Michael Ashcroft

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June 25, 2022 18:32
Needing things to be finished

I’ve been noticing a subtle background feeling whenever I work recently. It seems to be saying “this isn’t done yet, why isn’t this done yet?” In fact, I can feel it right now, even though I’ve only written 50 words. But this is clearly insane, since I’ve only just started writing. Nothing starts out finished.

This feeling is sufficiently uncomfortable that it makes me want to avoid it, which is how I end up on Twitter so easily.

I wonder if this is partly the cause of The Rut I’ve been in these last months. It shows up mainly with creative work, the kind where the starting point is nearly, though never entirely, a blank slate. It’s almost as if I consider there to be value — or perhaps more accurately, reward — only when I hit publish. Or, perhaps even more accurately, when someone hits ‘like’.

If the only enjoyment I get from creating is the moment I share it, then I’m gonna have a bad time, quite literally. I’ve fallen fowl of the classic trap that Alan Watts talks about:

“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

And the thing is, I know this! I teach this, even! This is not new wisdom or insight for me, but it’s funny to see how sneaky it can be in showing up again and again. It’s like a whack-a-mole of stuckness.

This is not how I want to be, though. I want to fall in love with the process, in all areas of life, over and over again. Life is in the living of it, not in arriving at any particular destination. Or, as Ze Frank says so perfectly:

And God, let me enjoy this! Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done.

Perhaps this is a lesson that is never fully learned. Perhaps this is a lesson that deepens every time I re-learn it, when I see it playing out again and again across the fabric of my life.

Right now, I’m enjoying writing this note. Publishing it will be a nice little extra, but I’m choosing to enjoy articulating my thoughts, the tactile sensation of my fingers on the keyboard and the serene writing environment that is Obsidian.

I’ll play with generalising this attitude again. There’s no such thing as a finished YouTube channel, a finished blog, or even a finished online course, really. It’s all an unfolding flow of creation that I get to participate in.

Certainly, there’s no such thing as a finished life. But it seems that needing things to be finished is an excellent way to suck the enjoyment out of the journey.


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June 4, 2022 20:14
I’m afraid you’ll see my many faults

The last time I published a note here was 12 February, a few days after I left the UK at the start my nomad travels. I thought that note would represent the start of a new wave of creative energy, given that I had published the previous note three months earlier.

I was wrong.

If my ability to ship these simple notes is representative of my creative life as a whole, I’ve been in a rut now for about six months. I’ve got plenty done in that time, but it’s all been administrative, process oriented, or just general maintenance. Nothing new.

I’m not certain why this is, but two ideas come immediately to mind.

The first that is that I have unwittingly slipped from sincere to serious. I’ve lost the sense of playful abandon I had when all this was a fun diversion from my full time job. Well, I quit that job, and slowly the fun drained away. It became important that I be creative, and that caused internal interference.

I’ve written about this exact effect, and yet here I am. I guess the lesson is that the same challenges will keep showing up, over and over, and the game is to keep getting out of them, over and over, in new ways. Not only can you never step in the same river twice, you can never get out of the same river twice, either.

The second block is that I’m scared.

I’m scared that I’m no good at this. My background is in electricity networks, so what do I know about whatever the hell I’m doing now?

I’m scared that the success I’ve had until now was a fluke, and at any moment it all might come crashing down, revealing me to be a fraud worthy of public ridicule.

I had a recurring ‘failure mode’ at work. I would feel incompetent at something, which would lead me to avoid it. I would then feel ashamed of both being behind and of avoiding the thing, but I would avoid asking for help, because then others would see first that I was behind and then that I was incompetent. This, of course, was a vicious circle.

I think I’ve been stuck in a similar loop here.

I don’t have a boss, but I do have 11.7k Twitter followers, 2673 email subscribers, and 845 students in my course. That’s a lot of people who might witness my faults.

I haven’t sent an email newsletter since early March, so when I do finally send one, that will reveal to thousands of people how long it’s been since I’ve sent a newsletter, and therefore how incompetent I am at sending newsletters. So I've been avoiding it.

I know how very much over the top this is. This is not a job and you are not my manager.

But something about that emotional resistance remains. It goes “I am not very good, people will see that I am not very good. I cannot be with that feeling, so I am going to distract myself from the whole thing.”

The solution in past job contexts was to summon enough courage to Do The Thing, whether this meant grinding through the work or admitting that I needed help. At this point, the block dissolved enough for me to get back in the game. I’d then be unblocked for a while, until it happened again with something else.

I could repeat this approach, but grinding is not the path I want to take this time.

As I write this, I see that the time has come to finally undo the core beliefs that drive those distressing emotional responses that I apparently can’t tolerate. They aren’t true and they aren’t helpful. But knowing that intellectually is not the same as knowing it emotionally.

There’s an expression in the personal growth world: “what got you here won’t get you there”. You can get stuck if you don’t update your methods to account for where you are.

I seem to have fallen foul of its opposite: I stopped doing something that was working. I got here by not caring so damn much, by thinking out loud about things I was working through, and by focusing on being of service to others, rather than worrying about what others thought of me.

So let this note be the minimum viable creative act needed to get my engine re-started enough to work through healing those stuck patterns that I no longer want holding me back. And may sharing this journey be helpful to anyone who is in a similar place.


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Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash
February 12, 2022 15:53
So, now what?

Hello from Oaxaca de Juárez, the capital of the state of Oaxaca in Mexico.

A typical street in the centre of Oaxaca

The last few weeks have been a frenzy of activity.

It was my partner’s last couple of weeks of work before taking a year-long sabbatical. We packed our lives into two suitcases, two backpacks, and everything else into a 35 sq ft room in south London. And then we flew across the world, spent a few busy, tourist style days in Mexico City and finally arrived in Oaxaca yesterday afternoon.

And then, about half an hour ago, the long-awaited moment came. With breakfast eaten and plates cleared away a moment of peace came, within which arose a question.

Now what?

We’re here for five weeks. There’s no rush to see or do anything. We have long, open days ahead of us to carve out some kind of lifestyle before moving elsewhere in Mexico.

I’ve actually been in this city before, but only for two days before getting on an overnight bus to my next destination. I was backpacking from Mexico City to Playa del Carmen, trying to see and experience as much as possible along the way.

That trip, although three weeks long and utterly fantastic in its own way, felt very different from what we're experiencing right now. Rather than three weeks, we have three months. Rather than expecting to go home soon, we will be going somewhere else and doing this again. Rather than taking a break from work and life, this is work and life.

So, indeed, now what?

I decline to answer. I’d much rather let myself be surprised by what comes up if I keep the question alive in my awareness.

What I will say is that there’s something special, sublime even, about the sense of spaciousness that makes it possible even to ask it.

Now what?

That’s not a question you can ask easily, let alone answer, when life is full of noise and stuff and tasks.

Now what?

In place of an answer there is a void.

But what a sonorous, vibrant, full void it is.


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November 17, 2021 13:03
Beware the trap of the long, slow decline

I’m going to use an example from crypto, but this note is not about crypto. It’s about how a long, slow decline can be the most dangerous kind of collapse.

Photo by Andrew Amistad on Unsplash

Back in 2017 I got quite caught up in the crypto bull run, getting particularly interested in a privacy coin called Verge (XVG). The team seemed good, they promised the option of both public and private transactions and they had very low transaction fees. So I bought Verge and spent a lot of time in Telegram groups.

There were a couple of problems with Verge, though. One was that it became a bit of a meme coin, subject to the kind of market manipulation that is common in crypto, but that would be illegal in regulated financial markets. Another was that it was surrounded by enormous amounts of hype.

One particular hype cycle happened just before new year 2017/18, when there were rumours of a new tech launch and some big new partnership, something that would revolutionise the world of crypto. I remember the value of my Verge holdings increasing by $1k every couple of hours until I was at something like $20k on a $4k investment.

Having been through this once with Verge, I would now respond by selling and taking profits on the way up, but I didn’t do that, and guess what happened. There was no announcement and the price crashed.

What’s interesting is that after that big crash the team apologised and insisted that a big partnership was on the way. This ongoing hype, coupled with ‘bag holders’ hanging on (people who bought high, lost money, and wanted the price to go up again to recoup their losses) created a similarly overexcited sentiment.

So I, like many other people, held.

There was indeed an announcement of a partnership a few months later, except it wasn’t with a big global payment processor as had been hoped, it was with MindGeek, the company that owns Pornhub and other adult entertainment websites. Again, many people said this was stupid, while many more said things like "porn has always driven innovation in tech, this is good actually!"

