I like to listen to podcasts while I crochet, but only if I’m involved with a simple pattern. I’ve ended up with some crazy mistakes that occurred while I was lost in a TED talk about Bitcoin, getting advice from Dear Sugars or learning the “tools of titans” from Tim Ferris.
Right now I’m working on a pair of fingerless gloves, and after a puzzling start (more later), I’ve got the stitch pattern under control and am now chugging along. This is often the time I should double-check my row/stitch count because I’ll find out at the point of no return that something went wrong waaaay back. For now, though, a visual check confirms I’m on track.
So, back to the podcast.
Today, it’s the Tim Ferris Podcast #204, featuring Tim Ferris and Josh Waitzkin. This is just a 24-minute episode, so it’s easy to listen to while doing something else or to give it your full attention without a major time commitment. I found it well worth the time.
10 thoughts and practices Josh Waitzkin has acquired as a world-class chess player and martial arts champion. Disclaimer: I’ve added my personal interpretation and/or experience after each idea, which are totally those of Josh Waitzkin. I am taking no credit for his wisdom!
- “I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.” As I understand it, this is a concept Josh brings into the bigger world from the world of chess. In my world it means leaving time in my day for doing nothing. In this space for nothingness, I may actually do nothing, or I might listen to a Tara Brach meditation, or do some yoga, or work in the garden, or take a nap. The important thing for me is that I don’t have to be anywhere or see anyone. This is critical to my ability to be pleasant!
- “Learning the macro from micro.” Not sure about Josh’s intention with this one, so I’ll leave it at that. (Listen to the podcast to hear the explanation in his own words.) If you knit or crochet, though, you are probably familiar with the dreaded “pattern swatch.” This is a small version of the pattern that you make before you even start on the actual project. This is essential (they say) if you are making something to be worn such as a sweater or jacket. Confession: I never do this. My reasons are lame: a waste of yarn, slows me down, seems redundant. But more to the point, I’m lazy. I also don’t make clothing items. This is one reason I stick to hats, shawls, cowls, blankets, fingerless mitts, etc. These things don’t require extreme precision to be wearable when I am done. Making a swatch is probably a great example of learning the macro from the micro.
- “If you’re studying my game, you’re entering my game.” Josh relates that he learned this from Marcelo Garcia, “the best grappler of last 100 years in Jiu Jitsu.” The story is that Garcia routinely video records his sparring sessions and these are then made available for anyone to watch–including his competitors. Seems counterintuitive, right? Not so. Again, Josh channeling Garcia: If you’re studying my game, you’re entering my game, and I’m better than you. Waitzkin explains Garcia’s thinking: “50 percent of people will be discouraged by my attention to detail, 40 percent will try it and be worse than me, and 10 percent will try it and be better than me. I can learn from that 10 percent.” I found this concept fascinating. I don’t really think of myself as an expert in anything, but I’ve known people who are. In my past life, I saw people who weren’t threatened by a colleague’s talents and graciously shared any knowledge that would help that person advance. In today’s life, I’m forever grateful to the many experts in crochet (or knitting) who freely share their advice, techniques, and patterns. They realize that by sharing their work, they not only attain greater recognition and visibility, but may learn something from the rest of us who provide feedback on a particular pattern or technique. I will never be Jessica of Mama in a Stitch, but I sure do appreciate all the patterns, stitch ideas, and personal insights she shares in her warm and friendly style.
- “Remember the last three turns.” This advice Josh attributes to Billy Kidd, the Olympic ski champion, who would ask skiers, “What are the three most important turns of a ski run?” While he received many answers, Billy believes the last three turns you execute just before boarding the chair lift are key. He explains that these last three turns should be executed with precise attention. By doing this, you carry that precision up the lift with you. As with crochet! Seriously. End your session with a carefully executed row or pattern. Pay attention to every stitch. Don’t end with a mistake or some sloppy effort performed while half asleep or after that second glass of wine (personal experience talking here). If you are not a crocheter or skier, end whatever activity you are serious about–writing a book, marketing software, parenting a child–end the day or session on a high note to internalize success and make the next day easier.
- “To turn it on, learn to turn it off” and vice versa. Again, this advice comes from the martial arts world, but applies to any undertaking, especially one requiring a level of intensity. Figure out how to completely relax and let go in your downtime. When I’m being full-on creative–exploring new ideas, sketching out concepts–my brain can quickly become overwhelmed by options and disturbed by restlessness. This is when I take a nap. Or exercise. Or do some much-needed dusting. Figure out what helps you “turn off” and do it. When you need to “turn it on” again, you’ll be ready.
- “The little things are the big things.” This point is one of my personal favorites. We’ve all known that person (maybe even ourselves at times) who does a half-assed job of something because it seems too little to make any difference. Maybe you’d yawn and tune out when someone reminded you that “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Ho hum. Just get it done, you may have thought. Turns out, paying attention matters. And, from Tim and Josh: “The little things are the big things,” “How you do anything is how you do everything.” In Buddhism there’s the concept that the moment you are experiencing is all there is. You entire life is in this moment. Why do we so often miss this obvious reality? According to Josh (and I’m paraphrasing here): “There are many more little moments than big moments. Doing these well can have a major impact on the quality of your life and the work you produce. Don’t wait around for the big moment to turn it on.”
- “Just go around.” When you are blocked or encounter the seemingly insurmountable problem, “think laterally.” See if you can find a way around your problem by connecting some seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts. If you knit or crochet, you know that sometimes the pattern is not working or the project in your head is not going to actually work in reality. I have two approaches in these situations. First, if I’m working from a pattern and have given the reading and execution of it a sincere effort, I assume the pattern is wrong. It happens! I just do what I think I’m supposed to be doing. I let the piece be what it wants to be. This is easier if you have crocheted for many years, but even if you haven’t, it’s worth a try. Make it your own! Second, if I’m working from an idea in my head, it’s important for me to trust the process. There are moments in the process of creating when doubt sets in. It may hit early on, or surface much later when turning back is not an option. When that genuine fear of being on the wrong track surfaces, I recommit myself. When I can’t turn back, I’m left with trust in the process. Trust in my vision and trust in my ability to get it done. Onward through the fog!
- “Embrace your funk.” Figure out your eccentricity and build on it. I’ve been thinking about this idea in one way, shape, or form for a long time. What I consider my “funk” changes often, keeping me on my self-reflecting toes. Let’s be honest. I don’t really know who I am. Just when I think I’ve figured out a piece of me, something else comes along. I’m getting better at self-acceptance, though. My funk and I may not be at the embrace stage, but we’ve definitely done a fist bump or two.
- “Who do you pick when your ego seems threatened?” In Jiu Jitsu, according to Josh, the champions–when they are most exhausted–choose to spar with their toughest competitor. They don’t choose a partner they know they can beat. When the going gets tough, get tougher. In my world, I can only equate this to those times when I don’t want to do anything because I’ve had some setbacks, but I show up and do it anyway. That really disastrous reading of a crochet pattern (How could I be so stupid?!) Rip it out and start over! The people at work were mean to you? (But I’m so nice!) Too bad. Show up tomorrow! That person on Facebook who took issue with your well thought out position? Let it go or reconsider your position. You–yes YOU–might be wrong. The random nature of life can be a formidable opponent; an ego-destroying a-hole. Take it on with dignity and gusto!
- The importance of language on a rainy day. Josh tells the story of never saying the weather is bad when talking to his young son. He explains he did not want his son to be “externally reliant on conditions being perfect to have a good time.” Love that! They never missed an outdoor activity because of rain. Makes sense and reminds me of a pediatrician I knew when my son was small (20-plus years ago) who complained that she had never seen parents so afraid of exposing their children to “ambient temperature.” She was a champion for getting kids of all ages out in the elements (with proper precautions, of course!).
OK, so you remember I said that the first row of these fingerless mitts (the row by the fingers) was confusing to me? I had never seen these instructions before: “[Ch 3, sc in first ch] 15 times. Sl st to join.” I kept thinking that this would not make a large circle to fit around someone’s hands. It sounded more like the instructions for starting a hat from the top. I finally decided I would just follow the instructions as written and see what happened. And, it worked out. It results in a foundation chain with little picot bumps. Learned something! And, this is something I can use on another project. I really liked this clever way to start a project. So…this is a good example of #7–Just go around. I “went around” mentally by deciding I would not over-analyze the instructions and just trust my literal interpretation. And, I love this stitch pattern. Already I’m thinking about making a scarf using this stitch and some variegated Liberty yarn that I’ve had for years.
I know this turned out to be a bit wordy, but thanks for reading (if you did), and thanks for just looking at this page if that’s all you could manage. Keep up with me (it’s not too hard!) on Facebook at StorylineCreations.