time, space and oxygen. It doesn't matter how smart you are or how cool you are or how noble your intentions. If those qualities are never expressed in action, you are nothing. You are worse than nothing. You are a barnacle that increases drag for everyone else.

No one is inherently special. No one deserves to be appreciated just because they happen to be born or they happen to be human. Your value as an entity is based entirely on your actual value to actual other entities. If you want to write fiction that you never share because it makes you happy, that's entirely cool. For you. But if that is ALL you do, you could be shot in the head today and it would not matter one iota to the world.

Right now, check yourself. Over 90% of the people reading this will be nodding in agreement because what I just wrote is simply freakin' obvious. If you are glitching, you need to take a good hard look at your life.

Terry's rules are for high-risk situations, but this one is about life. For the world, the inactive are worthless. But you know what? If you don't "do" if you aren't acting, you aren't really living anyway. This thing you are calling your life is just a pale imitation of the real thing.

Get off the damn couch. Turn off the laptop or the smart phone. Do. Live.

Don't Overcommit.
This is the one I want to argue with. But it's right except for where it's wrong. DON'T overcommit. But don't undercommit either.

There are two classic pieces of advice. Winston Churchill's: "I am addressing myself to the School - surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense." 

And a very wise man I knew called Jake Rens: "When a smart man realizes he's in a hole, he quits digging."

Churchill saves it in the last four words, especially the last two. But it takes immense judgment, sometimes, to distinguish between good sense and fear.

Commitment is important. I think, in a dangerous situations one of the most common and almost universally doomed action is to do anything half-assed. Running is fine, but run with your whole heart. Half running or running and hesitating makes you an easy target. Fighting is dangerous, but fight with your whole heart. Half-fighting is not fighting at all, just struggling. And it doesn't save you, it just excites the bad guy.

Overcommitment. If you overcommit your balance, you are vulnerable. If you overcommit your emotions you are vulnerable... And this is the grr for me, because you can't drop step without vulnerability and overcommitment, and you can't truly love halfway.

The one universal with overcommitment appears to be this, in my opinion: Never double down on stupid. Don't reinforce failure. When you catch yourself doing the wrong thing, don't let your monkey brain con you into doing the wrong thing harder. Always be humble enough to admit when you've screwed it up and change. And adapt. And win.


19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Your value as an entity is based entirely on your actual value to actual other entities" - That is true in the tautological sense. It begs the question "which entity are you of value to, and why should you care?". I don't want to live in a cage and I don't enjoy causing pain or suffering to other entities. I do enjoy seeing other entities doing well and finding themselves. Other than that, I don't live my life in order to be valuable to others. I don't expect anyone else to live their life in order to be valuable to me.

Sean C. said...

Sometimes it just works out that way, and that is a good thing. :)

Anonymous said...

"Your value as an entity is based entirely on your actual value to actual other entities."

Weird meta-assumption here that value is an objective quality that something can have, instead of a feeling people have (which is a lot easier conclusion to defend).

You don't exactly have to retreat into moral relativism to pick all kinds of holes in "X is the only thing that makes a person have value", and based exclusively on what you've written here, it doesn't seem like you've considered that, to be perfectly honest.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

As with most thongs we can dig inot the holes in it but that I seems to me is outside the point and scope of what is being discussed here. We affect the world by what we do in it. Even if all we do is take up space...

Sean C. said...

I'm going to have to lay this out. Everyone is just taking up space. That is the nature of the world. You are breathing oxygen that I could be breathing. Your definition of value doesn't mean shit to me, because you don't have the right to assign value to me.

Sean C. said...

:)

Sean C. said...

There is no moral relativism when you realize that your environment has intrinsic value, regardless of your state of mind.

Anonymous said...

"but that I seems to me is outside the point and scope of what is being discussed here."

It's the normative claim that is the basis of everything else in the post, so no, it isn't.


"Your definition of value doesn't mean shit to me, because you don't have the right to assign value to me."

It's strange to categorically reject someone telling you what to do (accept their concept of value), and then tell someone what to do (not assign value to you).

There are more specific ways you could make that argument, obviously, but the way you're doing it makes it seem like you don't understand the underlying issue, which is that there are some differences in normative beliefs being expressed, and resorting to familiar abstractions like "rights" or "value" without unpacking what they mean or where you get those ideas isn't going to be that productive, because that's what people are disagreeing about.

Sean C. said...

