Do something.

I’ve been struggling the last few days…physically not feeling great, mentally feeling foggy. And not getting enough exercise. Which is frustrating.

I’m powering through, still investing in myself, and catching glimpses of being actually confident in some ways. A feeling I’m not very familiar with, honestly.

Today, I read this post from the thesis whisperer on being someone that’s thorough, but not perfectionist,  vs. someone that’s a 95%er, someone that gets most of the way there, but struggles to close the final 5% of a project. There are definitely two strains of perfectionism: the one that’s crippling and interferes with your life and the one that is just holding yourself to a high standard and putting out things that are as good as you can make them.

She also linked to this post about a lot of bad advice out on the internet (shocking, I know). I hope I haven’t contributed too much to that problem. The entire piece set off thoughts in my head.

I worry about being considered an expert or authority (even though in some areas, I am). I’ve done enough leg work with my own mental health to be comfortable conversing with people about it, but haven’t done any active research or delved too deeply into the literature on it too much (other than reading a few books, but that’s not primary lit). And I know a thing or two about plants and plant hormones. This is one part of what I think people think about when they say someone’s afraid of success.

I really am always seeking to learn new things. And that’s been a frustrating part of feeling awful lately…my brain hasn’t been good at absorbing things; do I need to work more on my meta-cognition?

Stephen Tobolowsky was on The Nerdist podcast today. Ned Ryerson himself. He’s a really fascinating person. And one that has some interesting things to say about being productive, managing our limits to thrive by finding things we can do (note: not watch TV or otherwise passively consume things). And further, view new opportunities as doors, not prisons. Anything can be a prison. Academia, fabulous wealth, name it…it’s all in how we think about them. I’d recommend giving it a listen. It is about holding onto things loosely, not being overly attached.

Do Something

As someone that’s been trying to change my self-narrative the last few years, I am at a point where I realize that I may have more control than I think I do over situations. I’ve made writing a habit (perhaps not good writing, but that’s not really for me to judge necessarily). I’m slowly building nodes in my network and really trying to do things for people in small ways, at least.

I still think I’m a 95%er when it comes to many projects, but there are projects that I want to see to completion, getting them as good as I can make them before release too. It just kind of depends how resonant something is. It should register higher, but doing a thorough spring cleaning of my apartment is in my 95% category. Writing my science blog is more 100%er territory for me, but I know I don’t always have time to have that standard. Done is determined by deadlines. And I hit publish each Sunday, whatever I have and promote it the following week no matter what. I hope I’ll get better.

I feel like I am slowly connecting the dots, extending beyond myself now that I have done some hard internal work. And it feels good, but still frustrating because there’s no obvious path forward. Being on a team of people brought together to do something just means you have good people around a specific task. The key is getting to be one of those good people that are wanted on a team; a team can do a lot of various things (even in this world of needing to be a specialist and generalist at the same time).

Quietly Doing Something

I’ll never be the loud member of the team. I’ll be thinking, trying to find blocks of time to read, process, do, make, and otherwise work. I’ll put ideas out sometimes, but it takes time for me to think things through. I’ll suggest things to individuals and let them take credit for it. I’ll connect people to ideas, people, and other things that may not have occurred to them before, or just listen as they hash something out for themselves. I want my superpower to be quiet connection because I want to put people on a path to productive, and good, work. That’s what matters in the end to me. Are you working to put something good out into the world? And can I nudge you along that path? If so, wonderful. If not, that’s OK too. I’ll be here writing and doing work in my own quiet way to serve and better the world.

I’m sure I’ve made wild leaps of thought in this post. Sometimes, doing something is just getting what’s in your head on paper. Or screen. But I hope there’s something in here, reader, that helps you in your day.

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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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