I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
In the same way, you have an opportunity to make people's lives better. You might shoot for the stars and try to change all of humanity, or you might have a menial job and just decide that you're going to work your hardest at it to give back through it. I bring all this up is to illustrate that work doesn't exist in a vacuum. It always impacts other people.
Let's say that you don't really care about paying things forward to humanity, and really just want to live the best possible life. Surely that means that you should just make a bit of passive money and go live in Thailand, right? Well, no. You can get superficial pleasure from anywhere, but in my personal experience as well as through conversations with other high performers, I've come to realize that deep lasting satisfaction comes from setting challenges and meeting them. Humans are wired for growth. And, sure, you can grow at any pace you want, but I've always believed that if you're going to do something that you care about, you should do it as well as you possibly can.
Work is a trial. It's the process of pushing up against resistance and conquering it, and then waking up again in the morning and doing it again. But it's not a bloody battle of attrition, it's a basketball player hitting the court every day, knowing that whether he's practicing with teammates or playing against another team, he's putting himself to the test and giving himself a chance at glory. That's how I feel when I work. It's hard, but it's exhilarating. I fee like I'm running down the court, improvising as I go, posting up as many points as I can until the buzzer goes off.
Your work is a true reflection of you. You will be judged by it, and as nice as it is to say that you shouldn't care what other people think, probably most of the people that you respect are very hard workers. If you want to befriend and spend time with these people, you will have to be respected by them. They don't care what your work is, only that you crush it. It's one person who's taking on the world giving a nod to another person who's taking on the world.
It's much easier to learn to love work if you start with something that you like, or at least something that you believe in. I have friends who love internet marketing, but most people who get into get-rich-quick fields like that hate it. They want the money, but they hate the work. You can work hard at it and learn to love it, but it's not an efficient path. Pick something that you like to do, or something that incorporates something that you like to do.
I like programming and I like building things, so programming was a good choice for me. When I started making SETT I was a bad programmer and certainly didn't love all of it, but there was a seed of love somewhere in there. Maybe for you it's writing or woodcarving or photography or grouse mating. If you want to learn to love working, pick something you like. If you can't think of anything you like that will make money, just pick something you like that won't make money. The skill of work is universal. I'm a mediocre programmer, maybe a four or five out of ten amongst people who work at programming. But you know what? I'm now really good at building programs, because I'm so good at working. So learn on a hobby if you have to. Maybe it will suprise you and turn into a business, but even if it doesn't, you'll have built the work habits to crush that next idea.
Many years ago I had a friend named Erik, who was a hypnotist. I remember telling him once about how I hated doing my dishes and how I would let them pile up for over a week before finally cleaning them. He told me that whenever I'm doing something, I should always focus on how I'll feel when it's done. Don't think about scrubbing gross dishes, think about how clean and nice the kitchen will feel. The same goes for work. Think about how you'll feel if you gve your project 100% and it becomes successful.
For SETT I think about how it will feel to see communities sprout up all over the internet, thanks to SETT. I think about the millions of readers of diferent blogs who make not even realize SETT is powering the blog they're reading, but they'll love that experience and become more engaged. I think about how I'll have the experience and credibility to help other entrepreneurs. I think about how I'll still live in my RV and serve as a living example of the beauty of minimalism. I think about how I'll make enough money that I'll be able to fly friends and family all over the world and show them some of my favorite places.
We all have different goals, but when I think about all that, I'm filled with excitement and motivation. That motivation is the fuel for my love of work.
Equally important is realizing that you will not reach your goals if you don't work harder than you currently know is possible. When I was twenty or so, I was cocky. I told plenty of people that I'd be a millionaire by twenty-five. It was so set in stone that I would be a millionaire that I didn't really even try. I was special, and people like me became millionaires. Special or not, I didn't become a millionaire because I didn't work hard enough at it. I had amazing opportunities-- I could have easily been rich if I had worked hard.
Your mind must accept a very absolute truth: if you work extremely hard, you'll probably get most of what you want, but if you work an average amount or less, you will not get what you want. Now look-- you can be happy with nothing. I'm not saying you can't be. If I was put in solitary confinement on Alcatraz right now for the rest of my life, and you could watch me through a video camera, you'd see me smiling the whole time. Happiness is great and it's important, but it's not all there is, especially your own personal happiness. Your goals don't even have to be financially motivated-- Ghandi didn't want money, but he worked extremely hard. The point is that hard work is a non-negotiable ingredient of any big goal. If you don't have big goals, then fine... don't work. If you do have big goals, there's a good chance you need to step it up and work a lot harder.
It's also important to address the work hard vs. smart issue. Shouldn't you just work smart? Yes, AND you should work incredibly hard at the same time. If you can work twice as smart as someone else, getting the same amount of work done in four hours that he would do in eight, that's awesome. But you should then work twelve hours a day so that you're getting six times as much done as him. Don't make the lazy choice of choosing one or another. Work smart, and work incredibly hard at it.
I stress all this and go on and on, because you need to realize that hard work is the only answer. It's not one of many options, it's the only option. When I explored Airman's cave, it took eight hours to get to the end of it. I was colapsing involuntarily, dehydrated, starving, and exhausted. If there was any option besides crawling miles back out to the entrance, I would have taken that option. But there wasn't, so I did it. That's how work is-- you need to mentally make it your only option, so that you push through it. And although you will eventually love work, you won't love it at first, but you will need to do it anyway.
The other reason I bring up understanding that work is the only way is because a big part of loving work is eliminating mental friction. When I had one way to get out of the cave, I focused on making my way through that tunnel, inch by inch. I didn't think about how much I hated it, because what would be the point? Same with hard work. You don't want your subconscious to distract you by offering alternatives. There are none. Work hard.
The biggest way to reduce friction is to adapt your work style to start with a plan every day. When you wake up in the morning, write down what you will do that day. If anything is unclear, set an alarm for ten minutes and don't stop strategizing on it for ten minutes. Let's say that I know I want to work on SETT, but don't know what specifically to do. If I just start working, there will be a lot of friction as I try one thing, jump to another, check something else, etc. If I take ten minutes and force myself to think it through, I probably won't have any good ideas for the first four or five minutes. Then I'll think, "Oh yeah... the way I'm handing guest votes needs some work." After that I might think of a good way to handle the votes. Then I think about how I could reorganize the database, which would fix the voting issue and another issue at the same time. Taking this time helps you develop a good gameplan. If you don't do this, you'll find yourself constantly pullling out of "the zone" to decide what to do next. Work is most lovable when you're in the zone, so you want to stay there.
When you make your plan for the day, overload yourself. You can handle more than you think, and you never want to feel like you don't have something to work on. Make a text file with a list and notes on everything you can think of that needs to get done. When you see it all, you will feel a sense of urgency, because there's so much to do and so little time, but you'll also feel inspired, because you'll be able to see things that you can tackle immediately and are exciting. Those are the tasks that will get you in the zone, so go for them first.
Work seven days a week. Weekends are for suckers. Are you REALLY telling me that you're not going to work on weekends just because everyone else takes those days off? Are you really THAT bound to the whims of the masses? Weekends are nice, yes, but are they nice enough to give up the 40% increase in time spent working? Not even close. You actually get more than a 40% increase, too, because you're again reducing friction. Every single day you work, you were working the day before. You don't need to catch yourself back up on things, because you were just on it. Momentum.
Work as many hours as you possibly can each day. Again, 9-5 is for suckers. Wake up when you want to (same time every day), go to sleep when you want to (eight hours earlier), and plan on working for almost all of the hours in between. I recommend one or two hours of reading every night because I've found it helps me sleep better, inspires me, and teaches me stuff that helps with my work. This is part of working smart.
That leaves fourteen hours. I have tea instead of breakfast (healthier according to the intermittent fasting people) to save time, usually eat a couple sandwiches for lunch at my desk while I do a Chinese lesson, and generally take 30-45 minutes for dinner. That gives me thirteen remaining hours in a day, and I try to fill them with work. Realistically, one of those hours is probably me being distracted by email or texts or something like that. Generally I can get twelve solid hours out of the day.
But this doesn't give you much time to do anything else, right? Yeah, that's the point. The default should be working all the time. When you start off, this is especially true, but once you love work you can give yourself a lot more leeway, because work will be your favorite activity. Once you get there, you'll effortlessly maximize your time, because your innate priority will be for production.
Can you take breaks? Yes. But NEVER for low-quality consumption. Spend time with people you love and people who inspire you, but no one else. Don't ever watch TV. Watch movies sparingly, documentaries more. Read books more than articles. Don't eat crappy food, drink, or do drugs. Don't party. Do experience masterpieces. I go to a museum, out into nature (it's a masterpiece), or watch classical music/opera/ballet once a week. All of these things are the products of extremely hard workers, so you will benefit from them. Travel the world, as it will broaden your perspective and help you understand people. Work while you're traveling.
