Zen & the Art of Work – Review part 2

This is part 2 of a multi part review of Kourosh Dini's new video product

What is this chapter all about?

This second video chapter, the first real chapter after the introduction, goes deep on how to make considered choices about what you will be doing next. In short, this chapter explain how to best chose what you will be doing. It helps you to focus on what matters most.

Key lessons

Making good choices takes time and focus. Rather than just starting with what is top of mind, Kourosh invites you to go through a process to actually consider what would be the most relevant project for you now.

This turns out not to be the easy task we usually consider it to be. Why? Because in order to find out what matters most rather than what comes to mind first, we need to allow our thoughts to settle. Once settled, it becomes a lot easier to make a considered decision. We no longer jump on the first log that happens to be floating by on our stream of consciousness. We actually think about what we will be working on next.

By explaining the process that is going on in your head in detail, Kourosh illustrates how a decision process in your mind tends to work, and his illustration is, as far as I am concerned, spot on. The challenge is of course not just understanding, but applying and following through. Doing that in practice is very, very hard. It requires you to be able to center. If you were to spend some time in my head, and I assume, in most of our heads, it most often resembles a slightly overcrowded playground. Lots of yelling, some crying and things going on all over the place.

Kourosh point is correct and essential: doing specific work should not be something we fall into or accidentally arrive at. Rather, in order to be most relevant, it should be a conscious decision. I know I fail this simple litmus test quite often. I have a crowd of options in front of me, all yelling for my immediate attention, and with some semblance of prioritising, I pick one and I work through it. Getting good at picking the most relevant one is not a considered decision, it's experience.

To be frank, the specific approach Kourosh shows us is really not that easy to put in practice. As I mentioned earlier, it requires commitment to work through. And it's not a commitment to do the effort, it is rather a commitment to not do anything and let the leaves settle. Let the little ones yell until there is no yelling left to do. Until everyone sits down on the ground in the large circle. There are certainly easier ways to get to a decision, but not necessarily better ones. And what is best? Doing the first thing that comes to mind, or rather the best thing?

But taking that time is counter-intuitive in our current day environment. What Kourosh asks for is that we take the time to let our decision and its direct implications on everything else we think we should be doing settle in and to be very conscious of what we've decided to do by putting away everything else. That is a very difficult process, mainly because it takes time. Preparation time, not execution time. And we are so primed to go into execution mode, as soon as possible. We often fail to take the time to adequately prepare.

The end is extremely satisfying. By explicitly rewarding us, Kourosh teaches us to be kind to ourselves.

What is in it for me

However counter-intuitive this approach is for me, it turns out to also be essential. I've had tasks lists in OmniFocus and in my Hobonichi which tended to explode. Too many things to do, not enough satisfaction in doing them. By considering what is essential now, by letting my thoughts settle and by making a considered, settled decision with all the leaves down, I am capable of doing more relevant things in a more effective manner. Because I am no longer distracted.

This step is most certainly worth it. As is the entire video series. I'll discuss chapter 3 in a couple of days.