Evolutionary Pressure, The Essentials, And Sustainability

I’ve only been back to school a week now, but I’ve had a number of epiphanies during that time. These epiphanies haven’t come from my teachers or the material presented in my classes, but through the unique challenges with trying to be a hustler while you’re parents still force you attend an outdated and irrelevant “education” system.

This week has had more ups and downs than any in recent memory. I had a stretch of 3 days last week where I was working 15 productive hours per day and absolutely crushing life. I also hit a really low point this weekend where I had somewhat of a nervous breakdown, and although that was a really painful experience it did help me internalize some important lessons.

The Three Powerful Lessons I’ve Learned This Week

You’re capable of a lot more than you think you are, but you’ll never know it if you don’t force yourself to show it.

What do I mean by this? Our brain doesn’t like doing any work beyond what’s absolutely essential. It likes to conserve energy. If you don’t put evolutionary pressure on yourself to do stuff you probably won’t. It’s not that you couldn’t, you just won’t.

Do you think Cal Ripken Jr. always felt like showing up? I’m sure he got burnt out at times, but the man showed up 2,632 times in a row. It’s hard not to be successful when you’ve got that kind of consistency.

How did he do it? He burned bridges. He didn’t allow not showing up to be an option. You can’t rely on willpower alone to accomplish things, because willpower isn’t a sustainable resource. If you rely on it too frequently it’ll deplete and then you’re fucked.

Going to school is far from the most effective way for me to be spending my time, but until I’m 18 I don’t have much of a choice so I’ve learned to be hyper productive while I’m there to prevent myself from having homework, and still get straight A’s to keep the parents off my back.

How do I do it? It’s my only option. I’m the only kid who skips lunch everyday to do his homework in the library. I’m the only kid who works on his English homework while the rest of the class is lining up at the door the last five minutes of class. Anybody else could do these things, but because it’s not a necessity for them they just don’t.

Even right now I’m hustling. In the summer time wasn’t necessarily abundant, but I had an extra 40 hours a week to get things done. As a result I tended to be much less intense and I often wouldn’t start writing or whatever my first task of the day was until 10 or 11 o’clock.

That’s not an option now. I can’t even afford to spend the same amount of time writing as I did in the summer. In the summer I typically spent 1.5-2 hours writing a 700 word post. Now I’m learning to crank out 1,000 words within an hour.

Are the quality of my blog posts suffering? Maybe, maybe not. I’m sure it’ll take a while to get used to this speed, but regardless the message I’m trying to get across is if you want to get something done you need to burn your bridges, and make the completion of “x” task your only option.

As Will Smith once said, “No Plan B, it distracts from Plan A.”

Cut Out The Crap, And Focus On The Essentials

It’s one thing for me to tell you to put evolutionary pressure on yourself and make success your only option, but why is this beneficial? For one it increases your intensity. Growing up and slaving my life away at a meaningless 9-5 isn’t an option for me so you better believe you’ll find me hustling at almost any given moment rather than chowing down on a bag of chips and watching football.

The other reason evolutionary pressure is beneficial is because it shows you what’s essential and what isn’t. When time becomes a scarce resource you learn to dial in and remove anything unnecessary from your life.

For example, now that school has started I haven’t been reading as many blogs. In the summer I’d often read and leave blog comments for an hour or two per day, but lately I’ve spent less time “researching” and only been reading a handful of blogs.

By no means do I mean to imply that reading is a bad habit as that couldn’t be any further from the truth. I think taking in a modest amount of positive information every day is very important. Input does equal output. The problem occurs, however, when learning about how to do things gets in the way of actually doing them.

Another thing I’ve eliminated from my life is excessive email, and twitter usage. Those negative, unconscious habits slowly developed within me through out the summer, and by the end I was often checking them 5+ times per day. I’ve already addressed this and implemented the use of WasteNoTime to prevent automatically force myself from using Twitter more than 15 minutes per day, and likely saved a LOT of discipline in the process.

I always try to respond to blog comments within 12 hours or so, as I think letting you know your contribution to the community here is important, but constantly refreshing my twitter feed to see what everyone else is up to is obviously a waste of time.

I understood this on a logical level during the summer, but I don’t think I realized just how bad I was about it until those small 5 minute increments of time because valuable resources I couldn’t afford to squander.

Regardless of what you want to accomplish, sometimes temporarily overloading yourself is a good way to see just how much you’re capable of. It’s not healthy nor sustainable if you’re constantly running around at a frantic pace trying to get things done, but seeing just how much you can take on for a week or so will likely produce some very valuable insights.

Sustainability-Think Lasting Results, Not Instant Results

The final thing I’ve really begun to learn about this week is the importance of sustainability. Working hard is important, but working yourself to the point of exhaustion for weeks, or months on end only leads to nervous breakdowns, and worse. Trust me.

(Sometimes you just gotta have some fun.)

You need to find a special type of work you’re passionate about and develop a work schedule for yourself that allows you to be happy, and have minimal stress. If happiness falls too low for an extended period of time, or stress creeps too high you’re setting yourself up to go on an instant gratification spree to numb yourself and attempt to escape from reality.

This’ll mean different things for all of us, but for me this means going out and socializing a few times per week. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been a workaholic these last few years, and I’m still learning the importance of maintaining a social life.

I made a lot of progress in this area of my life this past summer, but I’ve still got to do a better job of staying consistent with my social life. Sometimes I allow myself to remain too socially isolated and like any animal separated from its species that rapidly increases my stress levels whether I realize it or not.

Maybe if you’re an extrovert it means not staying out too late on the weekends so you’re not exhausted during the week. Maybe if you love food it means learning to develop a taste for healthy food and staying away from unsustainable solutions like diet pills. Regardless, of your specific circumstances it’s important to focus on lasting results rather than temporary achievements.

I felt like I might have went into too much detail about my life here, and should have focused more on the action steps, but I wanted you to be able to see where these realizations came from. Regardless, I hope you found them useful, and were able to take something from this post.

Let me know in the comments! 🙂

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Feeling much better than a few days ago. Last weekend was painful, but valuable. That’s the way I see it, and I believe that’s a healthy way of looking at it.

Speed writing is coming along well. 1,355 words today in 58 minutes. Another 10 or so minutes to edit everything and proofread.

Picture from July 2013 at St. Lucy’s festival in Racine, Wi.

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