So I, like many other people, held.

You can see from this chart how that went. In retrospect, it looks like the decline happened quickly, but look at the timescales — the decline back to its pre-hype baseline was a full year. The coin bled its value first quickly, and then slowly, and all within the context of a general sentiment that it could go up again at any moment.

This is a common story in crypto, but it’s the warning of a long, drawn out decline with the promise of improvement that never comes that I want to take from this experience, because this pattern can be seen in many places outside of crypto.

Consider a relationship that starts well, suffers a shock, and then starts to slowly decay. No single moment feels bad enough to leave, but it’s never what it was, and it might get better one day, you never know. A job can go exactly the same way. As can nations and entire civilisations.

While I have had experiences like this, and I’m writing this note in quite blunt terms, I don’t actually consider myself to be particularly cynical or jaded. Indeed, I suspect most people have seen this effect at least once in their lives.

No, I just want to learn to spot these patterns so I don’t get stuck in them for too long.

If the situation is such that I have the power to improve it, then let me notice that and cultivate the agency to improve it. If the situation is not one where I have influence, let me notice that and cultivate the agency to step away before all that was once precious is lost.

Whether it’s in relationships, in work, or in investing, the long, slow decline is perhaps the most insidious trap of all.


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November 7, 2021 12:28
Be aware of the rhythms that bind you

One of my favourite books is The Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand. It’s a book about what it means to think and act responsibly over extremely long time frames.

The book is framed around the idea of a physical clock that can keep time for 10,000 years and an institution that can maintain it for as long. The clock would serve as a buffer against the ever shortening length of ‘now’:

When I was a child, people use to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. Now, thirty years later. they still talk about what will happen by the year 2000. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life.
I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of the Millennium. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks one a year, bongs one a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium. (Daniel Hills, 1993).

I have a lot to say about this idea, but this note is not about deep time or long-term responsibility. This note is about the mechanism the clock would use to remain accurate and what this tells us about similar mechanisms in our lives.

And how do you keep such a monumental clock accurate over its 10,000 year life? Here’s how:

Its works consist of an ingenious binary-digital mechanical system that has precision equal to one day in twenty thousand years, and it self-corrects by phase locking to the noon sun.
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Phase locking is where a control system checks for a difference between the current state of a system and a reference state, taking some kind of action if there is a difference. In the case of the clock, the control system would check when the clock thinks noon is against when the sun thinks noon is and would correct the clock.

This, of course, is very clever. A consistent external source of truth keeps the system in line essentially forever or, in practice, until something breaks or there is an error too large to correct.

I hope that makes sense, because I’m going to bring this idea kicking and screaming into the idea of having a job. Yes, really.

One of my most persistent gripes during my former career was that evenings, weekends and holidays were never long enough for me to think the kinds of thoughts and feel the kinds of feelings that might have been available in the absence of a job.

Every weekday morning I would experience a subtle jolt. Every Monday morning I would experience a more noticeable jolt. And the day back at work from a two or three week holiday I would experience a particularly strong jolt. Indeed, that jolt was the felt sense of me being phase-locked to my job and the rhythms it wanted for me.

For the Clock of the Long Now, synchronising to the solar noon was a good thing, but in my case I felt continually dragged back into a pattern that didn’t fit. I wanted to get more out of step from this external forcing function and, in the end, the phase-lock released only when a part of the mechanism — me — broke.

Phase-locking is great when the reference signal is healthy and wanted. My circadian rhythm is now strongly phase-locked to the sun and I want it that way, so much so that I intentionally go for a walk first thing every day to synchronise my body with the morning light.

Phase locking is not great when the reference signal pulls you away from where you want to be. Bonus points if the bad reference signal is hard to notice, if you don’t know where you want to be, or if the people around you insist that the bad reference signal is good, actually.

I suspect that persistent phase locking to an inappropriate reference signal is a source of chronic stress. It may be hard to notice, but it’s there. I’m pleased to report that I’m finally allowing myself to deviate and I’m enjoying the discovery of new and more appropriate reference signals.

If anything in this note resonates, I would encourage you to gently ask yourself: what would need to change for me to feel like I fit in the rhythms of my life?


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September 27, 2021 19:49
Why I created a limited company instead of remaining a sole trader

Hello, I am Michael Ashcroft. I am a human who owns and is employed by a business called Michael Ashcroft Ltd, because I have no imagination.

I created the business in March 2021. Until then I had been doing freelance work for about ten years (around full time employment) as a ‘sole trader’, also known as a sole proprietor in other parts of the world. Any income I made from these ‘side hustles’, as people who aren’t me call them, just counted towards my personal income, so all I had to do was declare this and pay a little extra tax.

There was nothing stopping me from remaining a sole trader, so why create a company? There are lots of benefits around tax, separation of my assets and liabilities and those of business, and nudging others to take me more seriously as a seller and buyer of things.

These were all extra perks though. I created the company mainly because I wanted the business to have a separate identity from me.

The moment I created the business I felt this rush of what I can only call opportunity. Suddenly there was potential, an agency that could act in the world independently of me, pursue strategies independently of me, and collaborate with other people in various ways, again independently of me.

Of course, right now I’m the one doing everything, because I’m the only shareholder, I’m the only director and I’m the only employee. I have strategy meetings with myself (they’re bangin’, we have keto doughnuts). I’m okay with this, and of course I’ll tell you why.

In his excellent book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber explains the difference between working in your business and working on your business. To work in your business means to do the work of operating the business: making things, selling things, marketing things, talking to customers, all that stuff. To work on your business means, among other things, to define what the work actually is, to create structures and systems so that the work gets done efficiently, and to recruit people into the roles you’ve defined, as needed.

Even if I never hire anyone, I want a business that encourages me to work on it and not just in it. This is the perspective shift that happened when I created the limited company: suddenly working on and working in clarified themselves and became separate from what was before a foggy mix of both working on and working in at the same time.

The idea that, as a result of me working on it, the business might one day grow to become something larger than me gives me a helpful injection of ambition. It’s not me who makes things and sells them to people, it’s the business that creates products and sells them to customers. I find that a powerful and helpful difference.

At this point I can hear the concerns of a little voice in my head. Doesn’t this make everything more impersonal? Aren’t I at risk of creating a job for myself? Is this a hustle trap in disguise? Am I still caught in Total Work?

Honestly, there’s certainly a risk of all that, but there always is. Growth and scale for their own sake are not what I want, but if I get the incentives, motivations and targets wrong at this stage then that’s what my business might push me towards.

I’m comforted by the other constraints I am bringing to my business, though. First and foremost, at least for now, I am optimising for things that aren’t lots of money and prestige.

I want a lifestyle that gives me space for adventure and to focus on my health, relationships and learning. I suspect this will also make me better able to be of benefit to people, not only through the work I do, but in the way I am able to be in the world.

Right now the idea of growing enough to hire people so that I can grow more doesn’t seem like fun. Perhaps one day it will, but for now I’m happy to be a solopreneur who just happens to have a thoughtfully-designed company.


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September 20, 2021 19:51
Crabs helping each other out of the bucket

When you put a load of crabs in a bucket together, any crab near the top that tries to escape the bucket is pulled back into the bucket by the other crabs. This is known as crab mentality.

Photo by Chandler Cruttenden on Unsplash

Crab mentality is often invoked to demonstrate the mindset of “if I can’t get what I want then I won’t let you have it either”. Of course, we have precious little insight into what’s going through the minds of those crabs, but let’s assume they are indeed playing zero-sum games.

The image is compelling because it’s something we see frequently in day to day life. It can be found within the English class system, where the expression “if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you” can lead families to hinder their own social mobility. It can also be seen in the managers who overwork their teams because they themselves were once overworked.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I find this way of being in the world deeply unhelpful. At the end of the day, all the crabs remain in the bucket and people continue to overwork, whether through external or internal authoritarianism.

But what if we lived in a world where the crabs helped each other out of the bucket? What would that be like?

The words that come to mind for me are nourishing, earnest and trusting. Nourishing, because this would be a world that validates our desires and helps us to meet them, should their pursuit not bring harm to others. Earnest, because we would feel free to explore and express those things that most bring us to life. Trusting, because to do all this means we could reasonably be our true authentic selves without fear of judgement or attack.

Worlds like this often seem like naive utopias doomed to fail the moment a hostile agent enters them. And, indeed, it seems likely that a perfect utopia such as this can’t exist, but that doesn’t imply that a world more like this than not can’t exist in a stable equilibrium. It can be true that most crabs help each other out of the bucket most of the time.

