A guy on Twitter asked a pretty good question the other day: "Why do you worship productivity so much? Honestly? (I am currently sitting at a ski hill with an ear-to-ear grin from powder turns.)" I gave him an answer, but I think the question deserves an answer longer than one hundred forty characters.
Something I've been circling around a lot recently is the idea that my own experience doesn't really matter so much. Happiness follows the law of diminishing returns, and I'm so happy all the time that making myself more happy is pretty useless. I've had so much fun and had such a breadth of experiences, that, for the most part, I feel like having one additional one is insignificant.
I'm an imperfect human, of course, so I do still do things "just because I want to" sometimes, but when I take a step back, look at the arc of my life, and think about the time I have left, I mostly think about ways that I can impact the world. If I can spend some effort and make someone who's not so happy a little bit happier, help someone who hasn't had so many cool experiences have a few, or help someone become more productive themselves, maybe that's a better use of my time.
None of that means that I think I'm some sort of great person. I'm completely aware that probably a lot of my real motivation stems from ego or from wanting the satisfaction of knowing that I had an impact on people. I get emails sometimes from people who tell me I've changed their lives, and that sort of blows me away every time and makes me feel really good.
Still, if I can do something that helps other people and is good for me, why not spend my time there?
My way of doing that is through productivity. The reason I can get so excited about productivity is because I genuinely believe that what I'm doing benefits others. I know how much I've benefited from having this blog, and many people have told me that my writing has had a big impact on them as well. Sett is our attempt to help other people access those same benefits. That's why we focus on getting bloggers more readers and building a deeper level of community.
General productivity is the multiplier through which we impact the world. If I can handle email faster, that gives me more time to code. If I can stay disciplined, I spend less time on Facebook or Reddit, and more time writing. High levels of productivity are also difficult to achieve and even more difficult to sustain, and I think that I really like the challenge of doing hard things.
So why do I worship productivity? Because at this point it's the tool that gives me maximum leverage on my goals. I know that we all have different goals, and that for a different set of goals productivity might be useless, but for where I'm at now, it makes a lot of sense.
Photo is a guy sitting at West Lake in Hang Zhou, China.
I'm getting a lot of questions about the 2013 Gear Post. Yes, it's coming. I added a few things last minute and I'm waiting for the last one to clear customs. It's going to be a good one with some gear I guarantee no one's heard of...
Anyone notice the changes to Sett? Biggest one is that there is no more up/downvoting, just a heart to like things...
This site has definitely changed the way I view things for the better. Glad I found it a few years back! :D
Actually, I think your experiences are not the insignificant part, but the essential part why people read your blog. I truly believe that your writing does have an impact. But you spend, what, 90% of your time on coding on SETT? Will SETT have any effect on people in 50 years from now? Do you really think that SETT has the impact you'd like to see it have?
I don't mean to push you down. But your writing is what people benefit from. Your unique experiences and adventures, your unique path through life. People here don't follow your blog because of the generic advice, but because they want to follow YOU as a person. They like you, they like how you deal with things. I come here because I want to know what this Tynan guy has to say about a few things.
"Having impact" or "leaving a dent in the universe" or "non-selfish reasons" are such bullshit phrases when talking about technology and there seem to be quite a few startup founders who claim that nonsense with some app/webapp that will be obsolete in 10 years. Or in 20. Or in 50. And in the greater scheme of things, 50 years is nothing.
At the end of the day, SETT is just another blogging platform. Even if you wrote your blogs in plain text with no design, just a photo, people would still read your blog. Because it's about you and your experiences, not the topic you're writing about.
What I want to say is: I don't want you to stop working on SETT. That would be ridiculous. But claiming that SETT is larger than your own life is bullshit. Do it because you enjoy it. Do it for your own selfish reasons. That is totally fine. And keep up the writing ;)
This makes me think of the adage about teaching a man to fish. Sure, Tynan enjoys fishing, and it benefits a few people. If he believes he can teach people to fish the way he fishes, isn't that a noble goal?
