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Stimulation and How I Learned to Love Dishwashing

When I bought a house ten years ago, I also bought place settings for six and silverware for twelve. Then I developed a minor fascination with bone China and bought settings for eight. I probably had four dozen glasses. About once a month or so, all of these dishes would be piled up in and around my sink, begging to be cleaned. I didn't have a lot of dinner parties-- I just hated doing dishes so much that I'd procrastinate until washing became a full day event. Those days were some of my least favorite.

A few days ago, I was doing the dishes for the six of us that ate dinner. There were pots, pans, plates, serving utensils, and glasses. The works. For the first time ever, I found myself enjoying doing the dishes. I could appreciate the warm water on my hands and the shine in the pot when it was clean. When I washed everything that wasn't dishwasher safe, I started handwashing the things that could have just gone in the dishwasher. It wasn't fun exactly, but it was so enjoyable that I actually found myself looking forward to washing the dishes the next day.

Work has become the same way. I don't love all aspects of it equally, but when I wake up and know I have a tough day ahead of me, I feel great. Pant of it is that I know the day will end with a nice chunk of progress made, but most of it is the actual act of working. I love it. I can't wait to face off with a bug that's been bothering me for weeks, trace it through all of our code, and fix it. It's relaxing, like an internal Swedish massage.

My friend Constance wrote me an email today. She was talking about me with her sister and some friends, describing my hyperfocus on work, learning, and other productive things. An excerpt from her email:

Close Your Eyes While You Climb

On The Best of Sett

Ninety percent of the challenge of being an entrepreneur is emotional. And I don’t mean being able to cope with long, stressful hours and grueling uncertainty, though there’s that too. What I’m referring to is the constant game of comparison that nobody talks about but that we’re all playing in our heads, day in and day out.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why this is. I don’t have the answer.

Sure, some of it may have to do with hedonic adaptation – humanity’s worst psychological quirk.  When the lottery winner spends all his money and is depressed when he’s thrust back into his old life? That’s hedonic adaptation. When the guy gets the girl of his dreams and, with his newfound confidence, goes after her cuter friend? That’s hedonic adaptation. Essentially, it’s the idea that happiness is a treadmill, not a marathon. Accomplishments don’t get you any closer to some end goal. Your expectations are cursed by the Red Queen, constantly pushing you back to the same place.

But that can’t be all of it. Hedonic adaptation might lead to depression, but it shouldn’t lead to envy. Here’s a thought: what if these adjusting expectations also affect how you compare yourself to others?

If you asked me a year ago about my goals for the past year, I’ve accomplished all of them. I’m working on interesting projects with people I love while traveling the world. I’m reading and writing and building and improving myself. But because I’ve entrenched myself in a community of such incredible people, my expectations for myself have adjusted too.

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