When I first stopped eating sugar, normal food tasted pretty bland to me. Then, over time, my palate became more refined, and I could taste the natural sweetness of things like broccoli. You might say that all that stuff that I mentioned above sounds boring to you. I believe you, but all of the things I say not to do sound extremely dull to me. Who's right? Both of us are, it's just perspective. If you want to be a super hard worker, love the process, and reap the benefits it creates, then you have to make changes. If you didn't have to make changes, you'd already be there and wouldn't be reading this article. So you can keep eating junk food, watching TV, and partying, and you can have a really happy and awesome life, but you won't get to be a top level executor. So make the decision, either way is fine.
This acclimatization process is extremely important. My favorite types of foods to eat now are healthy foods. A couple times a month I'll eat something unhealthy, and can appreciate it, but I'm always happy to go back to eatng healthy. If I had kept eatiing sugar once in a while when acclimatizing to healthy foods, I would have never come to love them as I do now. If you don't switch your entire life to productive activities, at least for a period of time, you will never love work because you will never bring your perspective around.
So look, it's going to be hard to do this. It was hard for me, too. You go through a pain period of doing things you don't want to do, but eventually you adjust and fully appreciate these sorts of things, and will love your daily activities as much as you loved your old ones, or more, and will be offering a superhuman amount of value to the world and will be running towards your goals at a speed you've never experienced before. That's a really awesome place to be, but it's not free. The cost is that you have to exercise your will power and make yourself uncomfortable. I'm not writing this article because I think that most people reading it will make these changes. I'm writing it because I think that one or two will, and if I can help make that big of a change on ever one person, I'll feel a big sense of accomplishment, because their life and the lives of those they touch will be better.
Maybe you're that one person who will use this post to make their life better. So let's say you're now working 90+ hours a week. That's a whole lot of time, and whenever you're doing the same process over and over again, you're building habits. Because of this, it's important that you have a freakishly positive attitude the whole time. Here are the rules:
1. No complaining about work ever. Work is supposed to be hard. If you complain when it's hard, then you don't understand work. Anyone who has ever built anything great has come across something really frustrating that set them back. That's the nature of work. You have to learn to love this. If you complain when things get hard, you will build a negative association with hard work. That's the opposite of what you want to do. Instead, use frustration as a cue that your best is required. Understand that your ability to tackle hard problems with grace will define your nature as an executor. Rise to the challenge. Be thankful that you have something hard to test yourself with, and then make sure you pass that test.
2. Celebrate every victory. Even minor things, like fixing a bug, acknowledge to yourself that what you did was good. A simple fist pump will do. When you build something beautiful, take a minute to marvel at at, congratulate yourself, and then reward yourself by pushing forward more, to add icing to the cake. Yes, work is a reward. If you take a break every time you complete something, your days won't be fluid. You have to work hard, complete stuff, and use that momentum to complete the next thing. Work is a very solitary process, so you must have a good relationship with yourself.
3. Tie your self esteem to your ability to create and follow good process. Results may vary, as they say, but process is completely under your control. Focus on it. Be obsessed with it. Did you pick big problems, tackle them with everything you've got, and put in hours? Then you succeeded whether you shipped your product or barely inched forward. You will have some days where you cannot be a champion and work hard. This is unacceptable, but will happen. It's a paradox. When it does happen, be mad at yourself, and make it up the next day. Even if you have a real boss, you are still your own boss. You should have much higher expectations for yourself than anyone else has for you, and only you can hold yourself to those expectations. So even if no one is watching, you make it up when you mess up.
The beauty of work is that it tests you. When you mess up, you're being tested to see if you can rebound fast. When you are stuck, you're being tested to see if you can push through. When there's fun stuff going on outside of work, you're being tested to see if you can resist temptation. It's not the universe or god testing you, it's yourself. If you fail, you alone know, and you alone judge yourself. Work shows you your weaknesses, but it gives you the chance to fix them, too. It's a beautiful thing.
Work is a skill. Like any skill, you'll enjoy it more if you are good at it. And this is how you get good at it-- you do it a lot, you dive deep into it, and you create a positive attitude around it. That's all it is. I used to to be a huge slacker, so if I can do this, then truly anyone can. As I said before, I realize that most people will read this post and either do some of the things or do none of it. That's fine, because this post isn't for them anyway. They'll criticize and talk about "...there's more to life than...", as if I didn't just spend 10 years running around the planet getting tons out of life. I'm someone who spent a decade doing whatever he wanted, is now working extremely hard, and is telling you that living like this is really awesome. Take it or leave it.
