Serve the purpose, not the anchor

From YANSS 143 – How to Talk to People About Things, You Are Not So Smart (2018-12-17):

[18:12] Even though they were like, "Here, we have a solution to your problem", you're like, no, I'm already latched onto this other position. Even though that position doesn't fix my problem, but you get fixated on it, right? And I think we do that all the time. So one thing that happens there is I got fixated on a position and we lost track of our underlying interests. The other thing that we did was that we made the situation antagonistic in a way that was really costly because—and this something people do all the time too—you take a situation and you make it more and more antagonistic and lose track of the fact that that's not going to serve your purpose well.

Let's put the sidenote as the frontnote here: Many of the things that I intentionally listen to or read are targeted at fixing things in my sphere of influence—typically right at me, the very origin of that sphere.

That said, when I heard that passage above while driving down Lindbergh Boulevard, it was like a giant neon sign with the words HERE IS SOMETHING OBVIOUS YOU SHOULD KNOW BUT DON'T lit up in front of me. Both halves of that passage describe things that I do when I run into conflict situations: (1) abandon the Ultimate Purpose for the Thing I Latched Onto; and (2) get competitive to Win The Argument, thereby fouling the environment for actually getting What I Want.

The first one is interesting. It's called anchoring and to some degree, it's going to catch you even if you know it's there trying to catch you. Once that anchor point is set in your head (this house is worth $200,000; I'll finish this project on Thursday; etc.) it becomes the point against which you measure the rest of the information about that thing. Even if the new information proves your anchoring point wrong, your brain doesn't want to adjust.

The first one is annoying, but the second one is embarrassing: have you ever got caught up in a short term conflict—I am going to win this argument, I am going to prove I'm right, etc.—just to find the forest around you on fire, with no path to escape? Buddy, I live in that forest, and all my stuff smells like smoke. It's so obvious to see, now, when the amygdala doesn't feel provoked, but when it is... game on. Some of my role models at work are the ones that know which skirmishes to avoid blowing up into a full-out battle as a strategy to win the larger struggle. That's also one of the feelings I remember from reading Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. So I suppose the point is not just avoiding unnecessary antagonism, but also having a larger purpose on the horizon to reach, to help from reacting to the flareups that occur on the way there.


Postscript

The other person in this podcast episode is Misha Glouberman. He runs a regular lecture in Toronto called Trampoline Hall. The first part of the podcast is (I think) the stock introduction to every lecture, in which the purpose of everything about the lecture—why you're there, how to learn, what a question is and isn't, etc.—is explained. Not going to transcribe it now, but I'm definitely going to steal it later and modify it for use on everything. It's a little pedantic, but to be honest, I think we'd all be a bit better off if we took more time to think and explain the what and why of what we're about to do, even if it's only to remind ourselves.

A week in review, 2018-W50

Wrote

  1. Email, the once and future king (2018-12-11)
  2. Facing outwards, on a self-imposed schedule (2018-12-12)
  3. Venture Cafe, 2 (2018-12-13)

Read

  1. Daniel Cossins, We thought the Incas couldn’t write. These knots change everything, New Scientist (2018-09-26). De la Vega was among many chroniclers who hinted as much, writing in one passage that the Incas “recorded on knots everything that could be counted, even mentioning battles and fights, all the embassies that had come to visit the Inca, and all the speeches and arguments they had uttered”. True, he was prone to ambiguity and contradictions. But about a third of the khipus in collections seem to have a more elaborate construction than the others, as if they contain a different sort of information. For decades the point was moot, however, because no one could read any of them.
  2. Richard M. Roberts and Roger J. Kreuz, Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language (2017). (notes) In a mental simulation, focusing on the process of what it will take to reach a goal results in better planning than focusing on the outcome of what will happen once the goal is achieved. Not only does such process-focused planning result in a greater probability of actually reaching the goal, it also reduces stress along the way. In other words, in deciding whether or not to study French, think about how each day must be structured in order to find the time to study, rather than how great it will be to toss off witty bons mots at the café Les Deux Magots.
  3. W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Fair Process: Managing in the Knowledge Economy, Harvard Business Review 75:4 (July-August 1997). (notes) Notice that fair process is not decision by consensus. Fair process does not set out to achieve harmony or to win people’s support through compromises that accommodate every individual’s opinions, needs, or interests. While fair process gives every idea a chance, the merit of the ideas—and not consensus—is what drives the decision making.

Listened

  1. Tim Ferriss: depression, psychedelics, and emotional resilience (EP.01), The Peter Attia Drive (2018-07-02). [...] Paul Conti, made this point to me, which was, "The way you treat yourself is ultimately how you will treat those you love most." And, you know, when he really pushed me to think about that, which is, "Do you want to be the guy who treats his kids the way you treat yourself?" It had to be put that way for me to think, "No." I mean, if I'm going to be brutally honest, I would not want to watch my kids get treated by another human the way I treat myself, even though I think it's good for me to treat myself this way. So again, I think the challenge is, by far the hardest part is getting people to accept that maybe what they're doing isn't the right thing [...]
  2. 660: Why It’s So Hard to Sell New Products, HBR IdeaCast (2018-12-11). (notes) In general, I'd say the best reps focus really on the client side, in understanding what the client's challenges might be in buying a new product. Whereas, the lower performing reps, when it comes to selling new products, focus almost exclusively on the product.
  3. Played on repeat: Rancid, Old Friend, ...And Out Come the Wolves (1995).

Photo

Wedding officiated by Cthulhu himself

Upcoming

Venture Cafe, 2

Venture Cafe, 1 (2018-10-19)

I've been helping out at Venture Cafe for about two months now. It's pretty easy work: help people check in and get registered, and then help serve drinks at the bar. In two months I've helped maybe six or seven times. I'ts nnot all that much—and it's easy to compare "much" because the printed name tags have your name and the number of times you've attended—but today I noticed something different. Once you go often enough, you recognize the other people there—the staff, the volunteers, the regular attendees. Today, though, I noticed that other people recognized me—the staff, the volunteers, the regular attendees.

I know it's obvious—it takes time. You see people, they see you, the connections get stronger, the memories set in a little deeper. Obviously, obviously. But as time drifts on by, I feel the pull simultaneously towards patience and impatiences with regards to connections. On the one hand, there's the running-out-of-time feeling that biases behavior towards impatience. If I don't get this done now I'll never have time to get it done. (That's a sentence that felt so much more urgent in my head, but now that I've typed it, I can't help but think: so what? Don't have enough time to get it done? Maybe that's the best news there is—let it go.) On the other hand, there's the I've-seen-this-movie-before feeling that biases behavior towards moving deliberately, that there is an other side of what you're going through—if you believe in it.

Outside of home, it feels good to be connected to the area. In DC, it was the people I knew; in Massachusetts, it was that plus 826 Boston; in LA, it was the people at work. Some things had the force of a movement and some were late night mistakes and some were pickup basketball, but they all felt like foundations—like things you could build something on. It's good to feel that again.


Postscript

I'm a July cornfield far as you can see. I'm a July cornfield far as you can see. And if you real careful, you can walk on top of me. (Ah, you got to believe though. Now first you get your one foot up there, and then you gotta get your other foot up there. Easy now...oops, you didn't believe.)

—Greg Brown, "Out in the Country", The Iowa Waltz (1981)

Facing outwards, on a self-imposed schedule

Taking a cue from The First 90 Days (notes), I set up some regular 15-minute meetings with people at work—every other week with my manager, which I think handles the more business-like aspects of work, and then also staggered bi-weekly meetings with the two technical experts I take directions from, which handles the functional aspects of work. I guess that's not groundbreaking—my wife has been doing that at work for over a year now so I guess I... wasn't listening?—but I had never done that before. I just did the usual work-required performance management cycle type things: set up some arbitrary goals at the beginning of the year, get judged specifically against them at the end. (Go through an annual performance reviews or sit Fear Factor style in a bathtub full of snakes... tough call.)

I'm just under three weeks into a stint on a new team, so I've only had two of these kinds of meetings and therefore really can't say whether it works performance-wise or not, but I can say that just having to approach one of these meetings makes a world of difference. Now I have to prepare myself to ask or answer three to five questions about what's going on, what's on deck, what I ought to be doing or learning, etc., every week. So, it's just like signing up for a race: I might dabble with running regularly just to Stay In Shape™, but if there's a discretely defined race in the future, then I'm gearing up for performance. Then, even if it's still fun to do how I want to do it, it's still serious and the upcoming ends are supported by the everyday means.

