43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

It's not a bug, it's kung fu.

My wife has been using martial arts techniques on our children and it's made our lives a lot easier, especially around meal times. She's no martial artist, but has managed to master a technique called sui ren zhi shi, jie ren zhi li - one of the fundamental combat principles of taijiquan. The technique - and it's a killer one - is better known on the net in the really old joke, "That's not a bug - it's a feature!" I love it when this action works, and I want to teach myself how to do it more often.

Especially on the kids.

Literally, sui ren zhi shi, jie ren zhi li means "following someone's posture, borrowing someone's strength." When getting all fighty with the kung fu, it means using your body as the axle of a wheel and turning just so... which converts your opponent's momentum toward you into a goofy looking stumble in some other direction. Don't attack strength with strength, attack by turning strength in a more productive direction.

I get that from book learning and from doing a little push hands. My wife, she was just being hounded constantly by our very helpful little bundles of interruptions (ages 5 and 2.5) when it came time to cook a meal. "I wanna help, I wanna help, I wanna help!" they'd say, while grabbing for the good crystal and the razor-keen pizza slicer. I could only keep one of them occupied at a time, before the other would creep into the kitchen and strike up the chorus. "I wanna help!" And it was just as bad when I was doing the food prep and she was running interference. We're on a bit of a tight schedule (I work some nights), and we all have things we'd rather be doing - like diddling around with Photoshop and blogging software. Nothing was getting done. So, at the end of our collective tether, my wife, who is a genius, decided to let the kids help.

It worked.

It turned out to be far easier to teach the 5-year-old how to use sharp things safely (and with supervision) than to let her try on her own... or to turn the kitchen into a complete hands-off zone. And a 2-and-a-half-year-old is much happier sifting flour or kneading dough than toddling over to the hot stove top to see what's cooking up there. In fact, harnessing what had been a massive oppositional force - getting the kids to work in the kitchen instead of treating them as a dangerous distraction - freed up enough time for her to start diddling around with Photoshop and figuring out blogging software. Yeah, she turned them into a foodblog (it's called Junior Kitchen and is super cute). Leaving the blog aside, getting the kids to cook was the greatest parenting move I've ever seen.

So I'm curious how else people have made this thing work for them - taking bugs and turning them into features. Borrowing strength to get results. What are some other ways I can do this? Teach me how you made lemonade!

About grant

grant's picture


grant lives in a palatial suburban estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, surrounded by chickens, dogs, cats, children and semi-animate piles of clutter. Older, irregular writings on various topics can be found at Flying Fists, although lately he spends more time trying to get people to join him recording songs of discovery (and reading the latest weird science headlines) at The Guild of Scientific Troubadours.

He is an Aquarius, a vayu/kapha body type with a tendency to stagnant liver heat, and remembers when the internet was just a bunch of UFO enthusiasts and HAM radio nuts dialing up to local BBSes to post on something called FIDOnet.

His day job is writing about unexplained phenomena for Sun, a magazine that has yet to catch up with FIDOnet's amazing technological breakthrough, but can be found on dead trees in supermarkets nationwide.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »