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🤯Unknown Unknowns #118 - Follow Your Fascination
Five days a week, for the last five months, I wake up at 6:15 in the morning and get squished. I wake up that early and go through the pain in order to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). There’s no rational reason to do this. I’m forty-three, and I’m too old and too small to compete for any prestigious awards. None of my friends are into BJJ. There’s only my fascination with the art itself.
When I was younger, I didn’t have a fascination with anything. I chose my college major through the process of elimination. I did whatever my friends did. It wasn’t bad. Curiosity is my superpower - I can usually find “the interesting” in anything. But the difference between finding something interesting and being fascinated with something is like watching a football game versus playing in one.
What do I find interesting about BJJ? It’s a constant puzzle that I’m trying to unwind, but at the same time, you can never fixate on any one thing. It’s a study of opposites. Abstract to concrete. Physical and mental. Applying techniques versus flow. Focusing on any extreme doesn’t work, you need to constantly shift your attention. If I’m being smashed, not only do I need to focus on getting out of the jam, I need to simultaneously go on the offensive or my opponent will just move on to another conundrum I need to figure out.
Imagine a chess game where instead of just moving pieces around, you have to enact each move against your opponent. You not only have to make the right move, you have to perform it correctly or it blows up in your face. That’s BJJ.
The sad part is that I might not have even started BJJ. Like I said earlier, I did whatever my friends did. For a long time, it never crossed my mind to try things my friends didn’t do.
I’ve heard the advice that relationships are everything. When you’re on your deathbed, it’s the relationships that matter. And I do believe that’s true.
But I also believe that you need to do things that are intrinsically interesting to yourself.
When I had a job, every day I found myself waiting for work to be over. And I found myself waiting for the work-week to be over. And I found myself waiting for vacations so that I wouldn’t have to go to work. And I would spend those nights, weekends, and vacations with friends.
And it was fun, and it made the time pass. Most of the time was spent drinking or complaining about work, but I was with my friends, and that’s all that mattered, right?
Get busy living, or get busy dying. - “Red” Redding, The Shawshank Redemption
I needed something to look forward to, And I eventually realized that I had to branch out further than what my friends wanted to do.
I was worried that if I didn’t do things with my friends, I wouldn’t see them. We wouldn’t be friends anymore. And it’s true - I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends. But I value my time more now and I enjoy life more. I no longer need distractions, I’m always doing what I want to do. And while I don’t see some friends as often as before, we’re still good friends - when we see each other we pick up right where we left off.
And obviously, there are people I will do anything with. I’ll do anything with my wife because I want to spend time with her. And I’ll usually enjoy doing those activities too. We just started doing pottery together, which I wouldn’t have thought I would enjoy.
I wish I had a pithy comment to wrap this up, but we’ll have to make do with fortune cookie vibes: Follow your fascination.
Writing of the Week:
1️⃣ One of my favorite internet thinkers, Jim O'Shaughnessy, made me think about the growth that comes out of tension.
I’ve been writing unpolished, around 100 word mini-essays. Just reflections on ideas from podcasts or things on the news. Here are the latest:
Quotes of the Week:
1️⃣ “Sometimes, when we're terrified of embracing our true calling, we'll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.” - Steven Pressfield
You can find more of my writing at chr.iswong.com.
Questions, suggestions, complaints? Email me at [email protected].
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Leaving you in peace,