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Letting go (mattgemmell.com)
119 points by arm on June 3, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments

This is one of the most self centered things I've ever read. Modern day scrouge, "I’m also letting go of second chances. One strike and you’re out." Everyone makes mistakes, Honestly with that attitude your going to end up friendless and alone when you need people most. There are better ways than shutting everyone out. I find this persons attitude incredibly frustrating. You need people that challenge you in ways you don't like or you really won't grow or experience life. Shutting out everyone who says things you don't like doesn't help you, it hurts you. You are injuring yourself by not hearing other opinions. Believe it or not but you are not always right.

"I’m also letting go of second chances. One strike and you’re out."

This is the part that I came to criticize as well. To me, it doesn't sound like letting go at all; it sounds like holding on to a grudge.

I excommunicated a family member from my life a while ago. I thought I was protecting myself and my family, but I was really just prolonging my own pain. I have since forgiven him and cautiously started letting him back into my life in limited ways. To me, that's an example of really letting go.

> I excommunicated a family member from my life a while ago. I thought I was protecting myself and my family, but I was really just prolonging my own pain. I have since forgiven him and cautiously started letting him back into my life in limited ways. To me, that's an example of really letting go.

Congratulations on making progress on a relationship that works for you. I'd like to point out, though, that for many with abusive or dysfunctional relationships with a family member, stopping contact is the letting go.

Yes - letting go isn't about excommunication, it's about "You do your thing, and that's fine. I do mine, and that's fine too."

I think I understand his point, I find myself meeting up with and spending time with friends and acquaintances who at the end of the day...don't always add much value to my life. And that time spent, the time I feel obligated to give them could have been spent doing more productive things.

That isn't to say I don't have close friends who do add value to my life, those are the people who are worth spending time on. I don't think its about being a hermit, its about being more selective.

Not every social interaction has to add value to ones live and one shouldnt feel obligated to think about "doing more productive things" all the time, that's not healthy.

I always try to help people when they ask me for help, even if it has near zero value for me (like helping out relatives with PC trouble). Yes it wastes my time, but at least i could do something good for someone else.

The author's comments resonated with me, and I think some people in this thread are drawing the wrong conclusions about what it means to let go of difficult people. A difficult person, to me, is different from a person who challenges me. A person who challenges me gets me fueled up and confident, whereas a difficult person makes me want to shut down and flee the scene.

There's a great skit on Inside Amy Schumer that describes these people amazingly. Amy and a date are at a sandwich shop near Ground Zero in Manhattan, and her date makes conversation by talking about his experience on 9/11. Amy, however, is completely disinterested and keeps derailing the conversation because she becomes obsessive about whether or not she should ask the employees to put mayo on her sandwich, then further disrupts the conversation by yelling to the employees and throwing a fit when they end up forgetting to put mayo on the sandwich. [1]

I feel like we all have these people in our lives that we stay close to out of guilt, politeness, etc. My mom calls them vampires; they're people who'll cling to you and suck the energy right out of you.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W34LEhJDfxE

What you are saying makes sense... but let me give a perspective from which it the original sentiment might make sense.

I have a wife and kids, and while I will often go out of my way to go help folks, I'm limited in what I can do... so while I don't mind helping my buddy when his car needs a jump, I have gotten a lot more willing to just not do things like that, especially for folks who have demonstrated that they are selfish actors. I am not down to "one strike and you're out" yet, but at the same time, I have started to feel the pain of thinking "damn, I could be hanging out with my kids instead of taking this moron to get his tire patched."

Neither of those things is especially productive, but we all make choices, and it is healthy to consider alternatives to what we usually do.

Since when do you have to be productive when hanging out with friends?

Not productive, value. Hanging out with the same people, doing the same thing and having the same conversations. I try to push for new and interesting and a small subset of friends are stagnant people. It's hard to want to spend time with them any more.

He's becoming a hermit in a very strict, almost religious sense. I agree with you in that this sort of social decision could be more pain than joy, but you know, I never really interpreted the tone of the article as malicious or particularly negative. I think it's alright.

