Tag Archives: Aristotle

A Review of Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos by Steve Chandler

This review from my Taking Readings blog certainly applies to lawyers. In fact, it applies to just about everyone. I know that when I began practice–over 30 years ago!–time management became a more acute concern as the demands of multiple cases began to pile up quickly. I often felt overwhelmed. Chandler’s book, along with the Pressfield books I reference in the blog, address these issues from a most useful perspective. Not perfectly, but with the use of calendars  and processes, it should work to keep the wolves at bay. So, without further ado:

A Review of Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos by Steve Chandler

  • by Stephen N. Greenleaf
  • Oct. 14, 2014
  • 7 min read
  • original

This book serves as a fine companion work to Steve Pressfield’s The War of Art and Do the Work!. While Chandler focuses on the familiar theme of “time management”, both he and Pressfield focus on getting things done (and not necessarily as David Allen would have you do it). This book is pithy and easy to read. It could be shorter, and it’s no literary giant. But the message is worthwhile. In fact, in tight, short sentences, Chandler packs somewallop. His style, in addition to his quotes, tends toward the aphoristic. Accordingly, what follows are my quotes of him, his sources, my aphoristic thoughts generated by his insights, and my meta-comments [in brackets]. (I capitalize some words on my own accord as key terms taken from or inspired by Chandler.)

 

  • Non-linear time management involves three options: Now, Not Now (but a date certain), & Never. [I think he should include a fourth: Now Later. For instance, one can use almost any Now to take out the garbage or do the dishes, but some Nows are better than others for productivity. Some tasks are Labor (Arendt), which is by nature  repetitive and doesn’t need special attention. Chandler implies that all Time is equally valuable, but this isn’t so. Some, like me for instance, prefer to perform more demanding, creative tasks in the morning, with less demanding tasks—dishes, reading & answering emails, garbage, etc.—left to the afternoon.]

 

  • Empty the Mind about the Future because the Future = Fear.
  • Develop a bias for Action
  • Develop a laser-like Focus like Bruce Lee or Rocky Marciano (via Joyce Carol Oats).
    Joyce Carol Joyce Carol OatsOats

    [Yes, you read that correctly. It seems she has a thing about boxing.]

