Tuesday, November 2, 2010


From the Robert Genn Letters  (with thanks to Keri Ippolito for forwarding)
The Divided Self (October 29, 2010)
A couple of years ago a subscriber wrote, "You have really helped me with my procrastination. I apologize for taking so long to let you know." Insight like this and a lot of other great items are in the Zingers section at the back of my most recent book.

The game theorist and strategist Thomas C. Schelling suggested procrastination is not a personal weakness. It's more a function of the selves within ourselves who are actually at war with one another. For example, your long-term self says you're going to paint 100 paintings and get yourself a decent gallery. Next day your short-term self cuts in and has you alphabetizing everything in the spice cupboard or cleaning the lake. It's not you, it's your "divided self" that runs you off track and amok.

Interestingly, the divided self also gives powerful creative input. Putting things off may not be all that bad. Getting a second opinion is certainly part of our game. A work of art well sat on may turn out better than one completed to a hasty schedule. While experts identify university professors as the top procrastinators, artists cannot be far behind.

But I'm putting off getting to the point. This letter is about "the thief of time," and how to beat him. Going by my own example, I'm an authority on procrastination.

Recent studies tell us we need to get to know all our different selves. We need to make a list. FYI, here's mine: Responsible Bob. Loves-painting Bob. Hates-business Bob. (etc.)

Knowing these Bobs helps Bob see when one Bob is caving in to another Bob or pushing another Bob around.

Now here's the crunch: The smarter you are, the more likely you'll be to put things off. For smart folks, procrastination may be the norm. "It could very well be the most basic human impulse," says psychologist George Ainslie, the inventor of "hyperbolic discounting," the human tendency to plan practically anything as long as it's sometime well in the future and not now. By taking active steps right now, artists may flourish and stand out simply by beating the norm.

Best regards,


PS: "You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." --Henry Ford

No comments: