Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Deliberate - Essay from Newsletter 95

What’s the purpose

Not a leaper

Six months ago I looked around at people re-entering the world and envied their braveness.

I’m a bit more cautious - and as sick as I am of mostly being isolated, the recent resurgence of the pandemic mostly keeps me home.

Anyway, I was trying to make a more broad point that I would like to be less cautious in general and one of the things I like most about this newsletter is that each week some readers will reach out with thoughts on the essay.

Someone responded to the essay on leaping with a note that said, “I’m a leaper”

That struck me and I realized I’m not.

As much as I do, as many things as I try, at heart I’m not a leaper. It takes conscious effort for me to take chances - and yet I do.

No, I’m more of a wanderer.

I’m already on the couch watching tv so I check out another channel.

One of the downsides of this is that I end up choosing things without being conscious of doing so.


During my first weeks of college I met Natalie.

She was friends of people I was friends with so every once in a while she’d drop by while we were hanging out.

I don’t remember much about her other than her very pronounced Long Island accent and that she seldom asked, “Why.”

When most of us would probably ask “why” as in “why would you do that”, Natalie would ask, “what’s the purpose?”

I didn’t think much about that phrasing then or in the many years since - but this week it popped into my head (in a Long Island accent) and I like the emphasis.

The answer to why should include a purposeful statement.

So many of us use passive words that hide the action we have or haven’t taken.

So my second word for this year is “Deliberate” - the adjective not the verb. It seems to me that sometimes we use the verb to delay taking action that can be labeled with the adjective.


Last night I’d just come back in from shoveling snow for the third time. We got somewhere around a foot over the previous 24 hours and I’d dug out from my back door to my driveway, from my driveway to the street, and from my driveway to my front door. I still have to dig out from my gate to my garage and shovel off the flat porch on the second floor.

I was sweaty and tired and wanted to sit down and watch tv before showering and going to bed.

I have no problem with that sort of tv watching. It was a deliberate decision.

How do I want to spend the next half hour? Not Netflix and chill so much as BritBox and let my heart rate come back down.

The tv watching and internet scrolling and other behavior I want to watch for is the non-conscious decisions.

Extreme Time Management

There was a computer programming methodology called XP that stood for Extreme Programming.

As with so many things, it was badly named but contained a lot of good ideas.

A lot of the ideas collaborated to form concentric feedback rings. You worked with other programmers so that you got immediate feedback as you created the code. You wrote code that passed tests so that you got feedback once you saved and built your work to see if it broke any existing code or satisfied any new tests…

There were these rings from immediate feedback, to regular feedback, to feedback in the hours scale, day scale, week scale and so on.

That’s how I’m going to try to use “Deliberate”.

The three words are designed to give you regular reminders of areas of focus.

Every once in a while I want to stop and ask, “how do I want to use this next hour or two.”

The answer isn’t absolute.

I’m not asking, “what’s the best way to use this next hour.”

I may decide that for now the best way is to work the NY Times daily mini puzzle, or check out today’s Wordle (there’s a reference that isn’t likely to hold up over time), or take a walk, or catch up with a friend, or watch tv.

The point isn’t to find an optimal solution - it’s to make a conscious decision.

I’m hoping that this may lead to a better use of my time.

So word one is “Something” and word two is “Deliberate”.

I have an idea for something I want to try to create to help me be better at both.

Stay tuned.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 95. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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