The great Japanese Train Trip of 2013 is over, and everyone has left Tokyo besides Sebastian and myself. Making up for the week of decreased productivity, we meet in an office in Shibuya every day and work. During meals and in between blocks of time, we talk about life and work and habits.
Getting Serious is an idea that comes up a lot. I mentioned it in my post about turning thirty, but the idea has been clarified through our conversations and I think it warrants another mention.
What is getting serious? It's when you pick something, you make it an overriding first priority, and you give it a long time horizon. Being an overriding first priority means that most of your time goes to this one thing, and that its importance trumps everything else. You start turning down things that you'd like to do, just because it gives you more time for your first priority. Not direct schedule conflicts, just more time.
You have to give your goal a long time horizon, because it takes a long time to do important things. By allocating a few months or even a year to a project, you give yourself an easy out. By saying that you'll do something for a minimum of five years, you give yourself no outs.
There are certain things that can only be done under these conditions, and by getting serious you give yourself the space to do them. There are many projects where working a few hours a week will never result in success no matter how many weeks you work, whereas giving it your all for several years will. By getting serious you admit yourself to that upper echelon of possibility.
One project, overriding first priority, long time horizon.
There are other defining characteristics of getting serious, but I think that they all stem from those three factors. You have to work hard, of course, but if you have one project, it's an overriding first priority, and you've allocated years to it, you'll work hard. You have no choice. You have to produce good work, but that's just a function of effort and time.
Just because there are only three criteria doesn't mean that they're easy to fulfill, though.
Being serious is a way of living, not the following of a few steps. It's easy to say you'll stick with something for five years, but much harder to know that you'll actually do it. It's easy to call something your first priority, but harder to turn down fun things for the sake of work.
To do anything hard you must have proper motivation. The first time I decided to become vegan I gave up after one salad, because I was doing it for no real reason. The second time I stuck with it for years and years because I read the China Study, which convinced me that it was important. Getting serious is a huge shift and is hard-- you must be properly motivated.
My motivation came along with my thirtieth birthday. Around that time I took a look at my goals, took a look at my progress, and took a look at my habits. I realized that I would unequivocally not reach my goals at the pace I was going. I would put in fair amount of work, move the needle a bit, but never actually get where I wanted to get. This scared me, because when I was twenty I felt like I had an infinite amount of time to figure things out. When I turned thirty I felt like I had much less. I'm not sure if becoming serious is something that can be prompted simply by looking at goals, process, and pace, or if feeling like you're running out of time is an integral piece of the puzzle as well.
You don't have to become serious if you don't want to. Probably most people don't care, and that's okay. A lot of happy and fulfilling lives have been lived without being serious. If you have big goals, though, and you want to maximize your chance of reaching them, then it's probably a good idea to get serious.
We like to think we're not fools. When we see $1.99 our minds go - aha! you can't fool me! That's really 2$ there!
Then we turn 29 and put off everything until 30 because we fall for the same psychological trap. 29 seems so much younger and 30 seems so much older despite only being a difference of one year. The same gap between 25-26, 26-27, 27-28, 28-29. 29-30 oh snaps!I always felt like time was infinite right up until I was 29 and 364 days old. Then the psychology hit all at once. It's something about the thirties decimal I think which we may psychologically now move upwards (we associate being 30 with being 35 - 38 - etc...)
I like this. Seems like it can be generalized beyond your overriding first priorities, though. You're talking about carefully picking a hard goal, then committing to it by saying you're going to allocate most of your time to it for years.
But the vegan example wasn't the first priority in your life, and it otherwise fits the pattern. It seems like you could drop the "first priority" parts and "one project" parts, replace them with "overriding commitment", and have a better definition of "getting serious". Then you can get serious about more than one thing at a time: your work; your health; and your family, say.
I know what you mean. When you decide to get serious about something, it is the only thing that matters. And if you have to give up other things in your life to do your "one project", it isn't too bad because, it is most probably something that you enjoy doing more than anything else. I decided to get serious a little while ago and have started a blog. I also made a commitment, in writing, to post weekly for 5 years. I wish everybody the best if they've decided to get serious.
