Ah, June… Summer is at our doorstep, the days are (almost all of them) seeming to get a little bit longer, and for the second year in a row I am partaking in my daily blogging exercise, marginally focused along a theme I’ve simply called Those 30 posts in June. No planning. No writing stuff days ahead. Just this: each day a meanderingly vague prompt drives a meanderingly vague post… and today that post just happens to be:
June 11th // Something You Are Doing
Actually, I’ve been calling it “hacking” myself, if only because it fits better with the genre of my life story. The only problem with that term — the idea of “hacking” or a “hacker” — is that it connotes something societally negative… as in right now you’re thinking of a fat little computer nerd sitting in front of a glowing monitor screen shoving nacho cheese Doritos into his mouth by the fistful whilst decoding a database of stolen passwords. Likely, that’s what “hacking” means to you. But the term has been slowly co-opted over recent years to instead bend acutely to its alternate and less-sinister meaning: defined as one who re-engineers and re-invents a system using a precise and clear understanding of said system to increase its efficency, grant it new functions, or push it beyond its documented limits.
So, I state simply: I’ve been hacking myself. Re-inventing the processes at the core of my own personality and physiology to ‘increase [their] efficency, grant [me] new functions, or push [myself] beyond [my self’s] documented limits’… whatver that means.
I’ve been re-inventing myself. And it seems to be working.
Now, before you start imagining some post-dystopian, mind-reprogramming, voodoo-meditation ceremony here, let me clarify what, exactly, the essentially “hackable me” means to… well, me. And also let me clarify, as future readers of this post are likely to have found these words through some vague, advice-seeking Google search that somehow imbues them with guru-like powers that they simply don’t have, that this is neither advice nor a how-to of self-improvement. What I’ve done — been doing, am doing, will continue to do for the foreseeable future — is personal and largely introspective, and is more of a meta-art than an art in itself. In other words, you can think about it, but don’t just follow my example like a guide book.
Take for example my running. Phaaa! You exclaim… anyone can run. How does this count as hacking the self? And you’d be correct to show doubt. It is true: most anyone can — and many people do — run. I’ve been running quite a lot, actually, and I’ve constantly been watching those who are successful at the sport for insight on their apparent success. But here’s the rub: I’ve been running for nearly five years in my current iteration, and for a few years more in a prior iteration. For a while I improved as expected, and then… a plateau. And for two years since that plateau appeared my progress had been, arguably and despite numerous rounds of incentivizing and goal-setting, decidedly downhill (and not in a good way.) So… I hacked my thinking on the topic. I sat down, pried into my brain, and viewed the problem less like a bundle of thoughts, feelings, aches and pains… and more like a system that needed tweaking: I set goals and incentivized — again, yes — but I linked my training — am still linking my training — to a curiously simple and self-amplifying feedback loop consisting of different layers of data tracking, incremental deltas and improvements, multi-states of accountability, and deeply personal motivations. I also reached into my brain — metaphorically, speaking of course — and massaged a little corner of it with some powerfully logical thoughts that kick the metaphorical ass of my self-depricating metaphorical invisible training partner whenever he opts for the easier route or skipping a run. Hack in progress: And my speed and distance are the best they’ve ever — EVER — been. No really… ever.
I could list off a few other examples like my food-ish lifestyle changes or my burgeoning writing quantity, and I’m sure this page would get hundreds of hits per week for the rest of history while people sought out an easy answer where none exists.
See, the thing is this: hacking the self — re-inventing the self — is a kind of unapologetic introspection. It is turning your mind into a kind of system that you need to extract pieces out for viewing, levitating above it as much as possible in an objective sense, and understanding how it works in a way that — while I think everyone is probably capable of — is often frightening and difficult. And I in no way claim mastery of the art: quite the opposite. I’m a novice. I’ve simply dabbled in the self-re-invention though the hackable nature of my mind and have had marginal success so far. And I’m going to keep doing that and writing about it here so… stay tuned, I guess.