A few minutes later he's on Twitter advertising, and rabbiting on about Apples' new XXX. So the distractions remain.

I read it as a semi-aspirational piece, something not realisitically achievable but a target.

>> You need people that challenge you in ways you don't like or you really won't grow or experience life.

This was my exact reaction. Instead of using 500 words to describe how he's shutting people out and cutting out the distractions, he could have just said, "I'm just taking the easy road from now on."

Without challenges and push back on your ideas, what keeps you grounded in reality? If I took his advice it would be like living in my own self imposed world of rainbows and unicorns.

We can all escape reality in your own little ways, but people should tread lightly when trying to avoid it altogether.

you enumerated many overrated things

I agree. I didn't read the whole thing but couldn't a point to the post. Yeah, you're semi-famous for being an indie mac developer. Yeah, you've posted in the past that you have mental problems.

Is this the correct place to blather on about this? Go have coffee with a friend.

I find the attitude of "letting go" to be specifically helpful for news. Unless you're directly affected at the time of occurrence by something like the Malaysian airliner disappearing, or by a mass shooting...you gain virtually nothing from being atop the news. You skip all the knee-jerk reactions and theories, the hours of meaningless jabber used to fill the 24-7 newscycle, the errors in judgment made by first impressions.

I would say you gain less than nothing by following breaking news...you lose time and attention obviously...but for the most part, you also fill your mind with what is the very definition of information junk...stuff that, at best, is "the first draft of history", and at worst, is just the kind of nervous blather people make when they're anxious and waiting for resolution.

If there was a way to put a "Show me nothing newer than a week ago" filter on the Internet, I'd probably turn it on by default.

I've been giving up news slowly over the years. When I was young, news gave me information about the world. I learned about countries and cultures I would have had little knowledge of otherwise. I used to listen to the BBC World Service all day every day.

I moved on to other sources, looking for the least bias, the most facts, the picking of stories that actually mattered (to me); eventually I realised that I'd never find what I was looking for: Every source became painful to read, watch or listen to.

So I've given up, for now. If there happens to be news in front of me, I won't avoid it; It's just that I don't actively seek it or subscribe to it.

Maybe I'll become a news consumer again in the future.

Yeah I'm a sucker for the news. I'm not wedded to cutting edge news though. I'd be happy picking up last month's paper. Occasionally I just drop following it, and don't really miss it. It's easy to cut yourself off or become very myopic. That's what worries me. Small things can end up having the same gravity as a hard hitting news story. I can become rather petty.

Wading through comments is hard work. But a little feedback and opinion from others is good. I only wish it was a genuine sample. My local newspaper's online edition is full of the same commentators who can't help but comment on everything posted, with their same negative replies and opinions/agendas. It can make you feel a little ill; you can start to believe that many people do hold those views. But, for all I know it's the same girl with ten sock puppet accounts.

A little real life interaction with others can be quite reassuring and calming, even if you may end up discussing trivialities.

I do find the radio offers a nice condensed more easily consumable news bulletin.

This, so much this.

People say I'm weird when I say I don't follow, nor care to follow the mainstream news. It seems hard for them to understand that I gain nothing from "keeping up to date with current events".

It's all just so much pain and misery, and I can't speak for anyone else, but my life is better without it. I prefer to seek out my own news, pertaining to things I like or am interested in. Hacker News (the irony of the name is not lost on me), for example, is very relevant to most of my interests.

The problem is he gave up RSS in order to give up what he calls news, but I don't get news from RSS.

News has been redefined as journalistic agitprop to gain pageviews of people in the right attitude to sell them an advertising message. I have very little interest in that.

On the other hand I like astrobites, and some of the arxiv RSS feeds, and others along those lines. They are news in some definitions, but definitely not news in the "news industry" definition.

Its like the difference between getting your weather news report from weather.gov or from the weather channel on cable.

