Monday, February 10, 2014

Dust motes

Petros Watermill

Last summer, I determinedly rearranged my day.  Previously, I leapt from bed to the computer in the morning, back again late at night, pretending that I was building a business and a life.  By late summer, early mornings were reserved for breakfast, cleaning, a walk on weekend; evenings for reading, writing, or talking with friends.  Work fit inside a firm 9-to-6 envelope, properly, very Dutch.

Winter challenged that schedule.  Dark and rainy mornings, frequent trips to London and Cambridge, coastal opportunities around Dorset, pecked away at my container gardens (happy in Maastricht) and cleaning (unnecessary in Sandbanks).  Personal time drifted, but not back to the old ways.

Mornings, while they start early, now begin with quiet reading, coffee at the beach, or writing letters.  Evenings drift towards exercise, Dutch, and long conversations.  Weekends are walks and museums, shared dinners and café conversations.  Work still stays absolutely in-bounds: It gets done, but, as I illustrated for my class last week, it must take its place.

I read the Times and FT, a novel and essays, each morning, clipping thoughts to Pocket and Evernote along the way.  And then I share with friends, write down a few thoughts, work the propositions through:

I used the process of writing to figure out what, precisely, it was that I wanted to say. Writing was not a matter of taking a prefabricated thought and setting it down on paper, but using the act of setting words down on paper to determine just what that thought might be.  Saul Austerlitz

I find this dialectic between quiet reflection and intimate conversation, dialog with myself and with others, to be as vital a part of my day as email or conference calls.  David Brooks meditated on this theme yesterday:

19th-century rugged individualism says we stand strong and self-reliant; 20th-century authenticity holds that we be true to our sincere inner self.  But, we are also wired to connect, to be part of communities… Outside advice is not about approval, it’s about wisdom and about distilling enough of it to have sharpened our inner criteria.

I tend to think in propositions, in ideas collected, saved, and tweeted.  These are dust motes of thought, illuminated and stirred into motion by quiet reflection and trusted conversation, respectively.

And particularly as an expat entrepreneur, living off the land at the frontier as I do, distant from family and familiar community, taking time to read-reflect-discuss-write is as important as any thrashing at a keyboard or telephone.

Probably more.

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