Concepts

As Intense As You Can

Ben, doing some intense kite-surfing. You cannot see the storm he was entering at that moment. I suspect it was a wild ride.

A big inspiration for me is my friend Ben. You look at him and you always see him doing interesting things: Learning new languages, acquiring craft skills, joking with strangers, working weird jobs, you name it. And you can see how he profits from it.

Don’t get me wrong here. Ben is a very laid-back person. He doesn’t stress out. But still you can see how he’s getting better at stuff. For me, that certainly entails a notion of interestingness.

Once I asked him how he manages to do it. He told me this:

“No matter what I do, I always do it as intense as I can.”

Now wait: I know this sounds abhorrent.

Intense.

You think of the guy you met at that cocktail party yesterday. He got pretty intense. What a sucker…

But wait.

That’s not what this is about.

I really think that Ben has a point.

We all wish for life to be comfortable. And often enough, it is. But if becomes too comfortable, it can get boring: Things get stale. We don’t learn anything new anymore. We get covered in dust because we’re not moving away from the sofa anymore.

This is a moment when it pays off to consciously make things a little harder for yourself.

Fun, The Hard Way?

How do you do stuff “as intense as you can”?

I’m certainly not the inventor of the concept, but to me it looks something like this:

You’re afraid to drive on icy roads? Doesn’t have to stay like that.

Just free up some time when road conditions are bad, take out your car, and go for a ride. Drive very slowly, without any pressure. Go somewhere where there isn’t any traffic, like an empty parking lot. Then start playing: Slide around a bit. Do a handbrake turn. See how your tires and brakes behave on the ice. Learn what they can cope with. Learn where they fail. Go to that point, and then go a tiny bit further. You’re in a safe environment, after all. What’s the worst that could happen? Try to experience how it feels to lose control – and what you can do to get it back.

There’s one obvious benefit to doing this: The next time you have to drive on icy roads, you’ll be prepared. But there are  two other benefits that might be less obvious: Learning things the hard way – but in a playful manner – is a lot of fun. It also builds confidence.

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Jonathan April 10, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Fabian this is the reason I always read your posts, spot on.

The life that we live is squandered away in large part by all the distractions that vie for our attention. Attention is what makes us most human after all, we can direct it. The problem is we get into thinking that we are grounded in our experience; but were not. We think that were afraid to drive on icy roads when what really scares us is getting into an accident. There is a difference.

Go out and play in the snow. And like any new activity, slow it down so you can measure your progress and make course corrections.

It’s a shame that so many become addicted to the struggle. That so many will never slow life down so they could gain their new perspective and transform.

Perhaps we need a human handbrake. We could then turn ourselves around in the short time possible.

Oh, wait we have that. Its called attention.

Fabian April 11, 2014 at 2:13 am

The human handbrake. Brilliant, Jonathan, and delighted to hear from you.

I’m just coming home to my hostel after some intense exploration of Chile; ready to head to Bolivia tomorrow. Full attention is what makes these trips so memorable and evermore enjoyable.