Morning Coffee #52: The Kansas City Shuffle… aka When Everybody Looks Left, Snap Their Necks

There is a concept called via negativa which was first brought to my attention by the mathematical statistician and essayist, Dr. Nicholas Nassim Taleb. The idea is that if you don’t know what to do, know what you should not do. I find it interesting because people generally get into this state of confusion of knowing what to do and how to get it done. That state of fogginess is not new to me so I tend to adopt via negativa most times when I feel that way. Except that I have added my own twists in term of human nature.

Humans are creatures of habit and as much as this sounds like a cliche, it seems more accurate the more I observe my life and others. If you take some time to write down your daily activities and behaviours, you will find that there are somethings that happen again and again due to certain triggers. The writer of Atomic Habits, James Clear, said that habits are basically formed by our responses to triggers and when we enjoy the feedback from our actions, we will most likely perform them again until it becomes a habit. Enjoyment doesn’t necessarily have to be positive, using myself as an example. I cannot state this enough. I enjoy being angry. In fact, sometimes I find myself getting angry when I have been too excited and happy for a long period. Yes, it is an unhealthy way of living and I am still working on it. The point is, when we enjoy doing things, we will do them regularly.

Which brings me to my twist of the via negativa concept. I call it the Kansas City Shuffle based on the 2006 crime thriller Lucky Number Slevin. I have noticed that a lot of people do certain things that hinder their progress and by taking into consideration their habits, they tend to act a script in different situations. And knowing a lot of people are below average and don’t generally make attempts to be better, I decided to do the opposite of what they do aka when they go right, I go left. Obviously, it’s not literal but it makes me aware of my actions and why I am doing whatever I’m doing. If everyone does something and I am aware that it is the right thing to do at the moment e.g. running away from a burning building, I will go ahead. However, if everyone around me was panicking over something that is yet to happen, I will most likely tell myself to apply the Kansas City Shuffle.

It sounds sweet on paper (or digital media) but it is a hard concept to practice. The first thing I had to do is practice being self-aware (not self-conscious). In most situations involving people, I do my best to be aware of myself in relation to my environment. It is easy for my mind to drift apart so it takes an extra effort to pull myself back and see things as they are and not letting myself be guided by my emotions. A recent example of this idea working for me was sometime last week when there was a water issue in the house. My neighbours went into the default mode of complaining about everything and not doing anything. It would have been so easy to join them since after all, na we we. But I had to go in the other direction, which was to not complaining and find a quick solution to the problem. The funny thing is that my solution did not work and I had to find another temporary one so that I could have water in my house while the major issue with the pumping machine is sorted out. Looking back, my neighbours weren’t going to do anything about it because they loved to complain about everything. But as soon as they saw me sorting myself out, it might have dawned on them that they needed to sort themselves out too.

The water issue still hasn’t been sorted but Kansas City Shuffle is in full effect. They are searching for water to buy right now. I had arranged for mine since yesterday and currently enjoying my cup of black coffee and writing.

In one sentence: I write for the sake of writing.