Actually that’s one of the reasons why I don’t have or apply for full time work. Just part time stuff, because the way I see it if the 8+hours of my day goes towards something other than my goals then it’s detracting and sapping energy for my other pursuits which are more important currently in my life.
For me there are 2 projects instead of 1.
Talking about motivation it’s weird. It’s a combination of things.
1) I realized that settling to work a job will make me depressed because of the lack of freedom(pain) involved
2) I have been doing music for years but if I don’t take serious effort into completing the songs I come up with and making them more higher listening quality to share with people – and enjoy listening to it in the future – then I would have wasted all my time invested in learning and making music in ALL those months, so I must finish what I started since I enjoy it anyway.
3) Living a life of not at least trying to achieve the things I imagine I can achieve, is just messed up. I mean this will be the only life – in this body haha – that I’ll ever live and to not at least DO things or live creating something worthwhile is messed up.
4) Having that persistent feeling like I should achieve being self reliant at a “young” age without needing to depend on any one . Just to impress myself and have freedom in my life do try achieve whole lot of things I want, now instead of waiting to do it when I’m 50
5) Whenever I socialize and meet new people they – especially women - tend to over exaggerate my age, guessing I’m 24-27 years old, they think I’m some “successful” business type of guy who travels around the world and all, and they get surprised to learn I haven’t reached 20 yet and that I still stay with my parents.
Now that can be classified as peer pressure – something I avoid – but I would call it positive peer pressure. Since it makes me think “yeah, they have a point they ARE kind of reflecting what I think about myself…(not that I’m old though)” .
6) Some many people meet tell me I’m smart. And I tend to think and write about a lot different ideas of cool creative things I can create in my life. Now for my parents they are proud of the things I have done so far in my life,but inside knowing that I’m living way below my standards and that I can do so much more with the time that I have available to me – feels Crap.
So living a life below my own personal standards is a strong pain motivator to go the only direction I should be going – Forward, with a whole lot more effort.
What War in Heaven said about getting to his 30’s is sort of what I feel about getting to my 20’s
Last year was when I made my decision to work towards getting songs complete and just try do more of that. I remember going to this one rave and conversing with one of the DJ’s afterwards. When we spoke about production, I told him I make music too and when he told me he also does but he only makes half tunes and that he couldn’t get anything complete for years……for Years! – That ish scared me hardcore. This guy was like in his 30’s-40’s I then imagined what I would feel like if I carried on with those habits and reaching his age. Pain and Regret of not working harder towards what I actually wanted in life.
Now I am further this year in completing songs. And aim on doing more but as Tynan mentioned above saying “I’m not sure if becoming serious is something that can be prompted simply by looking at goals, process, and pace or if feeling like you’re running of time is an integral piece of the puzzle”. I STILL feel like I’m not doing enough . For me I haven’t reached a state of mind where I’m like “okay man, it’s do or die, time to make sh*t happen”. Because I have made my goals as down to the detail, looked at my process’s and other personal development tools to try force this motivation and getting frustrated at not doing things I’m supposed to do when I’m not motivated.
But I imagined that the way I’m going to have to do it is incremental progress in myself discipline and just try harder in keeping consistent in using the tools daily to cultivate that burning motivation. Because waiting for it to hit me at 30 or to have a Near Death Experience to get that motivation isn’t an option. Plus that’s lame haha.
So for me personally I think that when I have that goal it’s “S.M.A.R.T” and looks good on paper and intellectually I see that it’s a good goal to pursue. I think it’s more important to actually create that motivation and work really hard to sustain it to keep working at it, because I can see the difference in my ability to “get back” after a slump of demotivation and laziness, than before a couple months back. I don’t know if that made sense. But yeah it’s either option 1) Getting serious working hard for other peoples’ goals or option 2) Working hard for my own or option 3) Watching Monte Pythons Meaning of Life again, smiling for choosing ..option2.
Totally agree with this. I'd like to add that when you have spent a lot of time and effort in finding your bearings , turning down the things in your life you enjoyed doesn't feel too hard because the "overriding commitment" also becomes the thing you enjoy most. If you commit to doing something that you enjoy everyday, even hard work is fun.
Great post, although I seem to have read a lot of posts from you with the exact same subject. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the whole "thinking out of the box" concept, pretty much the same thing? To do things that most people dare not, and separate yourself from the masses?