I'm honestly surprised at the amount of reactionary responses on this thread. Everyone is so quick to take up arms against this man because he's systematically eliminating distractions from his day to day. Some people are making wild jumps from point A to point X -- postulating that he'll be friendless and alone, telling him that he's selfish, theorizing that it's not going to work, calling him a robot.

None of us are in Matt's situation. Stop projecting your moral compass, fears, and/or insecurities on him.

If it works, I envy his ability to cut out noise from the signal.

The vile lie of social: that we're all 'connected' to one another, when we're really mostly just typing text back and forth. And most of that communication is noise, status-signaling, or self-promotional.

It's exhausting.

There's nothing normal about ingesting loads of human opinions on the most trivial facts several times a day.

Thank you for the impressive quote.

I realized this recently while pondering "The Wisdom of the Crowd/Cloud":

Using a (inter)net to fish out all the wisdom of the crowd mainly brings all the most common opinions up to the level of common sense. It's only additive to that niveau; it doesn't extend to brilliance. The wonderful human collaborations, like GNU/Linux? Those are created by a concentrated coterie, just as most other impressive creations. Surely, the web has catalyzed them, but they were strong anyway, not the result of amplified ignorance. Expecting a shotgun approach to advance beyond common sense means using a additional filter to except those ideas which do not rise to the level of common sense, and therefore, is more work.

I'm sure humans, pre-media, exchanged numerous opinions about things for much of their days and evenings, but they weren't work. Work was toil, solitary endeavors, and collaboration with mostly familiar people and a few strangers (imagine a marketplace with travelers). Now, with "social media," opinions have become work, and as you say, exhausting.

Hope you see this!

There is no "wisdom" of the crowd/cloud. There's only the collective consensus which is, by definition, mediocre. True progress requires unconventional thinking and slightly obsessive qualities which are often rejected. Additionally, the burden of the work itself is extremely unevenly distributed. (A lot of my OSS work seems more like people requesting features rather than actually, you know, implementing them for themselves and submitting a pull.)

Another way to phrase this is: show me one great thing the collective crowd has created. Just one! We have thousands of examples of brilliant individuals, who, working alone for long (and often seemingly fruitless) hours produce incredible works of engineering, art, mathematics, etc.

These opinions are slightly taboo; as they cast doubt on the value of our 'connections.'

If he were just writing about what he's doing, that'd be one thing. But he's not:

> It’s a tall order; there’s no question about that. But I really need to do this, and I think you do, too.

Procrastination will always find an outlet.

You've turned all that off then focused on writing a piece about turning things off - so another outlet appeared almost instantly.

Embrace it - there is probably a reason you are not ready to do the thing you are running away from - you've probably not finished figuring it all out.

The time spent writing that would have likely been better deployed meditating or walking.

But the writing IS the meditation.. And you can write while you meditate.

There's definitely a possibility for overlap between writing and mindfulness meditation, but not all writing is meditation. If you're seeing this as a way to multi-task, that's definitely not mindful, and it doesn't fit into any of the other forms of meditation I know of.

I write, meditate, and walk. Each has its role; there is a time for each. Why are we so critical of the way the author chooses to spend his time?

Seems like he's given up on listening. No wonder it seems so hard to do. He's got his way and he's sticking with it. Oddly, even whilst plugging his ears and ignoring others, he says he thinks we too should be like him. So we should not follow his example and ignore him; we should pay attention to his message.

Shedding the unimportant is actually a really good idea, but I think OP has taken it too far here by a mile.

Congratulations, you are now a robot. You are optimized, streamlined, hustling, motivated and focused.

Or, he's identified the things that make him unhappy and is actively trying to remove them from his life. There's merit to identifying the things that bum you out and avoiding them.

You're reaching for that conclusion, nowhere in the article does he mention it makes him unhappy. He said it hinders his 'productivity'. Beep boop.

He specifically talks about spending more time on his passions which unless they are clinically unhealthy make him happy. You are the one reaching for a conclusion in ascribing productivity to an automaton. Productivity and passion are not opposite ideas.