It also gets at another thing that I really don't like: measuring what I'm working on and then talking about it. Without forcing myself to surface periodically and explain what I'm doing, I might have a tendency to quietly work on things, pulling people in when I need them but otherwise not bothering them (they're busy also), which has the outward appearance of not looking like much is going on even if the end result is presented as it ought to be. Setting up a regular meeting obliterates that wall.

And, to be honest, it is interesting to approach a new gig after faceplanting on the previous one—and I don't mean faceplanting like there was a hidden dip that I didn't see and stepped into but more like that one time I tried to jump a bike off of the loading dock of the ElectriCOIL Lab and just flew ass-over-teakettle into the asphalt below. We've all had that experience before, right? (No, not the specific one, but you know what I mean.) Professionally, I've never taken a horrible experience—of my own making or not—and projected it on a wall and made a conscious plan to do Better. I was going to say "never" more globally, but I remember two cases in other contexts where I did this: (1) after freshman year in college, when my BAL was probably higher than my GPA for much of the year, I overhauled the way I took notes and studied for class, and added a full grade level sophomore year; and (2) after bombing at the 2011 Ozark Trail Endurance Run, I put together a linear and demented (mileage-wise) training plan to go sub-24 hours at Western States after I got in the lottery for that, and then I went 22:32 for a silver buckle. So it's possible, I just never thought about it like that. It's like the opposite of a gambling problem, where instead of forgetting the losses and remembering the wins, I tend to remember the losses and forget the wins.


Postscript

I had completely forgot that I took up WSER on their offer to pick my own race bib number when I registered. I picked #80—my birth year but also, more importantly, Jerry Rice's jersey number. That's just what I did for senior year in high school football, where I borrowed jersey #80 for senior pictures, and then just kept it for the season.

Email, the once and future king

I was talking in this direction to someone recently—so let's allow David Heinemeier Hansson to kick off this riff:

Inconvenient fact.

There are a few different levels on which this has, for me, proven to be true. I'll limit it to three: work, personal, and groups. (I think there must be a better word than "groups", but I can't think of it—I mean the organizations we involve ourselves in voluntarily in our spare time.) And, for me, personal and work don't matter so much because I'll do what is asked of me in either case, out of respect (and because I like to get paid). The destruction of group communication is a bit more annoying though.

For me, the avatar of this inevitable retreat to email as a format of choice is a good friend and good person who once told me not to email him anymore because he was moving to Facebook Messages (not yet Messenger, I think, but maybe I'm old and remember it wrong), and that was the future and email was dying. That was ten years or so ago. And the referent person here—still good on all accounts—has taken the inevitable Facebook break and so on. Take that times Twitter as a communication platform, any federated service, anything with blockchain in the description, and so on. The promises of the bulk of the new systems far outweighed the reality.

The platform is not the problem—or the solution. Facebook Messenger is useful, but it ceases to exist outside the Facebook castle walls. Same thing with [name your service]. But email? I have a file full of @uiuc.edu emails from Ye Olde College days, and any email account I've added to my desktop client also has a backup. I ought to add: none of these things are valuable in any abstract sense, but if I needed the information I could retrieve it, versus any other platform where the messages are hosted on the platform, and if I or the platform quit each other—poof—gone.

Anyway. None of that was what I was talking about with a colleague; rather, it was this: we all just went through a weird near-decade-long period where it was possible to run an organization on Facebook alone. It was almost easy. Maybe it's still like that, but it's not as easy now that Facebook, even though it's basically a public utility at this point, is sufficiently toxic that it's hard to get an entire group's membership inside the castle walls. So, in making itself indispensable and sucking the oxygen out of the surrounding environment, then making itself dispense-worthy—I can't make a sentence out of this, I just mean to say that it ruined communication with groups, and I haven't figured out how to repair it except to behave as though that period of temporary ease never existed.

Email, on the other hand, is still there.

And email is, essentially, same as it ever was.

And it will be—tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Why?

...

In the final analysis, maybe we just needed to send each other a damned message, and we didn't need a platform or a way of life or a cult or a solution or whatever. Facebook is only a platform, but a good email is a communication.

(I still have a Facebook account, and I use it daily, but I only use it to fart around.)


