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October 19th, 2018

The idea of an ‘instant conversion’ captivates many people, and regardless of it’s origins in religious traditions, many still hope for some kind of moment when things start to fall into place.  Many cultural memes play on this concept of “finally getting one’s shit together.”


This all-or-nothing attitude may work for a tiny majority of people who wake up one day and suddenly act and perform in the way they have always dreamed.  But it’s unlikely, and unrealistic. 


The all-or-nothing attitude might seem like a reality because of the stark difference between people who seem to operate with high levels of achievement and those who seem perpetually stuck in a RUT.


But in such a case, we only ever see the result, never the process, because we do not tag along with people during every moment of their development to see how they went from nothing to all they are at the moment.  This is another case of the Montage being False.  If such a person were interviewed, we might get a few quaint anecdotes from their past, but it’s potentially a huge mistake to attribute any success to such anecdotal moments.  Just as the False Montage leaves out all the boring parts, so do such interviews.  Even if the boring parts are somehow packaged into a quaint anecdote about hard work, such an anecdote is still just a tiny narrative, and in terms of a medium, the story of hard work should not be seen as the same thing as hard work.  Like a humorous experience that does not translate well into a story, such boring growth on the part of a person may fall into the same category of “you had to be there.”


Such a process that only pathetically translates through story, like an analogy should not be thought of as some overnight sensational change, as mythical stories like comic books like to portray. 


This is potentially good news to the person who is stuck in some sort of all-or-nothing attitude who does not even try because to try would require firing on all cylinders all the time after the car has been rusting in the backyard for god-knows-how-long.


Instead of the all-or-nothing attitude, we would be better served by wondering how we start at nothing and go to all.  With any endeavor, merely starting is the most important part, because progress can compound, especially once we start to get a handle on what we’re doing and where we’d like to go.  We need not know our last step to take our next step.  And in that spirit it’s best to try and just pick one thing that can improve.   Such an improvement in one single area might free up some kind of resource to be reallocated into a second area of improvement, like starting a small business to build the capital for a larger business, or getting good sleep in order to have enough energy to hit the gym which in turn builds more resolve with regards to food choices.


What separates all and nothing is not some kind of mystical quantum leap, but a process that we can break down by looking thoughtfully at our own lives, establishing priorities and making small changes that can compound into radical shifts.  We might discover tricks and tips from others that help us leap in good directions, but it’s most likely a mistake to think that we can go to sleep disappointed in ourselves and wake up with a totally different life as a new person.


The all-or-nothing mindset might be useful when it comes to these tiny changes that we start with.  A commitment of all of one’s self to making one small change is far more likely to be successful than some fantasy of committing to changing everything that we’d like to see change.


Perhaps the all-or-nothing mindset should be treated like a tool, one of many that we have and that can be implemented sometimes when it fits the situation just right?


This episode references Episode 125: Rut, Episode 21: The Montage is False , and Episode 8: Tiny Steps and Leaps

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Podcast Ep. 187: All or Nothing, or Nothing to All?

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