About Mental Clarity, Focus, and Seeing Perfect Rows of Trees

This Week’s BIG Idea

It Might Get Loud is a 2007 documentary about the electric guitar and it features a series of interviews with three of the most accomplished musicians of the past few decades: Jack White, the Edge, and Jimmy Page. Although I loved the documentary from beginning to end and I watched it several times throughout the years, there’s one segment that resonated with me. At one point during the film, U2’s the Edge talks about the difficulties of composing music and he compares it to exploring a forest. You look from one perspective and all you see is a mess of trees in no particular order. But by looking at the same forest from a different angle, you realize that all the trees line up in perfect rows. By doing that, you can achieve an elusive phenomenon known as mental clarity. This is what the famous musician says:

“When you go past a managed forest. You see a mass of tree trunks. Then at a certain point, you look again. You realized they’re all in perfect rows. Clarity. Clarity of vision. What you’ve been looking at from the wrong angle and not seeing at all. You labor, you sweat to see what you couldn’t have seen from that other perspective.” The Edge

I’ve been thinking about this idea of achieving mental clarity for quite some time. Although I couldn’t put it into words at first, my mind has been in a confused state for years. It wasn’t until I decided to disconnect from the internet more often and I started practicing meditation and journaling consistently, that I’ve been getting “aha” moments like the one the Edge mentions in the documentary. Of course, most people aren’t necessarily working on their next masterpiece (the guitar player found that moment of clarity when he composed Sunday Bloody Sunday, one of U2’s most famous songs), but that doesn’t make the pursuit of mental clarity less satisfying or important.

There are moments when you approach a problem and all you see is a series of seemingly disorganized ideas. But by taking the time to change that perspective, you can find out that the right ideas have been there all along and you just had to connect them. Moments like this come when you least expect them, but usually in quiet moments such as when you’re taking a shower, when you’re engaged in deep work, or when you’re exercising. Author Chris Bailey calls this Hyperfocus, a phenomenon where you’re so immersed in a task that you forget about everything else, including the passage of time.

What I’m Working on

I’m currently designing next year’s bullet journal, as well as a notecard system where I can keep some of the directives and lessons I’ve learned from books. Since I’ve talked about this at length in previous newsletters, I’m going into too much detail this time. It’s going well though and these are also tools to achieve mental clarity. I’m enjoying the process of working with analog systems, something I haven’t done since I was a kid.

What I’m Listening to

Productivity-wise, I haven’t listened to much. I’ve been thinking a lot about the podcasts I listen to since most of the episodes on my Pocket Casts playlist have been there for a while. I might make some changes soon, but I keep coming back to this song for whatever reason. Since I usually listen to it after posting articles, this song has become a sort of celebratory theme for me.

What I’m Reading

  • 3 months to No. 1 by Will Coombe: I recently finished reading 3 Months to No. 1, a book about SEO. The best part about it is that the book is a detailed guide on how to implement search engine optimization into your website or blog. While I already knew most of the topics discussed in the book, I’m glad I read it nonetheless. Here’s a summary.
  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris: I recently watched a video by Rowena Tsai where she recommends a series of books. One of those books was 10% Happier by Dan Harris. I heard about 10% Happier for so long that I finally decided to give it a chance. Luckily, the book doesn’t disappoint. In 10% Happier, Harris talks about his unconventional journey through self-help. He worked on national television but he always dealt with depression and anxiety. As part of his job, he interviewed a series of gurus and discovered of Buddhism and meditation. I highly recommend this book and I intend to post a summary on the website soon.

What I’m Watching

This is the video I mentioned before where content creator Rowena Tsai recommends many books. I love these kinds of videos and I’ve kept this one on my YouTube watch list for quite some time. If at any point I want to read a book, I might watch it again to look for recommendations.

This Week’s Quote

“We are what we do repeatedly.”


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