The advice I give, especially on the amount of hours to work, is extreme and abnormal. But you know what? If you want extreme and abnormal results, then that's how you have to act. I made the mistake of believing that I could get extraordinary results with average or sub-average effort. That's not how it works. If you don't want the results that the average human being gets, then you don't get to do what he does. If you decide to commit to work, to follow the path that will lead you to eventually love it, you'll have to push yourself hard to work even when you don't like it. I managed to get through this only because I turned thirty and panicked, realizing that was nowhere near on track to reach my extremely high goals. I'm glad I pushed, though, because now I've become an excellent executor, and I love being this way. I get more out of life, but I get to give more, too. And that's a good thing.
Whew... that was a long one! Sorry it was a bit rambly and probably has a bunch of typos. I didn't take a lot of time to edit it because I didn't want to take the time from SETT.
Picture is a crazy rainbow I saw when I left my RV for the first time today yesterday... at 8pm.
Great post, except I have a different approach to one thing -- I don't focus on how I'll feel when the dishes are done and the sink is clean. To me, that's a focus on the destination, which could be a few minutes in the future, hours, days or years. And I've found that kind of thinking doesn't stop -- you're always focused on where you're going, instead of where you are.
Instead, I prefer to focus on what I'm doing right now, and always believe that I've already arrived. Doing the dishes isn't great because it'll feel good when the kitchen is clean -- it's great because I love feeling the warm water, and suds, and enjoy the feeling of the work. I practice being mindful, and it's a meditation. The same is true of any work I do.
Anyway, just a thought to throw into the mix. Keep up the great work, Tynan.
I use it as a trick to get myself over the resistance of starting something, when I noticed myself dreading it in a small way. I guess my procrastination roots are still here somewhere. Completely agree that when you're doing something, you should give it all of your attention and find the joy in it, because there really is joy in everything.
Thanks for the reply!
I like this approach. Am going to incorporate those "current-moments-of-joy" feelings into my life. Instead of destination feelings of joy.
I understand it's tough to scale comments on a big blog, but wondering if you ever miss them/think about bringing them back. I feel like if Gawker ever open sourced their comment platform it'd work great for big blogs.
Interesting post which has made me think non-stop for two days straight. I find thought-provoking and inspiring some points - your work ethic truly is amazing. I also love your idea about giving back to all those who have done stuff for us. But others raise small questions which I thought I'd throw out there for discussion.
I mentioned recently in another post how I used to take the similar attitude of 'work is tough, but imagine how *good* you'll feel once you get there'. I've 'gotten there' (thus far) in the form of doing well in highschool and university, and now finishing off a PhD at a respected school, but as a result I've missed friend's bday parties and I've wrecked my mental and physical health. Then I met my partner who turned my world around by pointing out I was an 'endist' - always blinded by what the future could bring. This was the start of my 180 change in thinking.
Your post reminded me of this Alan Watts lecture:
You don't go to an orchestra to listen to the last note. You go there to listen to the build up, the cadenza, and even the stillness the occurs at the end of the piece. Why should life be seen in the same way?
I was about to write my experience with dishes, but I've found Leo has beaten me to it! I had exactly the same issue with dishes, but now I get over it by focusing on the present instead of the future. Very little things bother you (unless you are in pain, sleepy etc.) when you are intensely present, so washing the dishes is no hurdle. In fact you enjoy the present sensation of the cleaning liquid bubbles and the exercise.
The next issue I have is how this way of thinking can lead to one become condescending of others (note your usage of the word 'suckers'). I remember again before my 180 degree turn around I had a similar way of thinking to you - I should try and hang out more with so-called 'respected' people to learn as much as I can so I can be 'respected'. This led me to see less of other people, and though I hate to admit it, take a negative attitude towards them because as you said I believed 'work was a true representation of you'. Now I realise how totally arrogant and wrong I was. I hang out with anybody now, irregardless of work habits, because at the risk of sounding corny, it's not about what a person does but how they are, or I prefer to call it 'be'. I now realise that I would have lost some amazing friends if I had continued with this attitude. If anything, I find people that are less work-driven are far more wiser, happier, and comfortable in their own skins than the majority of work-driven people I'm surrounded with in this academic institution (note: Tynan I believe you are all three still - you're def an exception!). They are people who look down on me for not working 14hrs a day, unwilling to see what other aspects there are of me and what I can offer. Then there are others who embrace me with a smile and open arms because they don't judge me on my work output. I want to be the latter to other people, because that's the way I want to 'give back' to world.
Finally, this paragraph really got me worried:
"3. Tie your self esteem to your ability to create and follow good process. Results may vary, as they say, but process is completely under your control. Focus on it. Be obsessed with it. Did you pick big problems, tackle them with everything you've got, and put in hours? Then you succeeded whether you shipped your product or barely inched forward. You will have some days where you cannot be a champion and work hard. This is unacceptable, but will happen. It's a paradox. When it does happen, be mad at yourself, and make it up the next day."
And I'm flagging this up because I think you have a very devoted following and think that for many this can be a tremendously dangerous statement. Doing this is precisely the reason why so many people (notably perfectionists) are in therapy. Their identify is built up on their work output. This can be tremendously damaging. As you say, there will be days when you just can't work. But being mad at yourself is such a toxic emotion, and is unnecessary - you can 'hansei' (as you know Japanese) with compassion. In fact, if you become so obsessed with work output being your identity (which is an self-built illusion), once you have consecutive days in which you don't achieve much you may have an identity crisis. I know it sounds extreme but it certainly happens - it's happened to my friends, and it's happened to me. Tynan, you are an exception because I think you perhaps don't go through a month of not being able to work because over the years you've developed good working habits. But think of others who perhaps have work problems that they haven't conquered yet. They read this post saying that their self-worth is determined by their work output. They will try and try but will struggle and will eventually experience what clinical psychologists call 'learned helplessness', which is a state that results from a lack of control. Eventually it will lead to depression.
An analogy would be to tell someone that your self-worth is determined by the amount you run. But some people may have bad running form. But reading this they feel like they are not 'worthy' any more and they run despite it, end up with serious injuries, and most of all, not achieve much. Their self-worth is now gone. Not to mention that there are individual differences in the amount people can run/work.
I would add an overall conclusion now but alas work (ironically) awaits.
Hey, thanks for taking the time to write all this. Not sure I can do it justice in a reply, but I'll take a shot.
As for condescension, I might have to plead guilty. I don't think that I'm better than anyone else by nature, but I do think that my habits and decisions are better than most people's. Not a PC thing to say, but let's take it to an extreme... are my habits and decisions better than most meth addicts'? Probably. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are people who have better habits than me, and I look up to those people. So somewhere on the spectrum are fairly normal people whose habits I think aren't as good as mine. I have some contempt for their actions, but generally not them as people. One of my favorite people in the world seems to have no ambition whatsoever, despite being smarter than me. I love him and gladly spend time with him, but I wish for his own good and for the world's good that he would get some motivation.
I say that 5 day weeks are for suckers, because I can think of no better way to put it. If you're working 5 days a week, it probably means that you haven't thought much about it. It's just passed on by society. Living a life of defaults, in my opinion, is pretty much a waste of a life. We all have these great brains and so much potential locked away in them, and most people barely turn them on.
As for your other point, I probably didn't make myself clear enough. Identity should be tied to effort, not to output. Did you put effort towards what's important to you as a person? Good, be happy. Did you not put effort towards those things? Be happy still, but reprimand yourself. Create a negative association with not doing what you intend to do. Just make a point to tell yourself that it's not okay to slack. My self talk is about 99.9% positive, but when I've violated my own standards, then I hold myself accountable.
To continue your analogy, I'd say your self worth isn't determined by the amount you run, but how much thought and effort you put into running. Bad running form? Learn some running form and the miles will come later...
Thanks for your long reply back, and for some interesting thoughts. I think by nature we inherently differ in notable ways, which is great. Vive la difference ;)
It's interesting, we seem to have gone opposite routes - you state that when you were young you were a 'slacker', and now you are very work driven. In high school I would stay up till 3am in the morning completing homework until I felt it was as good as it could be. But this work ethic was unsustainable and I went the other way, rebelled against work, and ended up becoming a slacker. Now I feel I'm somewhere in the middle (or else no phd!!), but I will never go back to who I used to be.
