вторник, 30 июля 2013 г.

Regularities


Recently I came across an advice on blogging by John Sonmez – he recommends those willing to maintain a personal blog to post there regularly – best of all, according to a strict schedule. As a mature blogger and, at the same time, an athlete, he definitely knows what he’s talking about. On the other hand, in the last post I mentioned that employment made my life more ‘scheduled’ in a way that seems positive to me. This makes me search for some reason making regularities desired for us and helpful in achieving our goals.

First, it is easy to note that the things we do regularly determine what we are in the eyes of others. For instance, you are considered a software developer if you devote several days a week to software engineering activities. The same way, one is called an alcoholic if and only if they drink a lot of spirits and do that on a daily basis (more or less). However, obviously, John didn’t mean this simple fact – i.e. if you post every day, you are a blogger, period – advising to blog regularly. Similarly, I like the fact that now I work from 11 a.m. till 8 p.m. on average not merely because doing so allows me to deem myself a proper citizen, but because this gives me finer control over my life, and that is what makes following certain patterns in a constant and consistent manner so important.

Actually, regular behavior is what allows for fine control. The nature of this idea can be seen clearly when one views it the way control theorists and machine learners do. For those who build automated systems control is all about minimizing error – the difference between the observed and the desired behavior. What makes the engineering approach so valuable is that it begins with acknowledging the possibility – or, better, inevitability – of errors. The idea to do so is as obvious as different from what people (including me) usually do – when deciding to start something new we tend to believe that we’ll succeed easily and quickly, and the sun will shine. While the latter assumption is certainly true, there is a problem with the former – we do fail.

Let’s follow the engineer’s path: say we prepared ourselves for failing and are ready to go – what does it have to do with regularities? The trick is that to succeed one needs to fail a lot and to do that on a regular basis, thus opening the doors to controlling things. Achieving one’s goals is made possible by the flow of information generated by doing something regularly. Only if you continuously get this information it can help you move closer to your goals. Not only setting up a schedule of blog posts allows one to know instantly when they fail and to react as soon as possible – it permits looking back and understanding the nature of one’s mistakes, making it possible to perform better in future. Furthermore, one shouldn’t forget that we, humans, are in fact sophisticated control systems and behave, to some extent, in the same error-minimizing fashion. When we deviate from a well-established behavior pattern, we tend to return to it unconsciously. That is, we develop habits and this is another reason to evenly divide the way to your targets into carefully defined steps.

Having said this, I can easily explain why getting employed feels so positive to me even if I don’t take into consideration the obvious benefits of a challenging and well-paid job. Surprisingly, the great part is that the job takes a great deal of my time and does that in a regular manner. Combined with the time spent on commuting, having breakfast and lunch, plus some other ‘transactional expenses’, this leaves me with approximately 3 to 4 hours each working day to do some cool and valuable stuff not related to work. Knowing this figure and realizing that it won’t change, I am free from illusions of having a lot of time to tackle everything I want. Even more, whenever (quite often) I fail to spend this free time on something worthy I know precisely how much I lose. With this same principle applying to other resources – say, money – as well, I now have a lot of information to be more manageable.

Keeping all this stuff in my head, I do not search to eliminate any uncertainties and 'free will' completely, since that is both impossible and boring. Still, I believe that in case I want to succeed in something, I should work toward my aims regularly – with close to constant pace and in carefully allocated timeframes. This is almost as important as knowing precisely where I want to arrive.
 

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