Leaning into the pain
I didn’t know Aaron Swartz personally, but I’ve been reading about his life and death (hat tip Suresh Naidu) in the past day and he was clearly a remarkable thinker. His writing about procrastination in the context of computer programming (hat tip Matt Stoller) is particularly resonant. From the essay:
Yes it’s painful, but the trick is to make that mental shift. To realize that the pain isn’t something awful to be postponed and avoided, but a signal that you’re getting stronger — something to savor and enjoy. It’s what makes you better.
Pretty soon, when you start noticing something that causes you psychic pain, you’ll get excited about it, not afraid. Ooh, another chance to get stronger. You’ll seek out things you’re scared of and intentionally confront them, because it’s an easy way to get the great rewards of self-improvement. Dalio suggests thinking of each one as a puzzle, inside of which is embedded a beautiful gem. If you fight through the pain to solve the puzzle, you unlock it and get to keep the gem.
The trick is: when you start feeling that psychological pain coming on, don’t draw back from it and cower — lean into it. Lean into the pain.
You should really read the whole thing. Aaron explains something about good coding practices that elevates coding to a philosophical activity (which it deserves but rarely achieves) and, like any good philosophy, makes us reconsider how we spend our time and what we choose to do with it.
I know exactly what pain I’m leaning into this morning.