When I 'snapped' so to speak after work burnout I (re) discovered the joy of just existing and feeling one's profound connection with the universe (some may call it spiritual awakening). This doesn't mean that you don't need to work hard - maximum effort definitely gives life meaning and satisfaction. However, somehow the drive and need to produce so much dissipated because I was just content with what is. When I am working in on my thesis, although by the end I am drained emotionally and physically, if a hard days work is done then I think 'yes, this is why you work hard'. I remind myself of the virtue of hard work. However, whenever I am in nature suddenly everything doesn't matter anymore. It's a feeling that cannot be ascribed to words.
It's interesting to note that anthropologists say our pre-civilisation ancestors hardly 'worked', so to speak, and led a very relaxed life which is sometimes labelled 'the Golden Era'. They spent most of their time relaxing, painting pictures, and singing songs. When the Spanish conquistadors first arrived in America, they were shocked to find how little the Native Americans worked, and how content they were to just sit. Conversely, a Native American leader at the time is said to have observed that the white man had a continual dissatisfied grimace on his face. Any thoughts on this? At present I believe that modelling our life pretty close to what our ancestors did for half a million years pre-civilisation 6000 years ago is the secret to contentment - I barefoot run and follow a paleo diet. Some may argue that humans have evolved during this time, but 6000 years is a minuscule amount of time in comparison to the half a million years homo sapiens have existed.
I understand clearer now what you meant by work effort and self-esteem. However, my concern still remains for two types of people: those who just can't figure out why or how their working habits are bad, and those who have various mental and physical obstacles that prevent them from being able to put in 100% effort. I won’t go into details as this reply is long as it is (my expertise is cognitive neuroscience so if ever you want to go into the logistics of the human brain regarding this matter I’ll be happy to….), but there are people out there who actually find it difficult to put 100% effort in even when they want to, and it is those people who are in danger of harming themselves with an attitude linking self-esteem to work effort.
Finally it’s interesting what you say about your favourite friend. I have a fellow phd friend who in the academic world you would classify on the lazy side. But he is an engineering genius, full of energy and life, and just being around him would make you feel better because of the positive zest for life he radiates. I recently met up with him and it was as it was a if his life and soul had been drained out of him. ‘What happened?’ I immediately asked. ‘I decided to get my act together and actually work hard for once’ he replied warily. His happiness levels had dramatically dropped, even when he was working on an area he was brilliant at and enjoyed it. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have my happy slacker friend back for his sake.
Sorry for the ridiculously long reply - I'm usually aim for succinctness but once I find myself typing here I can't seem to stop!
Note: I’m being the devil’s advocate here and presenting counter-arguments as there is no point in me repeating all the stuff I agree with you, which is quite a lot.
Wow, Lyra777 & Tynan!
I subscribe to Leo's newsletter, zenhabits, and his message of 4/12/2013 led me to this thread.
Amazingly good conversation. I wish it had gone on. Lyra777, I totally appreciate your perspective.
Elai's post added an element of realism to the thread as well.
Tynan, your dissection of a day was quite interesting. Drive is a key to success, however one defines success. Different people have different needs. Not everyone gets a job that becomes their passion and consumes their lives. Some people just find work that they are capable of doing in order to enable them to survive while pursuing their true passions, i.e., hobbies, family, relationships, ...
Enjoying the journey is essential to success. It is the only success. The end/completion is so short lived. I would guess that many of you can identify with the let down that sometimes happens after attaining a goal.
I would like to point out that Edison was a shameless self-promoter and would absolutely have told untruths to add to his image. He wanted to be legendary and spun and connived and dissed competitors and comrades for his own self-interest. He was obviously a great man, but key in on the fact that he was "a man." Too ruthless, IMHO - he is not a hero of mine. He was "great" but he was not kind.
I would like to temper this by saying one project isn't the only thing you can 'work' on. You can have a job, go to the gym, study how to be healthier and work on your social intelligence constantly by going out to various social parties and travelling. This is all valid 'work'. I love my main job, but I will start to resent my job if it gets in the way of my other projects.
Depending on the person, partying is not low quality consumption, but one of the highest kinds of consumption you can do. Partying never came naturally to me although, which is why I find it valuable. For other people, it can be a big waste of time, you'll know deep inside.
You also only have so much energy, time and attention in your life, you have to prioritize what you do. You have to be sustainable or you WILL burn out. You only encounter this limit although if your really pushing yourself. I didn't until I moved the bay area.
Adults need these things in their lives to be healthy:
1. The Basics (good food, shelter,water, quality sleep, health, etc)
2. Work they love
3. Friends they love
4. A partner they love
5. A proper amount of stress and challenge
Remove any of these and bad things start happening to you.
I agree with all of those requirements, except the partner bit. I have been as fulfilled and happy with and without a loving partner. If anything I think it's unhealthy to believe that you "need" a partner to be happy.
This covers every possible rationalization I would tend to come up with while under the "pressure" of applying effort, including disposing of some false dichotomies I accepted, such as, "Why should I work hard when I can accomplish more than most people doing it smart in an hour?" I've printed this out and will read it upon waking every day for the next month and report back on how the changes are going. Thank you.
Damn... False dichotomy. For the life of me I couldn't remember that phrase when I wrote this. Really interested in hearing if reading this daily has an impact. Please do report back.
Q: "What do you think is the first requisite for success in your field, or any other?"
Edison: "The ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary."
"Do you have regular hours, Mr. Edison?" I asked.
"Oh," he said, "I do not work hard now. I come to the laboratory about eight o'clock every day and go home to tea at six, and then I study or work on some problem until eleven, which is my hour for bed."
"Fourteen of 15 hours a day can scarcely be called loafing," I suggested.
"Well," he replied, "for 15 years I have worked on an average of 20 hours a day."
Mr. Dickson, a neighbor and familiar, gives an anecdote told by Edison that well illustrates his untiring energy and phenomenal endurance. In describing his Boston experience, Edison said he bought Faraday's works on electricity, commenced to read them at three o'clock in the morning and continued until his roommate arose, when they started on their long walk to get breakfast. That object was entirely subordinated in Edison's mind to Faraday, and he suddenly remarked to his friend: "'Adams, I have got so much to do, and life is so short, that I have got to hustle,' and with that I started off on a dead run for my breakfast."
"You lay down rather severe rules for one who wishes to succeed in life," I ventured," working 18 hours a day."
"Not at all," he said. "You do something all day long, don't you? Everyone does. If you get up at seven o'clock and go to bed at eleven, you have put in sixteen good hours, and it is certain with most men, that they have been doing something all the time. They have been either walking, or reading, or writing, or thinking. The only trouble is that they do it about a great many things and I do it about one. If they took the time in question and applied it in one direction, to one object, they would succeed.
I agree with Leo. While there are some good points made on this blog, it has an overemphasis on the results, and less on the journey, less on being in the present. Eating while working is multitasking and I never quite feel engaged in either activity when I'm doing both. I used to always eat at my desk, be distracted thinking about work when I was eating with friends, but I've recently found a lot more fulfillment in mindful eating. When I eat -- I really eat, and take the time to appreciate the food and tastes and textures; when I walk, I try to really walk, and be engaged in what I am doing; when I have a conversation with a friend, I try to deeply engage in listening and speaking.
For years until this very day I never bothered with hard work unless there was some titled "Manager" over me. I can work hard for others because they demand it and it crushes my spirit if and when I fail or make a mistake. But hard work for myself? Nah. And yet consciously I do want to be self employed as a freelance writer and graphic designer. Subconsciously, I don't want to budge because it is too hard or it will take too long. You straightforward- ness and honesty about your feelings about work encourages me to pull myself towards working through the "pain period".
Great post. Think I'll follow with Bryan's initiative and print it out to remind me until I've made a habit of doing the work. Not sure if you've done this while in a relationship, but I'm sure it'll come up in the future anyway - so question: how do you/will you balance this with a necessary time-intensive relationship like a girlfriend?
Also, curious about the acclimatization process - how did you ensure you were working all the time? Did you keep track of the time you spent working and the time you didn't? I tried this for a while with a chess clock (time on one side and then the other) but wasn't exactly enjoyable as I made my consequence doing a certain amount of work before sleeping and that led to 24 hour-36 hour-48 hour periods of being awake and then 12 hour periods of sleeping, things like that that completely threw my schedule out of whack. Perhaps this time considering having a hard sleep time every day and hitting a certain amount of time worked per day or else donating a sum of cash to an organization I really hate.
I don't think that I'd be interested in dating a girl who wasn't also a hard worker at this point. On the flip side, if I was dating someone, I would probably only make time to see them once or twice a week, but I would make sure that it was 100% quality time and totally shut down work. And really, I'd only be willing to put that much time in if I thought she was someone who I might possibly raise a family with some day. Honestly, though, I've just sort of decided that I'm not going to date anyone for a couple years.
