Doing Less Better
I’ve noticed a radical idea in the past few months. An idea that is challenging everything I thought I know about creating impact, wealth, and a life you want to live. I feel a little uncomfortable even talking about — it feels like it has to be wrong. But here goes:
This post is for the over-achievers, the hard-workers, and the people who want to do big things in their time. So, if that’s you, stick around.
It’s for you because I’m one of you. I was the kid who did the extra credit. The one who packed every hour of their day with activities. I was the kid who religiously optimized their sleep schedule as to promote maximum performance.
Looking back, with the knowledge I now have, I can’t help but think how ineffective (some of) that was. Because here’s the maxim that I'ved adopted during my early adult years.
Do less better.
This realization may have originated from my discovery that I do better and learn more from my classes the less I pack my day with studying. It may have been when I started opening wide periods of my calendar for leisure as to find time for creativity and developing relationships — the things that drive my writing. I think it started before then, and I want to take you on the journey that I’ve been so lucky to be swept away by.
Where results come from
When I picked up the Almanack of Naval Ravikant, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Within a few pages, though, my perspective on wealth, value, and how I lived was revolutionized. Two of his cited tweets stood out to me in particular:
You’re not going to get rich renting out your time… You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale.
My notion of what it meant to produce value were destroyed. As a Gen Z adult, my childhood straddled some competing ideas. On one side, there were the later baby boomer and early Gen X principles of hard work and stability. On the other side, there were the millennials preaching spirituality and leisure.
I was a product of the following messages.
To succeed, you must work hard.
To succeed, you can't identify with your work.
And so it was a little bit startling when Naval tore down the construct of hard work and relaxation. That to make money in this world, you need to provide value (no matter how hard you work or how much you relax).
Working hard, in itself, is meaningless. It doesn't contribute anything. Working hard on the right thing — i.e., something that creates value — is maximally meaningful. The game you play suddenly becomes much more important than how hard you play at that game.
Playing the right game
James Clear put it brilliantly:
In sports, one of the primary sources of advantage is choosing how to play the game. In life, one of the primary sources of advantage is choosing which game to play.
I slowly put this philosophy into practice, and I started writing.
I have often been aggravated by the disconnect between having a purpose you want to fulfill and actually fulfilling the purpose. Young adults are so often told to wait for permission. I was sick of it, and I wanted to live my purpose now. So, I started writing.
This was the way I was going to create value.
Over the past couple months, I’ve published every other day. Oddly, I became both more expansive and focused. While my interests vary and I love learning ideas, writing grounded me. It kept me coming back to report what I was learning and share it with the world. I’ve had a few very successful habits in my life, but I don’t think any have been as successful as my dedication to writing.
When you consider the fact that I spend about an hour a day on my writing, the fact that I’ve kept up with it for almost 90 days now feels insane (I can't name another habit I've been so dedicated to). And when reflecting on my life during those days, it was the beginning of the weird realization that was knocking on the door ever since I read Naval. While I was significantly less busy than I was in high school, I was getting so much more done.
You need to find the best inputs
I think it’s useful to examine another idea from Naval here:
99% of effort is wasted.
Namely, 1% of our efforts lead to the vast majority of the outcomes. This doesn’t mean we eliminate 99% of what we do — that would mean you need to know what the 1% that produces outcomes actually is (which is incredibly difficult if not impossible). We can also use that 99% as learning to help create the 1%. This does mean, however, that if we can understand which of our actions are best contributing to us living a life we desire, we can create more space for it.
The best inputs for creativity (why leisure is so useful)
I don’t want to write full-time. I see it as one of hopefully many streams of income to live both an impactful and independent life. At the heart of what I want to be is someone who solves problems.
Here’s what I’ve learned about solving problems. To become successful doing it, you need to find the right problems to solve. To find the right problems to solve, you need to LIVE.
What do I mean by live?
It means you have to get out in the world, interact with people, and be human. To find human problems, you need to be human. Once you find those problems, then you put your head down. Then you go to work. You create a solution. And, hopefully, it pans out.
This is how I write, and I’m only beginning to realize that.
This feels too easy
This morning, while I started to write this piece, I felt like an impostor. This was new for me. I had never felt like an impostor and when others talked about impostor syndrome, I would shrug my shoulders. Sure, I’d been lucky, but I’d never felt like I didn’t deserve a seat at the table. This morning was different.
As I looked at my Medium page, I couldn’t help but feel undeserving. Yes, I think my writing is good. But is my writing as good as the amount of views I am getting? No shot.
It took me a while to understand what I’ve been doing. I write every day. I publish every other day. Not many people are doing that. When I write, I share my stories and lessons — people find these lessons valuable. People can relate to me. Whether or not I “deserve” viewership isn’t my place to determine. It’s the people who read my work that determine that. And what are they saying? That my work is worth their attention and their time.
I’ve achieved far greater results with far less work. It has nothing to do with me. It is simply the product of working on the things that matter. And so, I am going to keep doing that. Reminding myself to discover the things that I love to do that create the most value. I am going to do less, better.