And no offense Tynan, I don't read your blog because I'm interested in your life. The valuable lessons will stick; your personal details won't.
I think you should build a Tiny Eco House on your Island been looking into it there pretty cool and I can film you doing it :)
(Im in your twitter inbox)
Small nit picking: Sun Moon Lake is in Taiwan.
"Happiness: Law of Diminishing Return" An interesting thought. Makes sense to me.
I hate to say this, but one time a friend told me the most exciting thrill in life is sex. He said it is great the first 15-20 minutes, and then the thrill somewhat goes down from that point on.
Thanks for an interesting read. I agree up to a point. My argument would be around people who strive constantly to increase productivity. You see this in businesses, 'we must increase productivity!' and in the end it seems that the business or person implodes from the constant need or desire to increase productivity.
Yes it may be better to improve on ways that we do things but surely there is a balance to be made between continued attempts to increase productivity to the detriment of the people trying to achieve this and stagnation or sitting still.
New Year's eve is approaching, which means that people are making their New Years' resolutions and asking me what mine are. I don't have any, and I think that's a good thing.
The problem with New Years Resolutions is that they're not motivated by a burning desire to change. Wee all know that most people don't really change, and we know how hard it is for us to change ourselves. The only fuel powerful enough to push through that pain period is the burning desire for results. New Year's resolutions don't have that burning desire. Instead we realize it's a new year, get the fluffy feeling that a fresh start is upon us, and then scramble to make up New Year's resolutions. That method of change is about as effective as the US' "war on drugs" is against drug addiction.
How motivated can you possibly be if you're willing to wait until the ball drops before taking action? Not very. I have a friend who is capable of, and has executed on many occasions, 180 degree life changes. On a normal day if he told me he was going to do something difficult, I'd have full faith in him. But he recently picked up smoking and told me he's quitting for New Year's. I bet he won't. Quitting cigarettes requires a fundamental hatred for the effects smoking has on your body and life. Anything less is a break from smoking. If he had that harsh emotion, he wouldn't be smoking today.
My senior requirement at my Catholic high school is to take a semester of world religions and a semester of spirituality. I'm currently in the spirituality semester and I've found the class simplified, but the hour I spend there each day is a nice escape and a time to reflect. We watch movies, write, discuss, and meditate. I'm not sure how anyone could dislike it.
A classmate of mine, however, cannot stand it. She protests the teacher's assignments, calls the class "stupid" and questions why she needs to have any opinion on her views of divinity or her own past. It's not that she has some strong view of atheism or is some nihilist- this is purely disinterest and she lets it be known.
Disinterest in the collective beliefs of humanity, in the origins of the universe, in your place within it, and in your connection to the forces around you- this is something my mind cannot wrap around. Since a young age, I've asked the unanswerable questions that I'll keep contemplating. I've felt connected, I've felt disconnected. I accepted the wonder of reality and the unending pursuit of knowledge and rejected the beliefs and systems that have held me back. I've learned through my own intuition. My whole life is driven by a bigger, undefinable sense of my purpose and at the same time by my own insignificance. For those who stop asking questions and have found a belief set that explains it, all the power to them. I also think pure agnosticism is great, when people really accept the impossibility of figuring anything out. Pure disinterest, however, escapes me.
How can someone toss aside these essential questions of human existence? I see people all too often that ignore these feelings, dim their understanding of reality, out of fear or out of ignorance. I've had my phases, but I always come back to this sense of childlike wonder towards the universe. I've tried my hand at being Catholic, at nondenominational Christianity, and more recently, in embracing Buddhist practices. I've been more religious than so many so-called Catholics/Christians that I know. My sister will never reach the peak of Catholicism I was at at one point, yet still looks down at me for eventually rejecting it.
How would these people's lives change if they took some time to think about things? What, exactly, is more important? This is me ranting, but its been of greater interest to me recently. I'm happy that I've checked into a broader understanding of my life, and for those a little jaded by their daily worries, I can only hope they find the curiosity to expand their mindsets eventually.