Tag Archives: flow

Smithy’s Wager: The Law of Attraction

When it comes to the law of attraction, people fall into one of two camps. Either they nod along and agree with every tenet, often while sipping spiritual tea and caressing a hemp keepsake, or they dismiss it as nothing more than pseudo-scientific garbage, and ‘pseudo-scientific’ is being generous at best. I suppose there’s a third group as well, the group that doesn’t know what the law of attraction is.

You can trace tenets of it back a long way, if you look hard enough.

Let me address that group first. The law of attraction is a new age spiritual principle that basically says, in a nutshell, that thoughts attracts things. If you think happy, positive thoughts, then you will attract happy, positive things into your life. Conversely, if you think negative thoughts all the time, then you will have more and more negative things happen in your life. What you think becomes your reality.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like complete rubbish. I agree … but I think you should follow it anyway. Continue reading

How I Learned to Juggle

Let me start by saying this: juggling is easy. Nobody believes me, because if you try it you will make one catch if you are lucky, the rest of your balls flying all across the room, and you then rightly conclude that juggling is really hard, if not impossible. I suppose you are right: if you try to juggle once without ever practicing, then yes, juggling is impossible.

Witness the impossible!

If you put a little time into it, though, if you care to grease the groove and put in maybe an hour’s worth of practice, you’ll be doing the impossible, too.

Before I go further, let me add here that I’m not a good juggler. I can keep three balls in the air, that’s about it. I can throw them higher or lower, or switch from one cascade to the other in a jerky manner, and I can juggle two balls with one hand. That’s the extend of my juggling skills. Yes, compared to the average person, that puts me in the top 99.9 percentile. Compared to the juggling and flow community, though, I’m decidedly near the bottom, and that’s okay. Continue reading

The Year is Half Over

Today is July 1st, a very special day. Most importantly, it’s Canada Day, a national holiday.  That’s always nice.  Of secondary importance, it’s the beginning of the NHL free agency period, one of the busiest days in terms of player movement.  There may be no better day for a Canadian hockey fan than July 1.

More than that, though, today is the beginning of July, the seventh month.  The year is officially half over.  Six months have gone, six months remain.  It seems like just yesterday we were welcoming in 2016, and now it’s half over and soon it will be done.  That’s … quite sobering, really.

Most people have long since abandoned their new year’s resolutions, but not me.  I’m constantly thinking about how I can improve, where I need to improve and what I need to do to get there.  I set some pretty lofty goals back at the beginning of the year, and now is the perfect time to make sure I’m still trending in the right direction or if I need to change something. Continue reading

June 2016 Month in Review

June has been a rollercoaster, mostly in the up and down sense.  It started with grim determination … and then I immediately got sick and had all my plans thrown into chaos.  I spent two weeks getting back to normal, and once normal I resumed my grim determination to make myself the best person I can be … and so far it’s working.

I briefly experimented with using ‘themed days’ throughout the week, so one day devoted entirely to fitness, another entirely to chess, etc etc.  This lasted for about a week before I hated it and went back to my old standard of doing a little bit of everything every day, and I’m much happier for it.

Still, it’s been strange, as I’ve spent half the month basically recovering from sickness and other half trying to go full speed ahead, which is a strange dichotomy.  I don’t know if it affected me in any way, but it’s been a mental grind at times. Continue reading

The ‘Art’ Part of Traditional Martial Arts

Every once in awhile, you’ll see an amazing martial arts demonstration. Maybe it’s a 70-year-old master moving with the grace and agility of someone half his age, or maybe it’s some six-year-old prodigy that wows everyone with such crisp moves and outstanding discipline. Whatever it is, the crowd will clap and applaud, and someone somewhere will say, “You see, this is why the martial arts are on art.”

Not all artists use paintbrushes.

We all accept this. It’s physical poetry, not so different from dance or gymnastics. It looks good, it feels good, everyone is happy. Over the years, though, I’ve begun to doubt this. I don’t know if karate or kung fu is art anymore. I mean, even if everything I wrote about is 100% true, then this is the strangest and most different art form we have. Continue reading

March 2016 Updates

March was … how do I put this … a fantastic month, and I’m not just saying that because it’s my birthday.  Everything that did could go right did go right.  It was like an inverse Murphy’s Law.