"resorting to familiar abstractions like "rights" or "value" without unpacking what they mean or where you get those ideas isn't going to be that productive, because that's what people are disagreeing about."

Agreed. So here we are.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Yes We can dig into it. Yes we are all taking up space... do we do anything with it. You don't have to like it or listen to it but I can have it. your opinion of it may be will affect how others choose to interact with you.
If we take the very act of existence as a for of doing then it can affect others with no other reason other than them attaching value to it.
However beyond that attachement and on a personal level,things don't happen till you do some thing and just thinking good thoughts does nothing for anyone else

Kamil Devonish said...

Most of the carnage in the world is wrought by people who take action when they'd be better served doing nothing. If it were as easy as erring on the side of motion vs stillness, the best fighter in the world would be the busiest, the most successful person in the world would be the most sleep deprived.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Which then ties in to thinking in the rules mentioned. There is a time to Do something and there is a time to Do nothing. As Rory said what people too often do is something but haLf arsed... or they become indecisive as the ponder options.
We can look at the world and think doing nothing would have been better... what is more often the case is that we are judging what was wrong withe action made. That doesn't mean doing nothing was a better choice. Also more often problems are cause by people continuing to stick to an Option even when its time to change it. Again it's different to doing nothing.

Agent Cbeppa said...

"Your value as an entity is based entirely on your actual value to actual other entities. If you want to write fiction that you never share because it makes you happy, that's entirely cool. For you. But if that is ALL you do, you could be shot in the head today and it would not matter one iota to the world."

I think it depends on which other entities you care about. The "lizard brain" only cares about itself and maybe the people closest to it. The "monkey brain" will care about what all of society thinks, and will try to make actions that will make the highest number of other people happy. I'm not sure I'm smart enough to contemplate the "human brain," but I'm guessing it bases its actions on what it perceives as best for humankind, which of course will vary from brain to brain.
To further complicate our quest for Figuring Everything Out, a "worthless" entity will occasionally make a contribution to society on accident (maybe that fiction stash is discovered after your death and your family benefits) or a person trying to do the right thing messes the world up further (maybe you publish your work and it influences a cult to form and attack random people).

For me (and this might make Mr. Miller throw up in his mouth a little), I am not especially important to myself, I really don't care what the rest of society thinks of my actions, and I'm not going to delude myself into thinking I can save humanity. The only entity I really want to be valuable to is God, and maybe in serving Him, I'll improve the world in some barely significant way.

Haha, this is getting sooo long! I enjoy the conversations that come up on this blog. They're really thought-provoking.

I'm a hypocrite anyway, because I'm procrastinating from writing right now.

Kamil Devonish said...

"If you never act you are worthless. You affect the world in no way. You are a waste of time, space and oxygen... You are worse than nothing. You are a barnacle that increases drag for everyone else."

1) Babies are, by this definition, barnacles on their parents. 2) I understand the spirit of this sentiment - to get moving and take hold of life. But once we start ascribing value to people and quantifying certain people as 'worse than nothing', these become lives that aren't worth saving or fighting for. It isn't hard then to make the leap to conclude that such lives should be destroyed for the betterment of the rest. Do we really want to see the world this way? Or am I being too dramatic?

Kamil Devonish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Agent Cbeppa said...

I think the best way to use this idea is to only apply it to yourself. Ask yourself if you are being a barnacle, but don't try to judge other people by the same criteria. Have higher expectations for yourself than for other people.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Kamil, Babies are barnacles yes and no. No because they serve the purpose of projecting us in the future, they are our immortality, that is what they do for us. Yes because in a evolutionary sense babies may be abandoned or die etc, if the cost if sustaining them becomes too great they may be abandoned. Also given a high level of infant mortality, our species has been steadily increasing through history.

Kamil and Agent,
I don't think Rory was suggesting that this should be directed at anyone other than ourselves.

There are several theories that species are wired for altruism as in an evolutionary sense as a strategy it serves our "self" interest. Our altruisms contributes to others being altruistic back, but also altruism indicate that you hav the ability to give and attracts others to support us.

Kai Jones said...

Confucious: To know what is right and not do it is a want of courage.
Epictetus: Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.

2Rude said...

My favourite part of this post: "No one is inherently special. No one deserves to be appreciated just because they happen to be born or they happen to be human."

I wish this was common sense in our society but the opposite seems to be the case; from the cradle to the grave we're pumped with the idea that we're all unique snowflakes.