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“The trick is in what one emphasizes.
We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy.
The amount of work is the same.”

Carlos Castaneda
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“That’s the thing about pain.  It demands to be felt”
—-
John Green
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“Anyway, I wanted to end this on a hopeful, positive note, but, seeing as how my sense of hope and positivity is still shrouded in a thick layer of feeling like hope and positivity are bullshit,
I’ll just say this: Nobody can guarantee that it’s going to be okay, but — and I don’t know if this will be comforting to anyone else — the possibility exists that there’s a piece of corn on a floor somewhere that will make you just as confused about why you are laughing as you have ever been about why you are depressed.
And even if everything still seems like hopeless bullshit, maybe it’s just pointless bullshit or weird bullshit or possibly not even bullshit.
I don’t know.
But when you’re concerned that the miserable, boring wasteland in front of you might stretch all the way into forever, not knowing feels strangely hope-like.”
—-
Allie Brosh
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I have written about attention as currency , how time is elastic (but important & finite), social media distractions and even focus. All of them are partially right and partially wrong when it comes to emphasis and its demands on us. I say partially because all make demands on us at the same time. So, parsing them out one by one is an excellent exercise, but also slightly disingenuous to reality.
Suffice it to say that Life, in & of itself, is demanding.
Well. Suffice it to say that whatever we emphasize has a nasty habit of demanding attention.
And, more often than not, in our analyzing of ourselves and what is around us we emphasize the ‘less than’, the ‘imperfections’ and the pain.

They all demand to be felt.

In other words. Many things in life demand to be felt. And maybe it is because of that we numb ourselves to as many things as possible figuring it is the only way to manage our way thru the onslaught of things demanding and demanding and demanding. Pay enough attention, or give them enough emphasis, and the clamor of their cries for attention seems deafening if you listen too closely.

Regardless. I imagine it depends on what one emphasizes.

Now. Here is where I will leave the beaten path in the discussion.
There is gobs of information and advice on how to selectively focus on the right things at the right time. Smart people, Warren Buffett , Shane Parrish, etc. have weighed in on this topic and they offer some great thoughts. But. Here’s the deal. Life for most of us every day schmucks doesn’t work like ‘selective focus.’ Oh sure, we may try. But the truth is life demands to be felt, even the shit you have elected to not focus on.
So therefore, it comes down to emphasis, not choice.

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“Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and applause of the many, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.”

Longfellow
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Personally I believe most of the advice ‘expert’ books/articles give people about focus/emphasis is absurd if not impractically nuts. I’m not opposed to encouraging focus nor do I dispel the notion that one can improve focus, but, for the most part, most advice ignores how Life demands attention. What I mean by that is most advice isolates a decision/choice and suggests you:

A. Tune out the unnecessary/unhelpful, and
B. Tune in on the specific contextual variables which are necessary/helpful.

Conceptually fabulous. Reality-wise absurd.

Here are 3 reasons why it is absurd:

1. Life never stops. If you stop you inevitably have to catch up and, well, the doom loop of onslaught of the demands increases. In other words. What the experts neglect to share with you is that there is a price to pay for selective focus.
Emphasis is a moving target and you must focus on the move.

2. Life never stops demanding attention. Selective focus is risky. The demands Life will put upon you do not cease simply because you have decided to focus on something or decide what you want to emphasize.
Often emphasis is managing some things while focusing on something else. that’s the gig.

3. Life never stops offering demands OUT OF SEQUENCE. Life is not orderly. It may not be totally random, but its rarely consistent other than through its overall consistency of demands.
Life is like a restaurant with odd little waiters bringing things you don’t always like.

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“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.”
Lemony Snicket
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None of what I just shared should suggest you shouldn’t seek to emphasize some things versus others. In fact. I tend to believe if you don’t figure out what to emphasize you will, well, just become numb. This is where life is particularly unforgiving. If you do not choose, Life will choose to bludgeon you day in and day out with things demanding your attention … and pain.
That is unsustainable. For anyone.

Make some choices. Choose things to emphasize over others. You may not always get it right but my own experience suggests even your poor choices, while painful, are survivable. And maybe that’s my point. Life demand to be felt. If you do not choose what to emphasize and Life emphasizes everything, I fear that is not survivable.

 

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Written by Bruce