To stretch the metaphor even further, I sometimes find myself reflecting on how I might behave to help the other crabs out of the bucket. Here are three things I’ve settled on as being good things.

First, I reward earnestness with validation, support and my own earnestness. Earnestness is a precious expression of our authentic selves, the person we are when we’re not trying to be anyone in particular. I believe we are at our best when we are in that mode, so I want to see a world that encourages this.

Second, I support people on their creative journeys. When someone is taking their first tentative steps into making something that I might like or pursuing an independent life, I lean towards giving them money for that thing. Where possible I tend to give generously, should it feel appropriate to do so. By doing this I am not only helping this particular crab out of the bucket, but improving their capacity to do the same for other crabs down the line.

And finally, for this note anyway, I try to connect people who share this perspective to each other. I’m not great at this at the moment as it’s not a longstanding habit, but I’m getting better and better at it. If there is a community of people, or crabs, that have a culture of helping each other out, then each new member of that community increases the capacity of that community to effect change and help more people, or crabs.

We’ll never reach a perfect utopia, and that’s probably a good thing, but we can create a cultural pressure that creates ever larger communities that are nourishing, earnest and trusting. And all it takes is for each of us, individually, to make choices, over and over, to help the other crabs out of the bucket rather than to pull them back into it.

Who knows, maybe once they escape they’ll give us a hand, or claw, as well.


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September 15, 2021 14:25
Getting my business to nudge me towards behaviours I want

The main way that my business makes money right now is through the sale of my Alexander Technique online course. There’s also some 1:1 coaching, but I don’t do much of that so it generates less than $1k a month.

Until now I’ve sold the course through a series of launches, where I would make it available for a few days and then close it. Without a doubt this was a wise approach as I was getting started and I would do it again. It led lots of people to buy the course, because scarcity, then talk about it online, because hype, and all this drove more sales in later launches.

I didn’t do the launches to create scarcity. I did them to help focus my attention on building the course, but that’s the effect it had, regardless of whether it was intentional or not.

Now, since my personal income is entirely derived from my business, I am massively, some might even say foolishly exposed to how many people buy the course. So you’d think I’d spend most of my time thinking about it, improving it and marketing it… right?


Doesn’t look that way. In fact, It looks like the launches created a perverse incentive, one that I’ve decided to unwind.

Instead of remaining engaged with course development, some part of my mind knew I had recently made several months’ worth of personal income, which led me to just leave the course alone, even though I wanted to build it. Not only that, but the weeks leading up to each launch are always an intense period of thinking and filming videos, so I suspect there was a kind of mini-burnout cycle appearing,

Ultimately all this led to a kind of on/off, stop/start approach to engaging with ideas that matter a lot to me. This is not how I want to behave, now or over the years to come.

I’ve discussed elsewhere that I want to build my kind of lifestyle business, which in the context of that note meant ‘not working too hard’:

For now I shall build my business around the lifestyle I want, one where I can spend my days reading, thinking, writing, travelling, talking to people and, yes obviously, also working. To me, today, the sense of freedom and flexibility I get is worth sacrificing more money.

But there’s another angle to this. I want to build a lifestyle business that actively encourages me to read, think, write and talk to people, always, and not one that just allows time for those things.

Rather than chastise myself for not working with the appropriate focus, intensity and consistency, I’ve decided to change the incentive structure. No more launches. The course is now available for purchase at any time.

It's the end of a launch. Get it? Because they're landing? You get it
Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

I actually made this change a few days ago. Do you know what happened the moment I made the course available for purchase? Absolutely nothing. I didn’t make any money. This is the point.

The only way people will buy the course is if they know it exists and that it can give them what they want. For these to be true I need to talk about the course and the ideas within it a lot, i.e. to write consistently. I need to do my own R&D to move more deeply into the subject matter so I can build more and better stuff. And I need to figure out what people really want and explore new ways to give them that.

Actually doing all this requires much more consistent engagement from me than doing a launch every few months and hoping for the best, which has been my current strategy until now, even if it was implicit.

I want to keep this design approach firmly in mind as my business grows. If ever I find myself behaving in ways that are counter to what I and my business need, I will explore ways to change the structures around me so that my behaviour naturally aligns with what I and my business need.