This is all too true. I come at this problem from the opposite end of the spectrum. I am no misanthrope by any stretch, but I have to actively engage in things that many others (especially the people who feel the need to blog about 'letting go') find they need to actively disengage from.

I realize the benefit of my position, I can go heads down and be productive for sustained periods of time at the drop of a hat. But there is a downside as well. People who are not up on things or who don't interject themselves into the Conversation may find themselves on the outside looking in and are terribly inefficient at getting involved when they want or need to.

I am the same, and while it's not bad per se, it has its own dangers. If not for my friends, I'd easily slide into a comfortable hermit existence. And every time I do, it harms me in the long term and I usually only realize this when I look back.

Like most other things, I suppose, it's about finding a balance. My 'balance' probably lies on the 'hermit' end of the spectrum, but I still find that social engagements are essential in the long run.

While it's possible that some are 'true' hermits or 'true' socialites, I doubt it.

I'm a fan of John Cleese's theory of "open" and "closed" modes of thought:


While his idea of being "creative" (as a writer & performer) is perhaps different than mine (as a programmer), I still find his advice helpful in giving myself space for creativity. Sure, some days it's best for me to just buckle down on serious work and crank things out (the "closed" mode, as it were). But my best work comes from the days when I don't feel the need to punish myself for making mistakes or for letting my mind wander.

Being in the "open" mode does require freedom from distraction, but it also requires breaks and must be very clearly time-boxed in order to succeed. I'd be afraid that, in attempting to "let go" of distraction and procrastination permanently, I'd be fating myself to a life in the "closed" mode, where nothing is more important than my productivity and everything (even boredom) has the potential to get in its way.

Perhaps such a ruthless track is beneficial to Matt, and if so I bid him good fortune. It would be of terrible hindrance to my own productivity, though. I am at heart a social person. I require a balance of social interaction and thoughtful solitude to be at my best.

Too much social interaction can overload me with many extra thoughts and ideas that tend to mish-mash together in my brain and become nothing but flights of fancy.

On the other hand, too much solitude has a detrimental effect on my focus. Not only do I start to feel a bit down, but I find that without that social outlet I will concentrate too much on details that may not even be relevant to my current task (or even to the project as a whole).

Given a good (reasonable) dose of social interaction, I find my focus gets into a groove and tasks are just easier to complete, regardless of possible interruption by colleagues.

Everyone must find their own balance. I suspect that Matt and I sit on opposite sides of this particular range, or are at least a fair distance apart.

I dont think it was mentioned in here yet so ill add to the list: the majority of the four hour work week is also on this topic for those looking for more of the same.

I love reading articles about procrastination techniques to procrastinate from work I need to do!

I did the total opposite of what this article discussed; I spent a few minutes reading this blog post instead of being productive and paying attention to my work. While there is true value to concentrating/focusing, so we can be creative and get important stuff done, the author's lack of tolerance for distractions (good or bad) may be going below a healthy level. Seriously, the "I’m also letting go of second chances. One strike and you’re out" would make us a terrible persons.

The assertion that this whole argument is built on (and is not explicitly mentioned) is that creation, or work, is the ultimate goal in life. I believe the author to be mistaken here and would urge the author to re-evaluate the truth of this statement before taking some of the more extreme measures the article mentions.

Coming here... Reading this... Writing this comment... I should let go.

Dammit - now I have that Frozen song stuck in my head...

Thanks, now I have that song in my head! :-) very funny!

best comment.

>I’m also letting go of second chances. One strike and you’re out.

This just sounds so ridiculously absurd it is hard to take seriously.


Let go of the idea that work is so important that you should exclude everyone that is disagreeable.

Most of the paragraphs of this article begin with the letter "I"

Well, isn't honesty preferable? If he had switched them all to 'we' he'd be falsely claiming to speak for others.

I think he means the letter I, not the word I.

Funny observation, but it's true...plus...if it's not an I it's a T, except for the last one.

I'm is just a contraction of 'I am'.

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