Losing My Precision

While I'm still in counselling, I don't have leftover energy for little issues anymore. Therapy grounds me to focus what's important because the pointless things of life can easily drain me. I have to remain agile to keep moving forward because even the littlest burdens can tip me over the edge.

I make a coffee every day, and there's a very detailed process to it -- a system, a routine. I turn on my espresso machine with the portafilter installed; flush the group head into my cup; stop flushing once the boiler starts reheating the water; weigh my beans to 14.0 grams; grind them in my Baratza Virtuoso Preciso (8A setting); tamp it with 30 lbs. on my 58.0 mm tamper; then extract it across 25-30 seconds until my shot of espresso is 2 ounces. If I make a latté, I measure out 10 ounces of milk, stretch the milk for 7 seconds, then spin it until it reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

I used to obsess about the granular details of how to make the very best coffee, but over time, I grew weary of the pressure. I drink hot liquids in the morning normally to soothe my throat because I used to be sick a lot and mornings always came with a lot of phlegm. Now that I'm not sick all the time, I don't necessarily need to have the very best coffee in the morning. What's important is that it's getting me caffeine, I'm enjoying the cup during my slow morning, and it pairs nicely with my breakfast. All the energy that went into making coffee took away from what I could have used to make food, so for my most important meal of the day, I basically just had a big cup of milk. Needless to say, I had a low return on investment for my morning routine. Now I just make Americanos (espresso and hot water) because the milk slows me down, and I have a peanut butter sandwich. It's not a great breakfast, but it's a start and much better than nothing.

Cool story, bro, but maybe I should use a more useful example.

I'm a perfectionist. I try to manage it, so when I don't, it ruins my life. I played piano growing up, and I loved losing myself for two hours working on a passage within one of my pieces. I loved the regularity of it, with lessons every week, lying to my teacher about practicing 30 minutes every day, playing with the metronome. It created a strong foundation for picking up the drums, which I also loved playing. Turns out that by nervously bouncing my legs whenever I sat down since I was a kid, I was actually training myself to play the kick drum and hi-hat. For my birthday, I want a Rock Band drum set, please.

Perfectionism is amazing when it's functional, but more often than not, it is destructive. The Internet has given us better access to amazing people who perfected their craft and broadcasted it on YouTube, but for me, I often get lost in an activity, tweaking and tuning every little variable to my satisfaction, which occupies a lot of time and energy.

I'm really ashamed to be writing about this honestly, but it's a sore spot for me when I get dismissed as an Apple fanboy. I thought I heard you laughing. I know that I struggle to trust my own judgement and not care what people think, but it's still hard for me. I try to evaluate honestly what each company is good at, but I'm pretty sure most people hate Apple because Steve Jobs was arrogant. Trauma victims struggle to trust their own senses, so one area this weakness manifests itself in me is in my admiration for Apple. I always thought it was other people who needed convincing, but it's really myself who I was trying to convince. They are executing on a scale unlike any other company in history, eg. Most revenue and profit per employee, but even that wasn't enough to convince me to trust my own judgement. I'm not here to convince anyone why Apple is cool because it's enough for me to believe it on my own. Besides, I'm following some brilliant people who not only share but also challenge me to look deeper into my Apple fanboyism, eg. Benedict Evans, Jan Dawson, Neil Cybart, Ben Bajarin, and Horace Dediu, to name a few. Plus, judging from my web analytics, most of my readers use iPhones and Macs, so I'm in good company. =D

I bring up Apple because they somehow manage to be functional perfectionists. If I don't have the drive to chase after the little details anymore, then what hope is there for me? Instead, life comes into fuller view when you (pinch to) zoom out and see that there are better ways of living. There's an urgency to my life now that filters out all the unimportant stuff, and that leaves room for the most important stuff, which is picking up Carrie after school.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le