To make sure I was working all the time, I just blocked every single distraction. If I went to a non-work site once, I would then block it so I couldn't go back. My entire life was (and is) work, so I could either sit there like a child and do nothing, or get cracking. I love the chess clock idea, though. If I had one, I would use it for fun.
I think that a fixed computer-off time is a HUGE deal. It's putting the long term results over the short term results. I'll forgo a couple of hours of work tonight so that tomorrow I can crush it. A bad sleep schedule is really bad for health and bad for work, too.
In my opinion, this is the best post you have ever written and will impact a number of people. Just from your last post I've implemented a regime to increase my work everyday. I have a LONG way to go. Hopefully, I can document my journey and post it in the community section.
This is inspiring, thanks Tynan. It sounds like a LOT of isolation though, how do you maintain relationships & friendships? Have you broken ties with anyone? How long do you plan to be in this work-all-day-everyday beast mode? If there is an end to it, do you think social skills will have suffered?
I have a lot of friends that I don't see a lot. People who travel, for example, I might only see once a year. But I still consider them to be close friends. So now even local friends I might not see very often, but I still consider them to be good friends.
So I haven't done anything as dramatic as stop being friends with people, but I have become more selective about what I go do with them. I'll pass on a movie, for example, because it's not really even social, but if they want to sit and have tea, I've got time for that. Traveling with people is also a good way to get some quality time in and push things forward. I've also made new friends with some really motivated / hard-working people, and I think taking time out of the week to spend time with them probably increases my overall productivity because they have good ideas and are inspiring.
There's no end in sight for working like this. I love it and I don't want to stop. But who knows what the future will bring. I'm sure kids would change the equation.
I'm not SO isolated that my social skills will really suffer much. I did those two months of pickup and found that they erased the previous year of being antisocial pretty quickly, so at worst I'll need to make some time. But I'm still hanging out with friends a few times a week, having meals with them, etc., so I may not be as much of a hermit as it sounds.
Wow, this is a post..congrats Tynan.
But I was thinking: if I work all the available time, then I have to drop the idea of doing what "I like"..
for example: now my work is studying but I like play drums and go out with my friends and things like this..
it's really worth to have only one occupation? Sure I'll take many step forward, but I don't want to drop my hobby because they complete me.
What do you think?
(sorry for my bad english... :S)
There are different ways to solve problems. I've noticed that there's a continuum that these solutions rest on. On the left side are solutions that attack the symptoms of the problem. They're the easiest to implement quickly. On the other side are the solutions that attack the root of the problem, but are the hardest to implement.
Take weight loss. Going from left to right along the continuum, you'll find liposuction, lap band, eating disorders, following fad diets, eating packaged "health" foods and shakes, eating somewhat healthy food, and eating really healthy food. Most people would be able to think of all of those solutions to their weight problems, and might pick one along the continuum somewhere.
But there's actually one more solution, so far to the right on the continuum that most people wouldn't even think of it. For weight loss, that solution is to PREFER healthy food. A change in preference. Think about it-- if you LIKE healthy food more than you like unhealthy food, you will never gain weight again. Impossible, even if you don't exercise. More importantly, if you prefer healthy food, there's no stress associated with weight loss. You're just eating foods that you like. What's easier than that?
Changing your preference for food isn't easy, though. It's not like getting a lap band. To change your preference for food you have to learn a lot. What makes food healthy? What are the exceptions? You have to understand the biological impact that bad food has on the various systems of your body. That's the leverage that holds the preference in place. When you learn about how sugar abuses your pancreas, it's a little less appealing in your mind. You learn about how factory farms raise their animals, and that sort of meat is less appealing. Changing preferences is hard work, and it takes time and effort and energy, but it produces lasting change.
Leo Babauta has inspired millions through his writing on Zen Habits, where he's shared his experiences in building up great habits, cutting clutter and junkfood from his life, learning about great parenting and building a wonderful family, eliminating debt, increasing his income and productivity, and living a life that's more happy through and through.
Leo is now graciously participating in GiveGetWin with a practical class on "action-oriented contentment", and he sat down with Sebastian Marshall to share his thoughts on what motivates him, around what contentment is, on trusting yourself, on being compassionate and compassion as an impetus for action, on self-compassion and treating yourself well, and happiness in general. Enjoy:
"Practical, Action-Oriented Contentment and Compassion" by Leo Babauta, as told to Sebastian Marshall