My workouts got better, my flexibility got better, my chess rating got better, my writing got better, everything got better.  More importantly, I’m happy.  Last week, we had an ice storm.  Roads closed, schools cancelled, power flickering off and on: it wasn’t good.  The next morning, I go for a walk, and as I see the frozen trees and sidewalks lined with icy debris, I’m smiling.  Not because I’m the Joker and like to see destruction, but just because I’m always smiling.  I’ve been smiling the whole month, and not even an ice storm could dent my spirits.

That’s pretty awesome.  Anyway, let’s take a look at what I did in detail. Continue reading

The Importance of the Basics

If you’re going to build a house, what’s the most important? Or, said another way, what would you start with? You need a solid foundation, obviously. Having three bathrooms, an expansive library, a master bedroom complete with surround sound home theatre, all of these are great, but if you don’t have a solid foundation your house will fall apart, if if even gets built.

If only the foundation of all skills looked as awesome as marble pillars.

I’m pretty sure we all understand this, at least in some vague, intellectual way. We know you can’t put a roof up until you have the walls. We know this … and yet we often don’t. How often do we try to learn something new, whether it’s a skill or a sport or whatever, and we try and rush as fast as we can to the finish line? Everyone wants to learn the advanced stuff as fast as possible, and preferably faster… and that’s the exact opposite of setting up a strong foundation.

When it comes to learning something, anything, you have to start with the basics. Continue reading

The Frustration of Getting Better

It almost sounds paradoxical, right? Why would anyone be frustrated about getting better? Getting better at something, almost anything, should make you feel better. Or perhaps, if it doesn’t make you feel good, it should make you feel less crappy. Think basic math, for instance. Perhaps learning your times tables didn’t fill you with joy, but you no longer felt dumb for staring at a bunch of symbols and needing your fingers to add up the answer. Feeling less dumb is akin to feeling better.

Less dumb is good start.

In general, if we desire to get better at something, then getting better will make you feel good. We all desire improvement, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it’s one of our main motivations to do the things we love, so we can get better. I’m not arguing against that, not at all. I’m simply pointing out that, often, getting better takes a lot more work than we’d like.

A lot more work. A stupid amount of work. As in, holy hell, I’ve been practicing for a month and I still can’t do something?? Holy hell. Continue reading

February 2016 Updates

February was a MUCH better month for me, in virtually every area.

I took a fundamentally different approach this month.  In January, I bit off more than I could chew, trying to do everything at the same time.  That just led to burnout.  In February, by contrast, I started small, just doing one thing, and then the next week I added another thing, and in this way I’m building sustainable habits.

More importantly, I feel the momentum on my side now.  Last week, for instance, I added chess training to do my daily habit list, and it went off incredibly.  A huge success, and it leaves me wanting to do even more.  This week, I’m adding a small morning meditation session.  I usually meditate anyway, but now I have a set time every day, which will keep me consistent and start every day the same.  It’s simple, it’s clear, it’s easy, and life is just rolling along right now.

Splits and Flexibility

I continue to do light stretching virtually every day plus two hard sessions each week, with one day off.  It feels like it’s working, even if I mostly look the same.  At the same time, at my current range of motion, a gain of an inch would be a massive improvement.  I mean, I’m only a few inches from the floor.

Feb 2016

Jan 2016

Hmm.  I think I was lower last month, even though, judging by my expression, I’m feeling much happier this month.  It doesn’t help that my webcam decided to become super blurry today for some reason.  My hands appear as talons, devoid of form.

Feb 2016

Jan 2016

Wow!  I’m square and much lower on this, my weaker side.  It’s amazing, because that hamstring felt very tight for this photo session.