  • Act as a Warrior, not as a Worrier.
  • Keep your Soul alive by not seeking to Please Others. Do what you choose
  • Make Time, don’t expect to Find Time.
  • Thinking makes it so. We act (or refrain) based on our beliefs.
  • Sustain Focus. Avoid Distraction. Use the rifle, not the shotgun.
  • “We use our crayons (our imagination) to scare ourselves instead of to create.” Chandler, Steve (2011-02-14). Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos (p. 15). Maurice Bassett. Kindle Edition.
  • Use Process Goals, not big, long-term goals. [Compare Scott Adams of Dilbert fame: use Practices not Goals to create Future.]
  • “Be brief. Be swift. Be effective.” (19).
  • Create Now.
  • “Don’t think in terms of patterns. None of this: “I always” or “I never” because those globalizing thoughts will never serve you. They will scare you and make you a pessimist.” (22).
  • Start small.
  • Slow down.
  • Don’t over value Information. “[I]t is active creation that will produce wealth and well-being. Not information.” (27).
  • Create Value by serving others.
  • Incubation vs. Procrastination. Incubate but Act.
  • “No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.—Alan Watts (30).
    Alan WattsAlan Watts
  • The time warrior steals from the future. Then she pours her stolen gold—all of it—into the present moment.” (30).
  • Don’t Know, Choose. Choosing is the key to Acting.
  • “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost more than 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life… and that’s why I succeed—Michael Jordan (37).
    MJMichael Jordan
  • “It really isn’t fear of failure that stops us from trying exciting things. It’s fear of the appearance of failure. It’s the fear of looking like a failure.” (37).
  • Theory is good for the intellect, but action is good for the soul. It’s also good for your mental health, your physical health, and your pocketbook.—Robert Ringer (39).
  • Act, then Feel. Not vice versa.
  • Serve, don’t seek to Please.
  • Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.—Rumi (49). [I have to issue a small dissent here. My reading, especially in the morning (preferably after meditation) isn’t a passive act. It’s creative. I don’t just read, I Learn. For me, reading is a very creative activity. Besides, I don’t play a musical instrument & C would kill me if I started singing in the morning.]
  • Change Others through an Inspiring example.
  • Be in the Moment. Don’t cling to an Identity. I’m a . . . [fill in the blank]. You can be that—or more—or less.
  • The question isn’t, Who is going to let me; it’s Who is going to stop me?—Ayn Rand (57). [I haven’t “been Ayn Randed”, but I can’t argue too much with this one thing. See, I’m not going to cling to my identity as knowing her to be full of . . . “well, never mind”.]
  • Create, don’t React.
  • Issue is Problem Management, not Time Management. Deal with a Project or Challenge, not Time.
  • We love to solve problems—if they’re not ours.
  • Problems of Time are often problems of Emotion (Feelings).
  • Complete. Finish strong. Keep a “killer instinct”.
  • Unfinished Projects become Worries that become Energy Vampires!
  • Completion Creates Energy. Procrastination drains Energy.
  • Don’t Feel like doing It? Do It!
  • In the face of suffering, ask “How can I help?”, not “How to do I feel?”.
  • Not “How do I survive this [catastrophe]?”, but “How do I use this?”.
  • Warriors make friends of deadlines, which seem (and sound) so ominous.
  • “The human brain is a magical bio-computer. It sends us energy when we send it something clearly inspiring. But it drags us way down when we feed it something that is negative or depressing. The key to all of this is that we send it.” (88)
  • “The breakdown of language foretells the breakdown of results. Always. . . .[If I don’t keep a commitment] I have misused the word commitment, and language no longer means anything. So now anything I say is just noise that conveys no power at all. My language can no longer make anything happen. It can still be descriptive (it can tell you how I feel, it can describe the past) but it can no longer be generative (it can’t make things happen). . . . [A] commitment is something you keep, no matter what.” (90).
  • What gets measured gets done.
  • Emerson has written many wonderful essays on [acting] and one of the things he said is “Do the thing and you shall have the power.”(110)
  • “Creative people need some kind of structure. . . . Paradoxically, the best creativity comes from working with the most structure you can possibly impose on yourself.” (114).
  • “What do I feel like doing right now? That is the worst question I could ever ask myself during my workday. On a weekend that’s a fine question. “What do I feel like doing? I’ll watch a little baseball, I’ll play the guitar.” That’s fine, but in my workday, the feeling question is the worst question I can ask myself. The best questions are: “What do I want to produce?” and “What structure would guarantee that?”. (115).
  • Create your own Urgent.
  • Skip Willpower and simply Choose to Begin.
  • Begin—to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.—Marcus Aurelius (121).
  • “Why do I want my lack of action to be about a “thing” inside me I don’t have? The answer is this: I would rather find and identify some defect in myself than take that first step. Isn’t that the easier, softer way to live? Identifying flaws and defects all day?” (122). [Pressfield names “the thing”: Resistance. But whether you name it to overcome it or you simple ignore it to overcome it, the only weapon that can work is Action. Do, do, do.]
  • “Whatever it is you are not doing, notice that you are choosing not to do it. There’s no defect in you! There’s the opposite of a defect. There is, instead, a power. A power to choose. Choose to, choose not to, same power. Always power.” (122-123). [My only quibble is that some people fail to recognize that they are making a choice (always making a choice) and therefore don’t exercise the conscientiousness or self-reflexivity necessary to realize what’s going on. I think that this requires a great deal of self-awareness. If not, why would Chandler have to teach this? Why would piles of books have ever been written about the Will and Willpower? (I know because I’ve read a lot of them.) Why would we worry about weakness of will? What if the choice is do or not do, such as whether to eat a Twinkie when you’re hungry? What if “not doing” is the best choice, then the default “Do” will fail us. We see weakness of will (akrasia) all of the time in ourselves and others. We discount the future hyperbolically. We make a choice—and we know damn well that we’ll later regret it. St. Paul and St. Augustine and others after them weren’t addressing a non-existent problem. So, grading as the Chinese might, I’d say Chandler is about 60% right on this issue.]
  • Love what you’re doing, whatever it is. [Can be challenging.]
  • “The perception you have of anything is always what drives your feelings and your actions and your thoughts.” (133).
  • Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.–Vincent van Gogh (141).
    Van GoghVan Gogh
  • Fear is the absence of Love, as dark is the absence of light.
  • “Live Now, Procrastinate Later”: great title (Robert Holden).
  • “I experience a stressed-out feeling whenever I think about the deadline for a creative project. But my stress comes from having that project be in the future. Non-linear time management doesn’t allow that line that stretches into the future. Because the linear thought process always produces stress. Unreasonable stress.” (175).
  • “You can create the future—through process-goal-setting and achievement—without living in the future. Just like studying a map before you go somewhere. Or looking at a menu before the meal. You don’t walk on the map. You don’t eat the menu. Once you’ve created your goal and project you set the future aside.” (182).
  • “All creativity emerges from inquiry.” (188).
  • “Thought always comes before a feeling and causes the feeling.” (196). [A key component of Stoic thought per Richard Sorabji.]
  • Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.—Walter Elliott The Spiritual Life (202).
  • Stop lying to yourself.
    AristotleAristotle
  • Aristotle: “Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it. People come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just. By doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled, and by doing brave acts we become brave.” (206-207).

