Identify & Eliminate

How long is the list of tasks on your To Do List today?
If you read my review of the “The One Thing” your list might be incredibly short already.
But is it short enough?
Are there any tasks that you are racing to complete that needn’t be done at all?
Just as bad, are you ignoring the 80:20 principle and working on low level tasks.

Consider the parable of Nick. Nick was employed as a sales consultant for an insurance company. He would receive inbound calls from customers and try to sell them home, car & life insurance. I worked with Nick and he did some things really well:

  • Established rapport with customers
  • Asked good questions
  • Demonstrated enthusiasm for the job

The one thing that he didn’t focus on was closing the sale. Nick would spend 45 minutes on the phone with a potential customer and learn all about their family, work history, philosophy, views on religion etc. but never asked the customer to pay for the product.

He would close his sales calls with “It was lovely to talk to you today. Have a ring around and compare and if you want to go with us give us a call back and we will help you out”.

His sales results were always low and he was eventually fired for poor sales.

I’m not advocating that you ignore the basics of customer service – these are important. But remember that Nick was hired to sell a product. This was essential. Most of the other things he did were unnecessary.

Make your motto for the day simple:
Identify the essential and eliminate the rest.


One of my favourite poems was penned by William Wordsworth – a true naturalist. The poem is titled “Expostulation and reply”. To expostulate means to reason with someone regarding an issue. The person speaking to him does not understand how William can sit idly in nature.

William is not being idle though. He spends time in nature to contemplate its immensity; to study it, to become closer to it, and to learn from it. William’s reply grants an insight into what it could feel like when we remember how to connect with nature.

Here is the first stanza from the original poem.

“WHY, William, on that old grey stone,
Thus for the length of half a day,
Why, William, sit you thus alone,
And dream your time away?”

That’s an excellent question. Why would anyone choose to fritter time away when there are so many things that need to completed on the To Do List. You may have noticed that this blog is named Autonomous Will. It was named after this William.

I have been rewriting this poem in my mind for the past 10 years, and want to share one version with you. The poem continues with William’s friend Matt urging him to get back to the real world.

“You stare at clouds, the sky so blue,
As if they held a secret.
Forgetting quick the night curfew,
And losing Self this evening.

Trapped in time, I see you still,
Come now; cease this nonsense.
Let go friend of this placid hill,
There’s naught but trees in forests.”

I looked my friend Matt look over quick,
And pondered my reply.
He paced in space, his gait was swift,
In motion, but confined.

“Your mind dear Matt has lost its shine;
A void with large opacity.
Come sit with me upon this rock,  
And learn your great capacities.

In repose I sense, a minute spent
Gains you, a thousand lives.
A waste to most, few taste content,
Please listen, become wise.”

Furious Matt, retorted then,
“On this life you have no clue.
You waste the day, you hold a pen,
There are real jobs you should do.”

Fast forward now to present day,
Both Matt and I have grown,
We once had gone our separate ways,
Those journey’s led us home.

He saw me once more on this stone,
An old man sitting still,
A listless dread within his tone,
“Can I join you my friend Will?”

I said to Matt, “Of course you may,
This nature is our calling,
Just close your eyes and breathe away,
The pain that has you falling”

We sat in silence taking in,
The marvel of creation.
Matt’s eyes once dull from pain within,
Alight now with amazement.


What should you fear?

In my living room lives a large canvas with the following quote:

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live”

This is a quote from Marcus Aurelius book “Meditations” which is essentially a war journal. I read this when I was sixteen years old, and have gone back to it several times.

I think about this quote often. I wander if having a fear of living disguises itself as the fear of death. Perhaps we are not afraid to die, but we are more so terrified to live. Terrified to make choices that might cause a little uncertainty.

You might be in a situation where you want to start a business or find a new life partner but think about all of the possible reasons you could fail on your quest. You fear the infinite possibilities that your choices can bring.

So those dreams and goals get filed away into the back of your mind and slowly fade. The problem although is; they don’t disappear – you can constantly hear them and see them in the background. They eat away at you slowly and often.

You ask yourself “what if?”- Your life is not aligned with your spirit and when the end comes you will be unprepared.

How then do you start living?

I contemplate on my mortality frequently. In conversations with friends I often bring up the topic of death and those in my company begin to suspect that I suffer from some depression that I keep at bay with a positive exterior.

I think about the fact that I will soon die. One the most impactful authors and spiritual teachers I’ve had the privilege to learn from has been Wayne Dyer. He expressed a sentiment that more eloquently captured the essence of Marcus Aurelius’ message:

                Don’t die with your music still inside you.

Take action towards the fulfillment of your dreams, and if you meet failure along the path, that’s OK. Consider that the speed of your failure determines the probability of your success. The faster you fail – the more quickly you can learn, retool, and try again, bringing you one step closer to your goal.

My biggest fear is to die with my music still inside of me.

I want you to think about what your music is – what is the dream that’s calling you?

Contemplate for a moment about what a great shame it would be for you to die with that beautiful dream, and that joyful music still inside of you.

Motion Sickness

We are all just the hopeless victims of motion sickness.
Lacking focused stillness we diffuse our hope with potent illness.
Then when it’s time to move forward we feel fatigued,
In disbelief, that our dreams are unwilling to give reprieve;
Instead they shift and leave, never to return to you:
Got you questioning God like in some way he deserted you.
Did it occur to you that purpose could diverge from you?
You ignored the true cost of split focus, and it murdered you.
So you try to claw back to get on track but your fall back;
Is uninspiring and your times expiring so you fall flat.
You got all that? Life will cost and every action has a price,
In spite, inaction is more costly; decide.
Either you seek a vice, seek advice, or seek respite,
Deep insight can be gleamed if you peep inside.


We are all Sisyphus

“It’s too much” “Not again” “F**king hell” “This always happens to me”

Do you feel that like you are on an infinite do loop.

Action – outcome – action – outcome….

Why does it feel like we are on a running wheel?

I wander if our perception of our experiences is flawed.

Maybe we are not stuck on a loop doing the same sh*t forever. Working. Sleeping. Eating. Paying bills. Maybe the universe is giving us an opportunity to do it again until we get it right.

My Martial arts instructor used to tell me that he wasn’t impressed with my speed when I tried to show him a technique I had learned and practiced.

He wanted to see that I could do it flawlessly, slow. We often get bored because we think we have gotten good enough at something and stop trying to improve. At this stage it’s boring. At this stage we are disengaged and at this stage we are not at our best.

Sisyphus believed that he was smarter than Zeus (and did a whole lot of other dumb sh*t) – and Zeus devised a very innovative punishment. Sisyphus was made to push a heavy boulder to the top of a hill only to helplessly watch it roll back to the bottom – for eternity. Sounds pretty horrible right?

I think a lot of us feel like this in our every day lives.

But maybe, just maybe, Sisyphus wasn’t being punished. Perhaps he was presented with an opportunity to perfect this one skill. How good can you get at driving to work – changing lanes smoothly, and driving in a state of calm.

What about listening to your parents tell the same story for the fifth time? Can you listen more fully and appreciate new details and subtleties. Perhaps it’s your boss giving you the same shitty work to do – can you accept it more gratefully and then find a way to perform the task more effectively.

My only caution for this line of thinking is to not lose the simplicity and over complicate matters. If your process has three steps, and they are the best steps – just keep perfecting those.

Keep it simple, strive for excellence. Push that Boulder. Enjoy the loop. You’re ‘stuck’ on it whether you like it or not – may as well enjoy and get better at pushing it each day.

Things Fall Apart – Part 1

I have held onto my last memory of her forever,
Hoping it held the clue that would bring us back together,
I now realise I could never feed her hunger;
But beneath her eyelids,
Were the rocks that I chose to die under.

I have a tendency towards co-dependency
So now we live our lives together through memory.
I often press rewind and take a glimpse through time,
I can smell her sweet skin, sublime,
As she enters the doorway to my mind,

My pulse starts to race, as I see the outline of her face,
All I needed was a peek at the image,
The rest I can retrace,
But when did sin distort this purity?
Lost in thoughts, the cost of insecurity.

This girl now  drinks to feel empty,
The voices in her head – unfriendly,
Holding me accountable for plenty;
Of the emotions that consumed her,
And turned us to enemies.

She sits, greeting the rain through tear stained eyes
Dilated pupils, burnt crystals,
Entreating her demise.

Bitter from the years, sweat and tears dripped,
Pen dipped in ink, in an attempt to exorcise some fears,
She wrote me, and told me of how her world had collapsed
Once intact, now no way to get her confidence back, scarred,
Mental state attracts dark, and tract marks are proof of her trapped heart.


The Map

The maps coordinates help me to coordinate my feet,
Allowing me to sense two worlds,
                    One that I can see                           ,
And the other represented by lines on a sheet,
It is balance, in between these lines that I seek.

With map in hand, I have my own personal tour guide,
To help me direct my thoughts, during my short life.
Without the map, my minds eye would be blinded,
In search for the crown of Osiris, so I can live forever;
Minus the guidance of my map – how could I possibly find it?

Despite this, some maps are best kept undiscovered, left alone,
Or simply used as a stepping stone, or to get to home.
When confused with the territory, the map becomes infectious
The virus disconnects humans from their essence,
Feeling splendid at the thought of the sun, then numb in its presence.

The surgeon’s map of the body cannot account for the variations,
He must trust his eyes and hands to decode the reality that he is facing.
As well, the captain, of a ship can follow the lines on the page,
Then fail to react, when thought is required, to escape the wrath of the waves,
The problem with maps is they often become a substitute for the terrain.

A wise voice once spoke to me, “I wish to confide in you;
Your plans are only as reliable as the map that is guiding you.
Only by using the map and reality together, will you find your truth.”
I took this grand advice, and updated my GPS device,
My Great Powerful Soul became my map for devising my life,

I used its power to ignite the motor inside my heart,
Powerful paths, given birth by the curiosity to ask,
Two questions:
“How do I want it to end?”
And “where do I start?”.

My way home

Some thoughts trapped in moments,
I wonder if I had dropped to one knee instead;
Would I feel at peace with my emotions?
Or still wish my life would end?

I promised to love her forever,
Rightfully she claims I misled.
Convinced we would grow together,
The razor edge became a fork in the road instead.

First 3 years full of love, safe in the gift,
In time and space I melted, embraced by this bliss;
But even then I knew that something was missing,
Something about the way that we experienced love was different. 

When we talked about this, you promised to open up in time,
Patient to a fault, I stayed loyal by your side,
Nurture was part of our nature but information corroded,
When you told me that he forced you, I mentally exploded.

I pulled myself away, unsure how to act,
Finally came to understand why you could never love me back.
I took your hand and tried to pull you out of the abyss,
To free your mind, free your soul, but I was unable to do this.

So we stayed together in a hopeless place,
Holding onto hope that we could outrun our fate.
In this race, we have arrived at the line marked “finish”
In tears, holding each other close for one final minute.

This minute turned to hours, we grieved so deeply,
Free to love and trust again, perhaps now completely.