What You Are, What You Do

You know when I was the most productive? The day before I started writing about how productive I was. You know when I was the least productive? About a week after that. You know where I am now? Still trying to get back to the pinnacle.

What went wrong? I started to believe not that I was producing, but that I was a productive person. I’m a man, and it takes no maintenance to stay that way. I’m American, and it takes no effort to remain american. Those are things I am. But producing is something I do. I’m productive when I’m producing, and I’m no longer productive when I stop. There’s upkeep involved.

When I write a blog post about how productive I am, and it is received well, I see myself in a different light. I shouldn’t, but before my conscious could grab ahold of it, my subconscious granted me the title of Productive Person.

So I started slacking. Not a lot, but enough to notice. Rather than pushing myself to not browse Reddit all day, I’d take a break here and there. Instead of pushing through from 11pm to midnight, I’d cut out early and waste time for the last hour of my day. I downloaded a chess game for my phone and would play a few games per day, rationalizing that it’s an intelligent game, so learning how to play was a good idea. But that’s not why I played– I played to escape the pressure of hard work. Twelve hours of honest work shrunk down to six or eight hours of work stretched to a twelve to fourteen hour window.

It’s really important not to be too self-congratulatory. Being happy is great. Being proud is great. But congratulating brings along the subtle implication of completion. That’s dangerous with things like productivity, where it’s something you do, not something you are.

By the time The Game came out, I had regressed from my peak of pickup. A few long term relationships in a row, which I don’t regret by any measure, had left me rusty. But I was now one of the main characters in the definitive book about pickup artists, therefore I was a pickup artist. A friend and I went on a cruise, an environment where there are generally few to no attractive girls, but we got lucky– our cruise had two absolutely stunning girls. He suggested I approach them. Of course, I thought– I’m a pickup artist, after all.

I was blown out two minutes later, and left reeling. It didn’t go as I had imagined at all. Standing close enough to hear the conversation, my friend was even more shocked than I was.

“Why did you say that?”

I hadn’t said anythng strange or offensive. I hadn’t said much at all. I just walked up and made normal boring small talk, so they left. According to a book I may have been a pickup artist, but I acted like an average boring guy. I didn’t make any special effort, because I made the mistake of thinking that being good with girls was something I was, not something I did.

There are very few things that you just get to be. Most states of being are transient and require effort. If you want to be a productive person, you can’t just coast– you have to keep being productive. If you want to be fit you can’t just get in shape and then go back to eating doughnuts. If you want to be creative you have to keep creating. These aren’t titles, they’re ways of living life.

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Photo is me cave diving in Mexico. It’s not being productive, but it’s not exactly a waste of time, either.

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