 

Let’s stop here. Lots of excellent ideas and perspectives. A fine and lasting tonic.

Thymos: The Lost Ingredient of the Soul

End of Hx & the Last Man by FukuyamaBelow is my review of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man. Why am I posting it here? Well, it’s my blog and I’ll post what I want. No, it’s more than mere whim. I think that Fukuyama has written one of the most important works of political theory (philosophy, if you prefer) in this book. I read about 15 years ago for the first time, and as I explain below, a recent event spurred me to re-read it. But what has this (controversial) work of political theory have to do with persuasion, law, or lawyers? A lot.

Among the projects undertaken by Fukuyama in this work is a rehabilitation of the concept of thymos in political thought. If you’ve read Plato’s Republic, you will recall the tripartite division of soul established in the dialogue. Two parts, reason and desire, have endured well over the centuries, and they passed   in to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of liberalism founded by Hobbes and Locke. However, thymos, understood as “spiritedness”, “dignity”, perhaps “pride”, was shunted aside in English-speaking tradition. But not so in the German tradition, especially with the work of Hegel and Nietzsche. Hegel makes thymos, displayed in the dialectic of lordship and bondage (or master and slave), the key dynamic in history.

So how is this ancient and philosophical idea relevant? To persuade anyone, we must know what motivates them. Their desires, of course. To the extent that they are open to reason, the use of reason. But in my 30-plus years of practicing law and dealing with disputes, it’s almost always about more than money (material desire). And reason will not go very far. No matter how well we evaluate the economics of a claim, understand the Prisoner’s Dilemma, or weigh probabilities, something more is usually involved, even with businesses. That missing element was usually some variation of “I’ve been wronged and someone ought to acknowledge that a wrong done to me”. This was true of divorces, employment law cases, and personal injuries–almost all cases involving a litigated dispute.

This is not always easy for us to understand, and it’s difficult of the lawyers to deal with. For instance, we have the stereotype of the person who’s suffered a personal injury greedily seeking to pin blame on someone to get money, something akin to a shakedown racket. This can happen, but in most of my cases, I represented persons (or survivors in a family where someone has died) who believed that that have suffered a real wrong. They felt cheated and abused in addition to the loss of income and companionship they experienced. Doctors and hospitals that apologize for mistakes suffer fewer suits, resolve suits more quickly, and pay less in claims than those who stonewall. They do so by addressing the need for recognition–recognition of loss. Families and individuals came to me because insurance companies wouldn’t pay or bills went beyond insurance coverage and because doctors wouldn’t level with patients and families about what went wrong. Lawsuits become a matter of money as a medium (or currency) for matters well beyond economics.

