Carry the Weight

[Note: If you’re in San Francisco or Austin, read the bolded part at the very bottom!]

For most of my life, at least until my late twenties, I was a slacker. I did almost nothing to help around the house, choosing to procrastinate on things assigned to me until someone else just did it themselves because that was easier than goading me into doing it. Even in friendships, I would rely on my good friends to come up with plans or invite me somewhere, and then I’d join. The only reason I got into college was because my best friend at the time, Phil, pushed me into filling out an application. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

There were exceptions, of course, but in general I was probably a burden. I was a good friend and family member in other ways, but in terms of carrying the weight of those relationships, I wasn’t putting in my fair share. It’s embarrassing to say that, but it’s true.

A couple years back, Todd wasn’t as invested in Sett as I was. We had started it as a side project, but it seemed like there was enough potential that it was worth going full time. I wanted to do so, but Todd’s priorities were elsewhere, so he worked a lot less than me. If Sett was going to continue, I would have to take full responsibility for it.

I remember crystallizing the decision down very clearly: I could either decide that I would carry all of the weight for Sett, or I could do what was “fair”, which would result in Sett stalling. Put in that context, it wasn’t that difficult of a choice. I decided that I would carry all of the weight, no matter what.

So, for a while, I carried all of the weight for Sett. I felt resentment from time to time, but overall it was a surprisingly good experience. I liked the responsibility. I felt myself become stronger and more disciplined. I gave myself a chance to rise to a challenge, and I met it. I even felt good that I was working for Todd, carrying some weight for him when he couldn’t or wouldn’t. He’s certainly done that for me any number of times during our friendship.

Sometimes all it takes to change yourself is to try out a new mindset once. You see that it’s better and you can’t imagine going back. That’s what happened with me and carrying weight. I decided that, in all cases, I would carry whatever weight needed to be carried.

As I’ve written about before, my friends and I bought an island. One friend, Elliot, and I came up with the idea, and then I did almost all of the legwork to make it actually happen. People asked me if I would get to make all the rules or own more of the island because of that, but I never thought of it that way. Ten of us put in our money, so it’s all of ours. If I can put in some work to make it happen, then I’m happy to be able to do that for my friends.

Four of us went up and started clearing a path up to the top of the hill, which is backbreaking work (literally– one guy had to rest on his back for a whole day). People cautioned me that with such a large group it would be hard to get everyone to put in equal effort to make it fair. I didn’t see it like that at all, though. Getting to do hard work that benefits people I’m close to is a privilege. If I didn’t have so many friends who are also eager to carry weight, I’d be happy to carry it all and do all of the work myself.

Even on the small scale now, I try to do little chores whenever I can. If I’m staying at someone’s place and their dishes are dirty, I’ll wash them. If friends and I are going on a trip, I’ll do whatever planning needs to be done.

I don’t say any of this to make myself seem like a saint, by the way. If anything I realize that I’m late to the party and I know that I’m still trailing behind most of my friends who have been carrying some of my share since I can remember. The small silver lining of only making this change recently is that I may have a lucid enough perspective on it to share.

When you carry all of the weight, you make other people’s lives better. You also make your own life better, in both predictable and unpredictable ways. You develop strength and confidence, knowing that although you can work with others and accept their help, you can also manage a lot by yourself if you have to. You build discipline. You become the kind of person that gets invited to everything because no one has to worry about carrying weight for you. You feel a sense of pride knowing that you’re providing for others.

Be willing to carry all of the weight. When you see a situation where someone need to step up and put in extra effort, be that person. Maybe you already are. But if you’re like I used to be, and you wait for someone else to take care of it, try carrying more than you’re used to. I bet you’ll like it more than you think.


Photo is Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

I will be speaking at the San Francisco and Austin dates of Sebastian Marshall’s Give Get Win Tour. It’s free, so come out and say hi! I’m probably going to be talking about rapid decision making.

Todd carries a lot of weight at Sett now, by the way. I unfairly expected him to want to make it his full time gig just because I did, so any resentment I felt towards him for not carrying half of the weight was because of my own actions.


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