Learning from insight

Challenge yourself to reflect on experiences

August 18th, 2020

This morning, as my wife and I enjoyed our coffee, we watched our dogs tackle each other in the front yard. In moments like these I often tend to blather on about things I've read or my analysis of a show or movie to my wife's willing, conversational captivity. I had read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon the previous day, so naturally I started analyzing my highlights from the book. This compulsion to share these thoughts occur when I feel very empowered by a particular idea or if I think my wife might benefit from my own insight, but I digress.

I told her that Mr. Kleon presents the idea of a "swipe file". The idea that you carry a notebook, piece of paper, whatever to swipe inspiration for later.

See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file. - Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Austin similarly recommends that you carry a notebook for jotting down your thoughts and insights when they crop up. This struck a chord with me. I've been incorporating the use of a digital bullet journal into my daily habits, and I felt that practice was reinforced by that advice. I said to my wife, "Now I understand more clearly why I NEED to journal... To keep inspiration from escaping my brain."

Likewise, reasons as to why I've written this is of questionable beginnings. For a while, I've been pondering writing for this medium. Though, one reason I tell myself I haven't started is that I don't know the purpose. What's the content? Who's it for?

Here are three chapters (listed on the back of Steal Like an Artist) that sum up some solidifying themes that motivated me to commit to action:

Chapter 2) Don't wait until you know who you are to get started

Chapter 3) Write the book you want to read

Chapter 5) Side project and hobbies are important

At one point in the dialog, I described that as a software developer I look back at my previous work (the earliest being some very marginal Wordpress sites) and I wonder if I'll ever be "good". Alternatively, I'm wise enough to know that the time invested in a skill matters. I take comfort in the thought that someday I'll have the midas touch. With enough effort and time, I'll find my voice and unique perspective which will permeate through everything I do.

I don't remember much, and the only reason this is even being written is out of habit. Thus, I'm here writing...for me. This hopefully isn't my only article and it won't be my best. I'm lucky to know at this moment that I'm writing to generate creativity, and also to help me express abstract thoughts in an applicable form.

Tangentially, if I don't write down my experiences and goals, they're forgotten, and worse ignored. If I don't document my experiences I forget them. And, is not terrifying when you realize that a memory has faded to its blurry edges?

Without the habit of reflection - on thoughts, experiences, or goals - we can lose those details that inspire us to greater achievement. I'm sitting here, writing an article, because I happened to share some thoughts about a book to my wife over hot beverages and barking dogs. I'm never one to attribute one thought to one problem, but I can say I'm fairly certain I wouldn't be writing this today if I hadn't engaged my insights.

We experience a lot of things. Most experiences fly by without leaving a lasting mark. Don't be afraid to analyze the mundane. Letting insights slip by untouched is a waste. Just like how popular or remarkable quotes can all seems so obvious and gratuitous when they are grouped together on a page, it's only when we are presented with one purposefully that it resonates with us. These moments are clarity. You may not recall why you saved it the you next time you read it, but you also don't know how it will make you feel when you do.

The worst consequence of ignoring your good ideas is that you start accomplishing them tomorrow.