Small consolation to me was the homely wisdom of the philosopher, to wit: A woman is only a woman, but a good Ford is a car.
—Edward Abbey, "Disorder and Early Sorrow", The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West (1977)

A week in review, 2018-W49

Wrote

Read

  • Rebecca Schuman, the Rollins paradox, ask a gen-xer (2018-11-08). Arguments over the "integrity" of punk rock — wherein something truly punk is supposed to be utterly devoid of ca$h money in homage to its progenitors’ limited means, when in reality punk was a protest cry from people with limited means, against Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan or whatever, for sticking them with those limited means in the first place—are generally made from the comfort of someone’s home by clothed and fed people who have enough fucking spare time to argue about something so ridiculous.
  • David Cain, The Simple Joy of "No Phones Allowed", Raptitude (2018-11-13). I imagine that in another decade or two we’ll look at 2010s-era device use something like we do now with cigarette smoking. I was born in 1980, and I remember smoking sections on planes, which is unthinkable today. I wonder if today’s kids will one day vaguely remember the brief, bizarre time when people didn’t think twice about lighting up a screen in the middle of a darkened concert hall.
  • Michael Engelhard, Moving Pictures from the Permafrost, Utne Reader (2018-12-09). Film is, quite literally, social memory, this award-winning auteur insists. “When we lose filmic record, we lose the memory that these things occurred.” Film also has an uncanny power to resurface, which allows reexamination and re-contextualization.
  • Karen Han, In Praise of Tom Waits, Character Actor, The Ringer (2018-11-20). There’s an ease to Waits’s work in Buster Scruggs that makes it seem like it might just be what straddles the line between the two mediums—or come closest to really defining what Waitsian might mean—as his growl pitches high, low, and all over the place in his search for gold.
  • Robert H. Waterman, Jr., Thomas J. Peters, and Julien R. Phillips, Structure Is Not Organization, Business Horizons 23:3 (1980-06). (pdf) (notes) In other words, the rules we use in order to get on with it in big organizations limit our ability to optimize anything.

Listened

  • Dave Eggers Reads Sam Shepard, The New Yorker: Fiction (2018-12-01). [32:45, Dave Eggers] This is what I think attracts a lot of people, and always has attracted people to this country, is just how much room there is, you know, the interstate highways, and you really can go drive off and never see anybody you've ever known again. And I love that as sort of a concept, and I also like the concept that maybe sometimes people are just going—not necessarily running away, but going because instead of going from something or running from something or going to something, I like the idea of allowing him or anybody to go without motive or without a reason.
  • The Thirty Years War, In Our Time (2018-12-06).
  • Spousal Birthday Gift Becomes $40,000 Card Game, Side Hustle School (2018-12-04).

Watched

gǒushísān狗十三 (Einstein and Einstein) (2013)

Photo

new shirt

Upcoming

permafrost, internet archive

There's a post that's been sitting here in draft form for months that I think may never see the light of day. I can't find the right words to finish it. In short, I found the files from my students.uiuc.edu website on a backup disk. They were gone—I must have deleted them to save space—but they survived. It was a lucky break to find them because they weren't captured on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. Trust me. I spent hours looking for evidence of that site, and other sites I had created on the 90s internet. I don't understand what that period causes so much tension when I think about it; see also: AOL Instant Messenger Is Away. It's silly, but that piece bleeds.

I'm going to leave that all alone for now—if I finish it, I finish it. If not, well, so what?

Recently I read two disparate articles that made me think of this terminal draft piece:

Both articles struck a hidden nerve. Why? First, an urge I can't explain except to say that I have it and it's there: the urge to preserve information. It feels awful to lose it—whether it's Brazil's national museum burning down or reading about the destruction of all but a literal handful of Mesoamerican records by the Spanish or old, old books that we know about today only because they are referred to in other books... It feels like a personal thing lost when collective information like that is obliterated. Knowing something—really really knowing something—feels like a permanent state that can't be erased, and when it is erased, it's like cutting out a load-bearing column.

The permafrost article is about finding a cache of old, forgotten movies from 1903 to 1929 in an old, forgotten, filled-in gym swimming pool in Alaska. The Internet Archive article is sort of the opposite: the Internet Archive itself is a remembered cache of media—but if you have the lawyer money to make an inconvenient part of that cache disappear, you can do so.