Employment law involved similar issues. A woman fired after taking time off work to deal with depression is fired, but the employer claims that she resigned. That lie, in addition to the disregard for her well-being, drives the case much more than the economic loss. Attorneys and mediators must translate these issues into dollar and cents terms, but wise attorneys and mediators acknowledge the hurt and insult suffered by a claimant. And divorces? I got out of the divorce business because the issues of emotional harm and insult were so complex and vexing. Trying to deal with these issues, and not just the money, became too demanding. (Only later did I realize that one never escapes these issues in life.)

In persuasion, we have to understand the motivations of those who we seek to persuade. Sometimes money will do the trick with nothing more needed. Sometimes we can reason with a truly neutral decision-maker (but even a neutral judge wants recognition and acclaim for her wise decision). But often the overweening issue remains thymos, the demand for recognition of our fundamental dignity and the need to rectify any insult to its integrity.

Just as we still refer often to Aristotle’s trio of logos, pathos, and ethos as hallmarks of persuasion, we should appreciate Plato’s understanding of humans as motivated by desire, thymos, and reason (logos). (Desire is the dominant motivation, reason the least powerful.) Understanding and using these insights provides us with a better appreciation of those we seek to understand and persuade.

N.B. The post below, formatted by Readability, is mine own from one of my other blogs. I’m most happy if you want to visit there, but you don’t have to receive the full benefit of the comments above without any additional effort.

“Thank you, John Ralston Saul”: The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama

  • by Stephen N. Greenleaf
  • 4 min read
  • original

At the Jaipur Literature Festival, I looked forward to hearing a program on “History Strikes Back & the End of Globalism”. It was dialogue between John Ralston Saul & Hubert Vedrine (a former French foreign minister). I hadn’t read either author, although Saul’s Voltaire’s Bastards is packed with my other books back in Iowa City). I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Glamorous Nomad and C joined me. We were in for a surprise.

Saul opened the session by singling out “some guy called Francis Fukuyama” for writing one of the “stupidest books in the last 25 years”. In this book, Saul claimed, Fukuyama declared the end of history. Saul continued that Fukuyama then wrote another “stupid” book (unnamed) and yet Fukuyama still makes money. I was flabbergasted, while C and the Glamorous Nomad (who’s read Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order) simply walked out. I was shocked and puzzled. Also angry, but this bit of intellectual character assassination intrigued me enough to stay. I’d read The End of History and the Last Man about 15 years ago or so, and I’d thought it brilliant. Had I missed something?

The good news from this is that it’s led me to re-read The End of History and the Last Man (1992; with a New Afterward, 2006). (I’d purchased a copy here in India last October because I thought it worth a re-read; perhaps a bit of intuition here). To start with the conclusion: the book is brilliant. It’s one of the best books about politics that I’ve read. It is also one of the most discussed and criticized books about politics since its publication. Saul’s low blows aren’t new or novel. Why so? I suspect because few people have read it carefully or have grasped its true significance.

What Fukuyama wrote, shortly after the fall of Communism in 1989, was that History (may have) come to an end. (I know: China, North Korea, Viet Nam, and Cuba—these regimes survived, but Communism as a living ideology was dead, a few zombies notwithstanding.) Fukuyama, building on the work of Hegel and Hegel’s 20th century interpreter, Alexandre Kojeve, argues that liberal democracy may have answered as fully as possible the “struggle for recognition” that has driven History. By the way, there is history and then there is History. “History” with the capital “H” is not a Teutonic affectation on my part, but it’s the term for the Hegelian understanding of the fundamental pattern of change in human history. (With a small “h”, history is the story of the stuff that happens.) Hegel believed that History came to an end in 1805 at the Battle of Jena, when the ideas of the French Revolution, imposed by the military might of Napoleon, defeated the forces of reaction.

