It’s not always easy to think about the things that I want especially when, for the most part, I really feel like I already have most of what I would need in order to be happy. Now, retaining that happiness, and building a life of continuous value and substance in a world that is constantly becoming more and more unpredictable? That is the real challenge for me.
Which is why, in the middle of August, I wrote this first draft of the things I do not want for my future. There’s a lot of things I couldn’t control and I have no plan to. I can, however, keep things out of my life for as long as I can.
They are, as follows:
Stagnancy of Knowledge
In one of Paul Graham’s thought-provoking essays, he wrote: “Worse still, anything you work on changes you. If you work too long on tedious stuff, it will rot your brain. And the best paying jobs are most dangerous, because they require your full attention.”
Every product, every material, every little thing you put out into this world matters, because not only should it, in theory, bring value to the world, it could, potentially, change the course of your life, starting with your brain. There is something to be said about approaching work from the lens of a true artist. Seeing your next work as if it’s going to be the very last thing you’ll produce makes you more protective of its integrity because you signed off on it. It has your signature.
Work on things that will allow you to diversify your skillset and continuously improve your intellect. Read, and learn more about things that captures your curiosity. Assume that you don’t know enough and you’ll always have a hungry mind. Otherwise, things are likely to go stale real fast and with it comes knowledge and wisdom.
I actively avoid Dunning Kruger Effect at work (or in life, for the matter) because I know that it will be the end of me. It’s unsatisfying, and foolish. It’s shallow, and constantly reminds me of cheap gameplays. Not to mention, it is all too common in a world that is obsessed with likability, prestige, and popularity. I don’t want to work at an environment that is all smokes and mirrors. If there’s anything that software is teaching us, it’s that you can’t really fake quality. Talking myself into thinking I’m better that I actually am can only take me so far. I think for me, the quality and the innovativeness of the work will always trump titles. It speaks for itself.
Having fun is probably the first, and the most sustainable step to achieving that.
“By using a title without doing the work, you fool yourself into thinking that future success is assured — thinking, “This is who I am!” But that premature sense of satisfaction can keep you from doing the hard work necessary.” — Derek Sivers, Keep Earning Your Title, Or It Expires
Admittedly, I have always lacked the necessary arrogance typical of the industries I find myself in. Precisely why I do think I don’t always make the strongest first impressions, I’m self-aware enough to understand what I am not (and probably never will be). As life improves, and work grows more maturely, I actively practice constraints on the, sometimes inevitable, growing arrogance that comes natural to progress. We take pride in what we do, and that is a great thing to have. While a little bit of pride is essential to success, arrogance isn’t.
My antidote to growing arrogance is always the constant reminder that things won’t always be this good. Everyday is a chance to be better, to slowly make myself more skillful, to accept that fact that mastery comes with a price and that is patience. Therefore, at any given time, there’s a great possibility that I’ll encounter the very thing, the very incident that could end everything. Life, career, work. All I can do, until then, is to prepare and equip myself with the right tools so I can fight everyday.
No amount of arrogance can save me, or anyone, in this case. You know what can? Mindset. It’s your most important asset of all. No-one can take that away from you.
It’s no secret that on top of everything else, you gotta have fun. You have got to enjoy what you, why do you it and for whom. It is the ultimate secret and a known hack among top performers.
Warren Buffet famously said, “ I get to do what I like to do every single day of the year. I get to do it with people I like, and I don’t have to associate with anybody who causes my stomach to churn.”
The best thing is that you define what is fun, and find ways to provide solutions, create value around those things so that it can ultimately help people. This is, of course, a bigger conversation especially if you would want to get into the details.
Just because it sounds simple doesn’t automatically makes it easy to do. In fact, in case like this, it may be the hardest concept to grasp which is why I will end this by bringing up, once again, Paul Graham’s essay on ‘How To Do What You Love’:
“Whichever route you take, expect a struggle. Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it’s rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you’ll be more likely to arrive at it. If you know you can love work, you’re in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you’re practically there.” — Paul Graham
Design your life, your world starting by sculpting your mind. It’s not enough to just add things in it (learning). You also need to keep things out of it, for as much as you can (unlearning). It’s the perfect balance of both that makes the best version of it, the best version of you, uncorrupted, principled and noteworthy you.
I can’t think of anything more worthy of my time than working for this.