There is something about media—movies, books, the internet— that seems permanent. If I can see something and you can see something and others can see something, then that's permanent, right? We can objectively say that a thing exists and has always existed and will always exist, right? I really think that is an obvious and natural position to take. But after searching for my own recent, once-publicly-available history, I know it's not right. A thing exists if it exists; but a thing that existed without currently existing... the problem is different.

I've seen dinosaur bones but not a dinosaur: I believe dinosaurs existed. I've never seen any people on the moon but I believe they were there. Thousands of movies were made in the 1900s but are now lost, and I believe they existed, but it really seems that something as compact and portable as a movie should have been preserved. But that's not the case, eh? Dig in: Paul Harris, Library of Congress: 75% of Silent Films Lost, Variety (2013-12-04).

Why does it matter that we existed? That we created something?

Stephen Crane (1899):

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

What does the universe know anyway? Most people consume. I consume. There's no need to record consumption. But creation? Record that. Protect that. Creating something is holy. Being human is more than who you are and what you have. It's the aggregation of the entire body of work.


See also: Paul Auster, Leviathan (1992)

Buffett as a solution to the buffet problem

Maybe there's another way to think about not getting caught up in the buffet problem. Here's an episode of Charlie Rose with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates that made me think of this—video and pertinent transcript below. So, for a single attribute—call it structuredness (sorry)—you could end up hitting the information buffet too hard both by being overstructured and understructured.

Overstructured is planning what information needs to be collected, and then sticking to it dogmatically even when it turns out to be unnecessary, or the wrong path to follow, etc. This is me when I read a book—you'd think there were Serious Consequences to leaving a book unfinished the way I plow ahead through books that I really don't want to finish. Let's leave this thread alone.

Understructured is the opposite—going in without a plan. Although it sounds sloppier, I think it breaks down again into two paths: sloppy and exploratory. Sloppy is just straightahead unthinking consumption. One more link, one more article, one more dinner roll—if you can reach it, put it in your face.

Exploratory is different. I mean "exploratory" in the same manner as "experimenting"—and "experimenting" in the scientific way of thinking about the problem and what needs to be evaluated to understand the problem, not "experimenting" as in just throwing something out there and seeing what happens. The latter is the sloppy path. The former has purpose. That's what I took from the interview below. I don't think that Warren Buffett leaves himself big blocks of unstructured time and blows it by stumbling through links and citations and whatever else is available at the information buffet. (I might be giving him too much credit... but what's the worst that could happen by just assuming that someone is a genius because they're rich?) But to have free time and a hypothesis or two to test, and an idea or two how to prove the hypothesis false, and a good method or two to collect the data and reduce it to information... that would be even more powerful than assuming you know enough to plan all steps of the path forward because—surprise—you don't, and you'll miss all sorts of useful side paths because the plan called for Straight Ahead.

[15:40, Bill Gates] I also remember Warren showing me his calendar. You know, I had every minute packed and I thought that was the only way you could do things. And the fact that he is so careful about—he has days.

[...]

[16:10, Charlie Rose] This is the week [sic] of April, of which there are only three entries for a week.

[...]

[16:20, Charlie Rose] So it taught you what, not to crowd yourself too much and give yourself time to read and think and...

[16:24, Bill Gates] Right. You control your time. And that sitting and thinking may be a much higher priority than a normal CEO, where's there all these demands and you feel like you need to go and see all these people. It's not a proxy of your seriousness that you fill every minute in your schedule.

[16:48, Warren Buffett] And people will want your time. I mean, it's the only thing you can't buy. I mean, I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can't buy time.

Structure is not organization

Here's a paper I just finished reading, and I recommend to you:

Robert H. Waterman, Jr, Thomas J. Peters, and Julien R. Phillips, Structure is not organization, Business Horizons 23:3 (1980-06). (pdf) (notes)

I found this one as a reference in The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins (notes) in the section on securing early wins. That section boils down to: you really need to understand how your organization is put together, and how the various components and functions affect each other, in order to make change work.

This paper is (I think) the source of the McKinsey 7S Framework—the seven S's being:

  1. Structure
  2. Strategy
  3. Systems
  4. Skills
  5. Style
  6. Staff
  7. Superordinate goals

I think that list of traits is mostly obvious, in a subconscious way, but people tend to focus on (1) structure and (2) strategy. I'm not sure what fallacy it is, but I understand the tendency toward thinking that if I just organize a group of people or an organization in a certain way, then a successful outcome will just fall out of it. "If you build it they will come", right? Similarly for strategy: all we ever need is a good plan and we're all set to win.

