No Middle

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…

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