Fukuyama’s intellectual project and linage are not familiar to most readers. Few have any direct knowledge of Hegel. Most, like me, only learned about Hegel as the precursor to Marx. I expect only a handful of persons know of Kojeve. (I didn’t.) Thus, History is a new concept to most readers, and many seemed to have confused the End of History with end of stuff happening, which isn’t what Fukuyama argued.

But History isn’t the most important subject of the book for me. The most intriguing part comes from Fukuyama’s project of reinstating thymos into our understanding of human motivation. If you’re read Plato’s Republic (or about it), you know of Plato’s tripartite division of the soul into Reason (logos) on top (for the Philosopher-Kings) and desire (appetite) at the bottom for the masses. In the middle, he places thymos, often translated as “spiritedness” for lack of a better English equivalent. This attribute manifests in the Guardians, the warriors who protect the polis. Fukuyama notes that thymos dominates in aristocratic warrior societies. Thymos receives a new and unique treatment in the Anglo-American liberal tradition starting with Hobbes and Locke. To deal with “vainglory” or “pride” (as manifestations of thymos), these authors and their successors—including Madison and Hamilton—work to subsume thymos under the devices of desire. Bourgeois man becomes interested only in fulfilling desires and living rationally. So Anglo-American tradition argues and hopes. But fortunately for the U.S., Madison, Hamilton, and their peers knew that strong men will still strive, and they put in place many checks on power. In the German tradition, Hegel puts thymos front and center as a part of the “struggle for recognition” that drives the dialectic of master and slave (or lordship and bondage, if you prefer). This struggle for recognition drives History. With the French Revolution, the Christian project of equality before God now translates into equality between individuals in the social and political realm. Work becomes dignified as a replacement for the thymotic urge to prove one’s worth on the field of battle, the warrior-aristocrat ideal.

Fukuyama also discusses whether contemporary liberal societies will see a true End of History by granting recognition to all and by channeling thymotic urges into more productive pursuits than war. Fukuyama points out that among all the factors leading to the outbreak of WWI, we shouldn’t ignore the popular expression of thymos that led millions to greet the coming of the war with glee. Many greeted the war as an outlet for pent up desires. This is an astute observation. Now, perhaps, war has become too terrible for its use as such a popular outlet for thymos. Fukuyama also explores whether the twin ideals of liberty (which fosters outlets for thymos in individuals) and equality (our urge to see each acknowledged as equals) can co-exist over a long period as often antagonistic goals.

Fukuyama levels a sharp critique of realism in international relations, especially in its academic guise typified by Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer. Fukuyama argues that academic realism posits that nothing has changed since Thucydides and that nations are motivated only by the desire for greater power viz. any potential rivals. Changes (history) in the motivations of actors or the system of international relations count for nothing in the purer forms of realist theory. Fukuyama is certainly correct in his critique. Legitimacy has become a major touchstone of action in the international realm as well as in the domestic realm.

I highly recommend this book. Fukuyama isn’t as naïve or brazen as his detractors would like to portray him. Like Thucydides and Machiavelli, Fukuyama examines the world today to gain deeper insight into the most significant issues in political thinking.

Postscript: If you want to see and hear John Ralston Saul’s attack on Fukuyama (and Hubert Vedrine’s more measured comments, go here, starting about 3:40 minutes. My question in defense of Fukuyama and challenging Saul comes at 49:45. I didn’t speak as artfully as I would have liked, but I think that I get my point across. The answer is vague. In fact, I believe I have a good deal of sympathy for Saul’s perspective, but his modis operandi in attacking Fukuyama and Huntington was disgraceful. He should—as should we all—at least accurately and honestly state our adversaries’ positions if we are to attack them in abstentia.