Structure is king. Strategy is king. We've all experienced how the outcome really goes when we push the lever all the way in either direction.

[p. 17] Our assertion is that productive organization change is not simply a matter of structure, although structure is important. It is not so simple as the interaction between strategy and structure, although strategy is critical too. Our claim is that effective organizational change is really the relationship between structure, strategy, systems, style, skills, staff, and something we call superordinate goals.

One of the important things that the drive for the One True Strategy or Structure completely misses is the importance of the people involved in crafting the ideas and, even more importantly, grinding and polishing them until the ideas work. To forget that is inhumane.

[p. 24] We are often told, “Get the structure ‘right’ and the people will fit” or “Don’t compromise the ‘optimum’ organization for people considerations.” At the other end of the spectrum we are earnestly advised, “The right people can make any organization work.” Neither view is correct. People do count, but staff is only one of our seven variables.

Anyway, the lasting thought I had after reading this is: for complex systems, it's not likely that there's just one factor you need to adjust to fix something that's out of balance. But that's obvious, no? Of course. Who doesn't understand that by intuition, let alone experience? But the 7 S's are a nice, simple basis for a checklist or template to consider when planning to make a change that affects a complex system. (And by "simple" I don't mean it's simple to change anything complex, but that having a short list is as simple as you can hope for.)

A very quiet moment as a solution to the buffet problem

What's the opposite side of the buffet problem? I think it's either (a) practicing the mature person's Art of Discretion when choosing where to invest attention or (b) a Very Quiet Moment.

I don't have much to say or think about (a) without turning it into a research project on decision analysis. (read these, if you're interested in it.) It's a fascinating topic, trying to understand the logic behind the dumb decisions one makes... presumably to make better ones, but it's perhaps more fun to rubberneck the bad ones, smoldering in the median, as they recede in the rearview mirror. Just writing and writing that sentence is an insight into the problem: if the problem is signing up for more work than one can do, focusing on the decisions that precede the work is just shifting the burden, not lightening it.

So: if avoiding the buffet problem is the goal, surrounding oneself in the absence of things to choose might be a better way. Escaping to the wilderness? Not quite—past life. For a few months in 2016, I tried Headspace guided meditation, if only due to susceptibility to podcast advertisements. I don't know if it helped—I don't even know what hypothesis to test to see if it helped—but there's one thing I do know after trying it: it's nearly impossible to be still.

The easiest test is to sit somewhere quietly and concentrate only on breathing. In out etc. Try to get to ten without thinking of anything, lightly guiding the mind away from encroaching thoughts back into some cold dark quiet center. Three times—maximum. Usually less. Three times of concentrating only on that spot in your head where the air catches some turbulence when you breathe in through your nose, and after that the small thoughts that were pawing at the closed door of your mind like a cat burst in and fill the space. The chief one—the one I'm most conscious of after it breaks in—is the one that says "Let's use this time for something productive, let's get something done while we're sitting here". This is pointed 180° from the desired direction. I understand that it's possible to get to 10 and beyond. It's difficult to imagine the discipline to do it, but it's not hard to imagine it's the same kind of discipline needed to avoid the buffet problem.


Because thoughts lead to thoughts... I remembered that I have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita (भगवद्गीता, bhagavad-gītā), a good not-flowery translation (compare to the alternatives...) by Barbara Stoler Miller. I've had it for over ten years, it's tiny, yet I've never finished it. I couldn't get into it—too much abstract stuff about non-action, self, discipline, etc. Anyway, I dug it up and gave it a quick pass. Chapter 6, verses 35-36:

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् ।
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते

असंशयं महाबाहो मनो दुर्निग्रहं चलम् ।
अभ्यासेन तु कौन्तेय वैराग्येण च गृह्यते

I don't read Sanskrit either—here is Miller's translation:

Without doubt, the mind
is unsteady and hard to hold,
but practice and dispassion
can restrain it, Arjuna.

In my view, discipline eludes
the unrestrained self,
but if he strives to master himself,
a man has the means to reach it.