Feb 2016

Jan 2016

Even better!  Just look at the desk chair in the background.  In January, the bottom of my neck was flush with the top of the chair, while today it’s past my chin.  It’s hard to tell because of the blurriness, the shadows and the dark-pants (I won’t wear those again for photos), but I look damn close to the full splits here.  Oh glorious day!  I’m progressing again!

Nutrition

Not bad, but not great.  I’m still eating healthy meals but drowning them down with unhealthy snacks.  I imagine in the near future I’ll just use my willpower again to stomp this out, but for now it’s par for the course.

Chess

I did it!  I got my rating over 2000!  That’s another one of my 2016 goals down!  Well, maybe not ‘another,’ as it’s technically my first one, but progressing in the splits felt like a goal.

This month I completed five games, winning all five.  One, though, was due to a timeout because my opponent got his account banned for cheating.  I invested time into that game, so I’m going to still count that for my chess countdown.  I want to finish 100 games this year, and that’s five down.

One game was against someone rated 2007, but when he resigned his rating dropped to 1992, meaning I still haven’t beat anyone over 2000 rating.  That’s slightly frustrating.  My own rating, though, is 2031 right now, and I have winning positions against two high rated opponents, so maybe in March!

Also, this month I’ve begun to study GM Smirnov‘s course Calculate Till Mate.  If you read my original chess plan, I said I’d study this course later, but I changed my mind.  Calculation is perhaps my biggest weakness, so let’s try to address that now.  It’s massive, and I expect it will take me months, not weeks, to get through all the practical exercises.  I’ll have a review after I see the results.

Writing and Blogging

Another month, another month of writing.  I felt better this month, and my output showed.  I beat last month’s word total despite having two fewer days.

Crossing off another milestone: I have accumulated over 400,000 words since I started writing every day.  That’s mind-boggling.  I read somewhere once that you need to write one million words to truly get competence as a writer, to go from beginner to professional.  It’s probably even more, to be honest, but it’s right there.  As it currently stands, I’m on pace to hit that mark in less than two years, and that’s not even counting any of my school or pre-blog writing.

My blog is rolling along because of this.  February was my highest visited month, beating out both January and December.  Granted, it was by a very slim margin, and all three months were very close, but considering I’m doing absolutely no advertising, I’m pretty happy with that.

In two months of 2016, my blog has already reached halfway to my total in all of 2015.  I’m going to crush that.  I also got two comments!  Holy cow!  They were in this post, about toilets, and this post, about my cat SmithyQ, the inspiration for my blog’s name.  Hey, that’s another goal!

Skills

I said at the beginning of the year I wanted to become a speed cuber.  Well, that appears to have just been a fad, because I haven’t even touched my cube in February.  I mean, I still might do it, but it’s not on the horizon.

Similarly, computer coding is way on the backburner.  In fact, it’s so far in the rearview mirror that it’s safe to say I’m just going to forget about that.

The flow arts, by contrast, are going great.  I spent every single day practicing, at least a little, and I feel it paying off.  My planes have better control and my transitions seem smoother.  My butterfly moves, in particular, I have far more confidence in, and I’m even exploring some behind-the-back stuff.  I still have a ways to go, but it’s nice.

I also took advantage of a sale to pick up two poi DVDs.  They are advanced … and they really mean it.  I won’t be trying any of that stuff for quite some time, but if nothing else, it’s inspiring to see what is possible with this art form.

Conclusions

I really liked February, despite some of the weather, and March promises to keep going in the same way.  My commitment to doing little habits each week and building them up has been a great success so far, and I’m excited to see where it will all lead.

On the whole, I’m perhaps not exactly where I want to be but I’m definitely heading in the right direction.  I feel I’m on the right path, and that’s everything.  Now I just need to take one step at a time.  Onwards to March!

January 2016 Update

One month in, and 2016 is not off to the best start.

In a word, I bit off more than I could chew.  I tried to do too much, filling my days with task after task only to be left with no time, no energy and no motivation to do it again tomorrow.  Within just a few days I basically abandoned everything I set out to do.

I’m perhaps being overly dramatic, but in general, this month has been a failure.  Better luck in February.  Here, let me categorize in depth each one of my failings. Continue reading