The reason why I am asking is that, i believe you started doing that long before you were thirty. Whether it was pick-up or anything of the sort.
I think that dedicating yourself to something that unfamiliar, is yet another definition of getting serious.
Don't get me wrong, please keep posts like this coming. I was just wondering about the part about reaching thirty, which a couple of the comments agreed with you upon. I am personally far away from turning thirty, and i feel like I have had this sort of bubble inside me for the last few months, waiting to burst and take me out of the box. But that might be completely different.
This is my first contribution to your site, but have been reading along for a while. You are a great inspiration. Peace.
So if you reach the moment that you perceive that you have met your chosen goals, go to bed and awake the next morning, what do you think you're gonna want to do?
You make an astrologer's day-the Saturn returns happen about every thirty years-Saturn is the serious planet- the return is when it progresses to the birth degree. Look for another at 60 and 90. When you go to India consult a good astrologer there-you may be amazed. Don't ask me for a recommendation-everyone needs to find his own when ready. Not everyone gets that serious-some just get a nudge.
For those not in the know:
"In astrology, especially horoscopic astrology the Saturn return is an astrological transit when a transiting Saturn planet returns to the same point in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person's birth (natal chart). In Hindu astrology, it is known as Saade saati, as the transit in a birth chart and takes approximately 7.5 years to complete. It is an alleged phenomenon which is described as influencing a person's life development at 27 to 29 or 30-year intervals. These intervals or "returns" coincide with the approximate time it takes the planet Saturn to make one orbit around the sun, i.e. 29.4 years. It is believed by astrologers that, as Saturn "returns" to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood. With the second return, maturity. And with the third and usually final return, a person enters wise old age. These periods are estimated to occur at roughly the ages of 28-31, 56-60 and 84-90. A fourth return occurs for only a few people, at age 114-118."
"I'm not sure if becoming serious is something that can be prompted simply by looking at goals, process, and pace, or if feeling like you're running out of time is an integral piece of the puzzle as well."
At 22, I don't yet feel like I'm running out of time but I'd say that within the last few months I've finally been getting serious for the first time. Therefore, in my opinion, the "running out of time" factor is not an integral piece of the puzzle. However, perhaps a day will come when I do feel like I'm running out of time and I'll realize that the "serious" I feel now still needs to be taken up a notch.
It's always better to look at actions than words. If someone says that they're committed to being healthy, but then they order a fat stack of pancakes... well, maybe they're not so committed after all. Recently I've been thinking about this truism in terms of goals and priorities. Your priorities are what they look like.
When you ask someone what his goals are, especially a young person, you'll probably end up hearing a bunch of talk about making money, traveling the world, getting healthy, learning some big skill, or contributing to the world in some way. Great goals. But if we examine people's actions, do they line up with these goals? Sometimes, but very often they're directly contrary to their goals.
The average person eats unhealthy food, spends a lot of time at a job he doesn't like, engages in junk entertainment like TV or video games, maybe drinks some alcohol, and then goes to sleep. Is he getting closer to his goals? Is he getting farther away from them? What can we conclude about the intent behind his goals?
Maybe the most interesting question would be: what goals is he moving towards? I'd say that he's moving towards comfort. Not decadent comfort like a hammock on a pristine beach, but the comfort of not having to think or exert himself. The comfort of mediocrity. And to be clear-- if someone says that comfort is his only goal, I'd have no criticism of these actions. I have different goals, but even I'm not arrogant enough to judge someone by my own goals rather than his own.
"I feel stronger." Years later, the line still randomly comes to me, unbeckoned.
It was from one of the most odd and intriguing video games ever made -- Planescape: Torment. You woke up in the morgue as a scarred and battered man who didn't know his name. When you got killed, you would… wake up back in the morgue. You were immortal. You couldn't die. Your goal was to figure out how this happened, who you are, and what you should do about it.
It was beautiful, well-written, and immersive. But the point that still stands out to me is that line.
"I feel stronger."
It happened when you leveled up. The levels up weren't something you chose; they just happened when you accumulated enough experience. It's an interesting metaphor -- you wake completely ignorant, but as you accumulate experiences, you feel stronger. Not "I am stronger." I feel stronger.