When I talk about working like a maniac for 10-14 hours a day, I sometimes get criticized for working too hard. I need to relax or enjoy life more, people say. When I read this, I assume that I've done a poor job explaining how I feel about work or how I actually construct my life, so I figure I may as well write a blog post to talk about it, as well as the underlying principle.
There are many days where I only leave my RV to shower. I wake up, drink tea while I do a quick Chinese lesson, write a blog post, program for twelve hours with a few short violin breaks, read for an hour, and the go to sleep. People assume that this is a stressful and intense day, but I actually find it very relaxing and enjoyable.
Think about what our ancestors went through. They were constantly uncomfortable, hungry, and in danger of being killed. That's stress. My life is not stressful at all. Compared to what our brains are wired for, my life is a complete cakewalk. The problem is that we don't compare ourselves to that, but instead we compare to what the average American does, which is work not very hard, watch some TV, drink some beers, and go to sleep.
Any time I'm being compared, by myself or others, to the average American, I consider it to be a warning sign. The problem with the average American life is that most of his time is being spent in a mediocre fashion. He works because he has to, and not very hard at that. His entertainment serves to distract him rather than to enrich him. This is the exact opposite of what I want to do-- I want to fill 100% of my time with high impact activities, either doing very good work or having some sort of really high quality experience. I want to spend none of my time at all doing things like busy work or channel surfing. I don't actually expect for it to be 100% to 0%, but I set that as my goal and try to get as close as possible.
Those middle activities are how you waste your time, your day, or even your life. They make you feel like you're having fun without really creating lasting memories or satisfaction, or they make you feel like you're being productive when really you're just occupied. They're also the easiest experiences to have, the ones that come by default if you're not actively trying to avoid them to have better experiences. And, of course, peppered within those experiences will be occasional serendipitously great moments, but that doesn't make the lazy approach efficient.
So I work really hard most days and don't really relax in a traditional sense and don't really have fun in a traditional sense. Some days I go have adventures. Yesterday I climbed all over a glacier in Alaska. Now today I'm in the airport pounding out blog posts and writing code. High quality uses of time, at both ends of the spectrum.
We're so lucky to be alive. It's unbelievable, really. We have some finite amount of time on this earth, and are the sole arbiters of how that time is used. I want mine to be spent working towards creating excellence or enjoying the best the world has to offer. The less of that middle stuff, the more time I have for the good stuff.
The photo at the top is the back of my RV. I took out my bed because it was starting to feel too luxurious, and because I wanted to have a space to drink tea. I was planning on writing a blog post about the project, but really there's no underlying lesson. If you want to hear more about it, ask in the community section and I'll write about it.
I wasn't actually in Alaska yesterday... I wrote this post a few months ago and decided not to change it.
GEAR POST IS COMING ON MONDAY. Brace yourself, because it's going to be a good one...
Hmmm. It depends on what your idea of an "average American" is. There are also tons of Americans who are overworked and super stressed and unhealthy from the overwork. It's been a growing phenomena, as corporations try to squeeze more out of employees for the same or less pay, especially as employees are at a severe negotiating disadvantage because of high unemployment levels (too high supply, low demand means you're less valuable).
In Japan, they recognize overwork as a cause of death (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kar%C5%8Dshi), and believe it's not healthy to work more than 12 hrs a day for 6-7 days a week, year after year, without suffering physically and mentally.
That said, it depends on whether work is a stress to you. For some, it can be a relaxing experience, a form of meditation.
I'd consider that type of work to be a middle activity. It's productive and has some benefits, but isn't really engaging or particularly impactful. I'll probably write a whole post about "Average Americans", but in short I'd say that they need to minimize the amount of that sort of work they do. Maybe it means getting a job they connect with, maybe it means starting their own business, or maybe the stopgap measure is to cut out the TV watching and start a side business after work to try to grow out of their jobs.
Some people just don't realized how lucky we are to be alive in this day and age. You can turn just about any hobby into a business or a job, and do what you really love for a living... Not "I love numbers and math so I am an accountant!"...There is what you think you enjoy for a job, but then there is what you really love that you can turn into a business that gives back and helps you continue to do what you really enjoy. I do pretty much whatever I want day in day out, and I think anyone can do the same.
Tynan.. I see some funky styling issues on my end. Screenshot (in firefox/Mac): http://cl.ly/LOKx I am not seeing this in chrome or Safari. :)
Seeking peak experiences is fine. Your adventures make fantastic anecdotes, and I'm sure are/were amazing experiences and memories.
The Buddhist meditator's perspective is a little different: (In my words) Recognize the impermanence of all things. And learn to experience the fullness of every moment, in the moment.
Interestingly, Proust, coming from a very different culture, made a very similar observation.
No gym time??? no cardio??
What mean "RV"?
"Recreational Vehicle"- it's like a tiny home that fits inside a van or bus. This is the one Tynan lives in:
He's written a number of blog posts in the archives about living in an RV, and customizing it to fit his needs.
For a brief second I thought that was my actual RV, and thought, "Well... that's a bit creepy..."
Oh, no! Confusion! I image searched tynan.com for "rialta", grabbed the pic from here and didn't bother to check who the post author was.
"GEAR POST IS COMING ON MONDAY."
I remember reading Tynan doesn't like being late. To me, breaking this promise feels like the same thing.
I completely agree. And just like being on time, sometimes I don't make it.
I SHOULD have planned better and had the video ready to go 24 hours before I wanted to post, but what ended up happening was that the camera overheated in the middle of recording, so I had to record twice. Then, after editing, it took two hours to encode the video. I uploaded it to Youtube, which took three hours, and there was something wrong with the format. At this point it was 4am and I didn't have the time to get anything ready for that morning, so I delayed by a day.
love the tatami and minimalist japanese look -- where in your RV is that though? I just re-watched your last youtube video and can't figure out where you have that setup in the RV... can you show us?
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.
I'm thrilled that Tynan is coming to you with two things -- first, he's offering a breakthrough session through GiveGetWin. It's geared around doing more of the kind of excellent work you want to do, becoming more internally focused with your emotions, having a more enjoyable life, building great habits, and producing a lot of value in the process. There's five spots, so check it out now.
Second, we have this wonderful tour-de-force interview: it starts by covering how Tynan made the shift from unfocused to focused, how to derive internal enjoyment from things, useful actionable exercises you can do right now, Tynan's method and mindset for producing creative work consistently, how to set up great habits and an excellent mental and physical work environment, and how to make blogging work and similar endeavors work for you.
Total Focus; Total Enjoyment by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
When I turned 30 and I had a minor freak out… I thought, "I'll be 40 in not long, and then 50… there's things I want to do in my life, and they're not happening at this pace."
Before that, I had a general idea of things I wanted to do and have in my life, but I went about in an unstructured way. It was good in a lot of ways. It made be a broad process, but not much depth.