personal growth as a skill

I’ve been reminded of my intent with the blog.
With my writing.
Maybe intent is the wrong word….
Goal: something like sharing what goes into what I’d call my state of ‘chronic happiness’ with others.
I keep trying to pick individual aspects of an interrelated whole, hoping that over time, with enough cross-references, the whole might become illuminated.
I had some ideas in college. Spent days talking nonstop to different people, always trying to communicate the thing at the center of it, for which I had no words. Never once managed to.
It was too incredible, and too vast- for me to remember, let alone believe- when I was not on cocaine.
That’s when my heavy drug use started; it was those feelings, those thoughts, that I was addicted to.
Cocaine, it boosts confidence. Speeds up your brain, in a way that allowed me to hold all the parts in my mind at the same time- in a way that I could not, while sober.
Now, I think of that time as the theoretical phase.
Now, I’m putting those theories into practice.
But I spent a decade in between suppressing shit.
Somehow, a great deal of those thoughts that were so electrifying back in college became part of an intrinsic framework that’s hard for me to remember in a way that communicates my initial excitement at the thoughts.
All this writing, it’s not the stuff I really want to talk about. The stuff I really want to discuss, that I’m truly excited about, though- it just doesn’t make sense without a particular foundation.
So the blog, most of the writing in this server, it’s to lay that foundation, so I can one day have people to discuss the other stuff with.
I’ve lost sight of that a bit. It is difficult to put myself back in my own college shoes, and try to remember what thoughts/experiences led to the ones that became this sort of theoretical foundation.
It’s been easiest for me to stick to writing about the practical side of maintaining this state of being, while throwing in bits of the mentality that goes into, as and when I can.
One of those things was part of my early thought-formation has to do with learning.
When I first started using cocaine, what had been an intermittent process of personal growth/revelations in self-awareness became… exponential.
(I believe, now, that it was not the cocaine. I’ve been able to begin a similar process now, while sober. Cocaine was a short cut to get this kind of high energy, this kind of confidence. I only ever used it to have these kinds of conversations, I never ‘partied’.)
I worked at a small delicatessen in downtown Santa Cruz for a good chunk of this time period, and that place was my petri dish for this stuff.
One of the things I discovered, back then, was that I could take far more conscious control of my actions than I had thought possible.
We all hear some people being described as ‘awake’, right? Or more on ‘autopilot’?
What actual qualities make one person more awake, more aware, more ‘woke’ (to use what I gather is the more modern parlance), in comparison to another?
During this time, I made a concerted effort to stop this particular habit I had of snapping at people, out of anger.
I started by thinking about the day I’d just had, every night.
I realized that I acted out of anger far more often than I had realized. Our brains have a way of masking these kinds of behaviors, normalizing them and then forgetting they even happened.
Unless we make a point of trying to remember, without allowing ourselves to justify.
I would take the other people out of the equation, try to come up with just one way I could have handled the situation better.
I usually realized that if I’d become angry, it was because my intelligence had been threatened. Or my care of my team, as a manager. Other insecurities.
These are not things that someone else can really effectively judge about me, especially customers meeting me for the first time.
I am only insecure about that kind of thing when I have not done the work necessary to be confident in my own self, my own beliefs about myself.
A few weird things happened during this process.
One was that whenever I came up with just one way I could have acted differently that might have diffused conflict, my icky feelings over what had happened melted away. Instantly.
This is the sort of thing that led to me talking about the importance of plans so often.
In a way, coming up with a potential alternative action was a form of planning.
I would remember it the next time a similar situation arose, try it out. More often than not, I’d realize another shade of granularity to people/circumstances/myself that made that new plan insufficient- but allowed me to come up with yet another thing to try.
Another weird thing is that it didn’t take much time at all before my brain was pointing out times I acted out of anger, before the night.
I no longer had to direct my brain to sift for examples. My brain started doing that for me. It had become habit.
After a while, I started doing that process directly after my emotions had cooled; frequently in time to go apologize to the person I’d acted angrily towards.
And then? Then my brain started throwing up those flags in the instant before I was about to act out of anger. With enough time to change the course of things.
I was no longer always on autopilot.  I had found a way to take the controls, myself. Consciously.
It was still hard to stop myself from acting in a way that felt good, but that my conscious brain knew, intellectually, was not going to make me feel best, later.


I developed some pretty decent workarounds for this. I began leaving the room when I started feeling my emotions become heated beyond my control.
This is part of why the abusive relationship I was in was so key in returning me to this sort of way of being; I had developed a habit that meant I didn’t need to keep growing. It worked really well to avoid conflict, with anyone who respected boundaries.
That person, he would not let me go for a walk when I told him I needed a minute to cool off.
And I was completely unprepared for having to deal with heated emotions, when forced to stay in the company of the person heating them.
I hadn’t practiced that skill in far too long.
I like to use the example of learning a new instrument; it’s intuitive to me.
When we first pick up a new instrument, it’s all strange.
It all takes work, takes conscious thought to figure out.
“Okay, fingers go here and here, this is how my posture should be.”
Then you look at the sheet music, figure out the time signature, figure out each note, remember how to produce that sound.
If we put letters to each step, we’re painstakingly going from A to B, C, D….. So on, to Z.
But the more we practice, the more of those steps we start skipping. It becomes easier, more effortless.
Suddenly, you’re going A, F, H, T, P, Z And eventually, you pick up the instrument, A, and, with a glance at the music, you play the note, Z.
Everything works like this.
We are limiting ourselves when we approach only learning new technical skills with this mindset, this awareness.
Personal growth and self-awareness operate on the same principles.



I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

Leave a Reply