Alice in Texas

Not writing here anymore- see top post for details of my new blogs.

Friday, July 01, 2005

do what you have to do


I think this is possibly the best advice anyone ever gave me.

Note that it does not mean:
- do what you feel like doing
- do what makes you feel good
- do what you can justify
- do what you can persuade others to go along with
- do what you can coerce others into going along with
- do what you want.

Sometimes there are things we have to do even if it means being rejected, loathed and despised. But it seems to me that if you do what you have to do, things will very likely come together eventually: whereas if you don't, then they never can.


At 11:24 AM, Blogger Gil said...

So what does it mean?

It clearly does not mean:

-do what you cannot avoid doing

That would be useless advice.

So it must mean to do something you've decided is vitally important for you to do (because there are very few things that you literally "have to do".)

That doesn't strike me as remarkable advice.

It doesn't say anything about what criteria to use to identify those things. That's where advice gets hard.

Some people decide that it's vitally important for them to defend Palestinian weapons-smuggling-tunnels, or to kill forces supporting the new Iraqi government.

This advice would tell them to do it. Right?

If you interpret it to mean something like "Don't let irrational fears prevent you from doing what's right." then I don't have a problem with it. But, I think that would be clearer than "do what you have to do".

And, it would still leave out the hard part of identifying what's right, and could be used to encourage wrong people to do what's wrong.

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Gary Monro said...

It's great advice and sounds just like Stephen Covey's 'first things first'.

Tomorrow I have to visit my grandmother and I have to take my wife to a particular shop. There's no way I can not do these things and still have peace and contentment in my life. If I miss the first I'll feel lousy, if I miss the second then I'm for it.

So these are what I have to do. Tomorrow I also want to watch a movie I recorded and practise some yoga. But the quality of my life won't be degraded if I did neither because the tape will still be there Sunday and I could probably do with resting my muscles tomorrow anyhow.

But if I do what I have to do - and if I can do them sooner rather than later - then it'll be a good day.


At 1:32 PM, Blogger Alice said...

Gil- perhaps you would like to suggest an alternative expression which contains all the meaningful and useful content of "do what you have to do" but without any potentially-abusable ambiguity or badness?

Otherwise I could just erase the post, or add an addendum "Ignore the above, it is pointless"? Would that help?

Of course the expression means vastly more, in my opinion, than any of your analysis suggests. That should be obvious.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger Gil said...

I'm not sure.

Perhaps you could include some of the meaningful and useful content in the post, for people like me who don't see it.

Perhaps I'm a freak, but if I've decided that I have to do something, then that's what I do. I don't need advice to do it.

If I believed that I have to do it, but were the sort of person who would choose not to do it, I'm not sure how the advice would help me. Why would I follow the advice, if I wouldn't follow my own judgment?

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Alice said...

Gil, you are the only one complaining here, but if you want more advice, my advice about advice in general is, take it or leave it, entirely up to you.

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

I think Gil is saying he can't take the advice because he doesn't know what it means, especially if you don't mean it to be taken literally, which apparently you don't.

Since it seems Alice doesn't want to explain what she means, is there anyone else here who can explain what she means?

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Gil said...

That's right Stephen.

I'm really not sure what it means. Since it's the best advice Alice ever received, I'm inclined to reject theories that don't constitute good advice.

Right now, my best theory is that it means something like:

"Don't let things (irrational fear, bad habits, laziness, etc.) divert you from doing what's important."

But, I'd like some confirmation. Perhaps it means something else entirely.

I'm really not trying to be annoying, and I'll just "leave it" if that's what Alice prefers. I was really just engaging with the idea and attempting get what I can from the advice.


Post a Comment

<< Home