Figuring out who you are

You have to watch this video first. It’ll be one of the most thought-provoking 40 minutes of your life:

Makebelieve Help, Old Butchers, and Figuring Out Who You Are (For Now) from Merlin Mann on Vimeo.

I’m scared. I’m deathly afraid actually. Remember the ebook I’m writing, “Discipline and Deflection”?

Well, I started off thinking, “I want to help people. I seem to have a knack for handling many small tasks, answering emails, replying to user queries, generating ad-hoc reports from databases. Stuff like that. And I still manage to write code, roll the applications out to production, and maintain legacy code. I should totally write something about handling interruptions!”

That went off to an immense spurt of creative energy. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Maybe I could write that, what reference could I use to illustrate my point and so on. I would be jotting down notes on my paper pad. I would be typing in tidbits of inspiration on my iPhone if I’m travelling.

As I thought and planned and wrote and thought some more, I had this increasing feeling of “This is so lame! How could anyone possibly benefit from this? This doesn’t make sense!”

And I got scared. What the heck was I doing? How could I possibly think I’m good enough to teach anyone about handling interruptions?

So I changed course. I thought about it real hard, and hit upon the idea that I’m not really writing about handling interruptions per se, but about controlling one’s self. It’s about self-control. It’s about controlling the emotions you’re feeling, thoughts you’re having and actions you’re taking. It’s not about suppressing those emotions, nor feel guilty about having flighty fantasies, nor getting depressed over the things you’ve done. It’s about not reacting to your emotions, which govern your thoughts, which compel your actions.

It’s about self-control, about self-awareness, and about how to use that knowledge to better yourself, in math, in programming, in whatever you set your mind to do.

And I got really scared after that. Because I felt like I was becoming one of those fake self-help people Merlin was talking about in his video. Because that piece of work I have in my computer right now, that ebook I’m going to publish, has little to do with math. Or programming. The concepts’ relation to each other seem as weak as molecular bonds.

But I used them. I figured them out myself. And they worked for me. But that doesn’t make me an expert in any way. And so I’m afraid. Of sounding like I know what I’m doing. I don’t.

Mostly, I just intuit things to their conclusion. This seems to run counter to the logical processes that are math and programming. I use intuition and logical thinking in tandem and in equal parts to solve problems.

I was so scared that while writing this article, I had to get away from the keyboard, and since I was also hungry, I mixed up a protein shake to drink (it was about 11pm and I didn’t want to eat anything heavy). The act of mixing, drinking the shake, and washing up calmed me a little. Which is important.


Most of all, I’m scared because I have no idea how that piece of work is going to help you. I know you’re a smart person. Which adds to my fear. What can I possibly teach an intelligent person on how to stay calm, how to maintain discipline, how to follow through on the task at hand even with interruptions and distractions? Will that even help you in your work?

In any case, I’m still going to finish that ebook. Even if it doesn’t help you. Even if you think it’s lame. Even if you think that makes me a fake self-help guru.

Because I have a compulsion to finish it. I have to write it. It’s driving me insane.

I’m going to stop here. I know you probably have some really useful work you need to get done. Still, a comment or an email with your thoughts on the matter is very much appreciated. Thank you.