As long as I keep certain principles in mind: that I don’t want to create a burden for myself and that I want to pay myself properly, this should lead to outcomes that feel good.

It’s an experiment, anyway. Let’s see what happens.


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September 14, 2021 15:44
Writing gives you access to the online game

There is an online game being played around you.

Photo by Lucas Santos on Unsplash

In this game people are making new friends, meeting up around the world, working on exciting projects and generally creating opportunities to change their lives radically, should they so wish. There is no central story line; it’s all side quests based on curiosity and relationships.

While everyone can observe the online game for free, participation has a cost. This cost isn’t financial, although a little money is required for access and tools. No, the online game uses ideas and attention as currency.

In business, though interestingly not in poker, the term ‘table stakes’ refers to the minimum requirements needed to participate in any arrangement, i.e. to play a game. When it comes to the online game, the table stakes are some thoughtful published work, usually written.

When someone reaches out to me online, the first thing I do is look for their personal website.

When I come across someone saying interesting things on Twitter, I check their bio, look for a personal website and scroll their feed for evidence of thoughtful tweets. Without one of those things I’m unlikely to follow.

When (online) friends mention or introduce me to a new person, they send me a link to their website or Twitter profile, both of which act as a kind of modern-day business card.

I spoke to someone yesterday who reached out to me via Twitter DM. She has no following, no website and just a few interesting tweets, but something about her vibe felt good. I happened to be in an open mood when I saw the DM, so we Zoomed.

But this move on her part, while audacious and successful on this occasion, is more likely than not to be met with radio silence. I have ignored many such requests. In this case I know from 45 minutes of discussion that she has great ideas and that she would be a fantastic player in the online game, but neither that truth nor my word are enough to give her a seat at the table.

She needs to make, publish and share. That’s level 1, which gives gives access to level 2 (make new online friends), which eventually unlocks level 3 (do fun things with online friends).

If you’re currently a non-player character of the online game, someone who reads and watches, and you want to become an active player, this is your next step: write sincerely, write earnestly, write prolifically.

And most importantly, share your writing to let the others find you.


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September 13, 2021 12:42
Design games so you enjoy playing them

One of my metaphysical axioms is that existence is fundamentally playful.

Yes, this was inspired by Alan Watts, but he got it from Hindu cosmology, so I’m okay with this not being an original idea. It just sits well with me.

Playfulness is that which happens for its own sake. To inquire as to the purpose of play is to miss the point, and if you ask a child what they’re playing for you will get a confused expression. The point of play is play! What a silly question, grown up.

Play is also inherently unforced and unforcible. The most effective way to prevent play is to try to be playful. And the harder you try, the more serious you become and the more play eludes you. You can try this with children (although please don’t): commanding them to play for their aunts and uncles will just cause them to freeze or they'll learn to 'perform' play. That state of grace has to emerge naturally!

It’s easy to think of play as something that exists outside our normal lives and routines, something frivolous in which we may occasionally indulge.

No. Playfulness is a state of mind, a state of being, a perspective.

Photo by eleonora on Unsplash

Navigating the world in a playful way doesn’t mean you can’t play towards a particular goal. It just means that the goal you want to achieve can’t be more important than how you attain it.

Or, as Alan puts it:

“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

The point of dancing is to dance, but you can still dance in a coordinated way with a partner such that you both end up at a certain place on the dance floor.

This is how we can make progress towards our goals in a playful way. I want to build muscle, so it makes sense for me find resistance exercises that I enjoy and eat food that I find delicious. I want to write a lot, so it makes sense for me to write about things that bring me to life, to write for people who appreciate my writing and to use tools that I enjoy.

I also want to maintain a sufficient level of not caring about whether or not I actually achieve my goals. It might happen, it might not, who cares, I’m just enjoying the ride. And by enjoying the ride it actually becomes more likely that I’ll keep doing the things that will allow my goals to ‘just be achieved’ one day.

This is increasingly how I approach the things I want to do in my life. I remember that it’s all a game. I still choose to play it sincerely, but ultimately I seek to unwind the forcing mechanisms that serve to get me stuck.

The liberating insight from all this is that if some area of life isn’t experienced as playful then you can change things until it is. Make the game easier, make it more challenging, include other players, find new players, change the rules, flout the rules! Do whatever you can to make it lighter, easier, more fun. This isn't always easy, but it is a move that's available.


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