Warm sun, clear skies, fresh air.
Another day of lockdown, another day without the burdens of regular life… another day to get things done!
Today, i’m going to:-
- Write 2 pages,
- Complete a video assignment,
- And create a social media post.
That was 47 days ago, and I have since done… none of the above.
“Procrastination? You’re not alone bro”.
Yes, I know what’s wrong, I’ve been here before. But clearly, knowing isn’t enough.
After 47 days of self-chastising, going to sleep proclaiming tomorrow as the day, and still getting jack done, i’ve decided, like many other problems i’ve faced in the past, to seek clarity through writing.
Revealing the Unknown
Like puppets attached to strings— or closer to home— patungs to sticks, “Unknown Forces” guide our behaviour. For better or worse? Let’s see.
Although I have done squat to progress my top 3 priorities, i’ve:-
- Finished reading 4 books.
- Finished reading hundreds of bookmarked articles.
- Dissected a ton of nutrition and training papers.
- Completed an online investing course.
- Conducted (what I consider) in depth research of a dozen companies to potentially add into my portfolio.
- Am midway through an online well-being course.
- Completed a personal brand market analysis.
- Learnt a new meditation protocol, and since applied it daily to my practice..
- Improved my basketball handling skills through several YouTube tutorials.
- Consistently performed 100 push ups every other day.
“Clap Clap, give yourself a medal”
Yes, I know. We are at a cultural zeitgeist where I need to be grateful for the trees, the birds and the poop I take within 5 minutes of waking up.
All of the above are… ahem… great achievements, if I may say so myself.
Yet, when I sit down after a productive day, there comes a sense of unease. “I deserve to relax”, I tell myself as I turn on NetFlix. But the most entertaining show only serves to deepen my guilt.
Despite having acquired more knowledge in the past 47 days than I’ve had in the past 6 months…
I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything at all.
I’ve been compulsively reading, learning, studying about everything! I go from courses on my laptop, to articles from my phone, to books, podcasts, interviews, TED talks…
Even while i’m meditating, my thought process is literally, “more calmness, good. Centered-ness, yes! So much Zen! Oh yeahhhhhh!”
All in the name of becoming the best version of myself.
A Yale personality test calls this a Strength:-
Love of learning: A yearning to add systematically to what one knows. To mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether formally or on one’s own.
Thanks, Yale. but lately, “love” is the furthest word from how it all feels.
More is… Good?
It’s a recurring message sold to me throughout life- the more I work, the better the outcome.
I bought it, so I applied it to everything, even learning.
When I learn, there is a frenetic urgency in ticking things off as “complete”.
Course materials on analyzing stock market downtrend, check. Research article on shoulder rotation capacity post surgery, check. Video on the possibility of low cost space travel by 2050, check.
“The more I learn, the better I become”.
It’s so ingrained in my OS, that I needed a coach to highlight a blind spot:-
Coach: “You tell me you’re doing so much… but why is there nothing to show for?”
Ouch. I defended myself. By all accounts and metrics, I am “succeeding”- I’m making decent income, I have stable financials for my age, I’m learning so many new things. I’m in great shape (I was desperate).
Coach: “Okay, I understand…”
Great. I was relieved that the conversation could be steered somewhere else.
Coach: ” You’ve been saying you wanted to do this for so long, why is there no progress at all?
Strip me bare and lay me out in the middle of the Shibuya Crossing.
I still wouldn’t have felt as exposed as when I heard those words.
The Futility of Hard Work
“People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.” – Aldous Huxley
I’ve been using learning and growing as a distraction from doing what is truly going to bring me to the “next level”.
Instead of doing scary, unpredictable and truly “move the needle” work, I chose to put my head down to “work” till I burnt out. Burning out was predictable, easier… almost comforting.
Without hard work, I had nowhere to hide.
Over the years, I’ve built up a potent arsenal of “burnouts”: reading, working out, wealth building, networking, learning.
To be fair, they serve important purposes in my journey. For instance, working out helps stimulate courage and creativy, an essential concoction in producing daring work. And without wealth, I wouldn’t have the luxury (literally and figuratively) to pursue what I really want.
But when I gave those tasks undeserved pedestals, it became a problem
Before I knew it, these tasks have swept the real, scary, life-defining work under the rug, and I was too cozy hiding under the guise of busyness rather than working on what’s truly important.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I had some tough questions to answer. Again, couldn’t have done it without the keen eye of a coach.
Coach: What are you learning for?
I learn to improve my understanding of things.
Coach: Why do you want those improvements?
So that I can be of value and service to the people I serve.
Coach: Who are the people you serve?
People who struggle in achieving their fitness goals following the unattainable standards and methods set by the fitness industry.
Coach: You’ve been in the industry for the past 10 years, how much more knowledge do you need to be able to help them?
… a bit more.
Coach: You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Either way, does all the scientific papers, podcasts, videos and courses help you serve your target audience better?
Coach: Be honest. What are you learning for?
(dripping in sweat as I relive the moment to type this)
I’m not good enough.
I’m not sure if I can ever live up to the the ideal me. What if I put myself out to the world, and they don’t accept me? I know it’s all in my mind, but I am run by it.
Hence, I retreat to “upgrading” myself, learning and reading, it’s still part of the process of putting myself out to the world, but it’s the least scary step.
In doing so, I don’t feel so useless anymore. It feels good, in fact, it feels like progress. I’ll keep doing this to hide from taking the next step. Because the next step might very well be the end.
Putting my dreams out to the world will expose it’s flaws. I don’t want to have my dreams crushed.
To be, or not to be… the Best?
“Continuous improvement for it’s own sake is a waste of time” – Michael E. Gerber
Since this revelation, I’ve come to realize the difference between meaningful work and indiscriminate work. One leaves me tired, exposed, doubtful, cringing at myself.. yet, fulfilled, and the other… just tired.
When learning became an excuse from what needs to be done, it became a fucking miserable, draining ordeal (in hindsight, that was perhaps my internal compass’ way of course-correcting).
I had to stop my reckless upgrading.
There’s no point being the best version of myself if I become the wrong version of myself.
Unlike previous posts, I don’t have “concrete” strategies on how and why these work. Ultimately, this article serves as a reminder to future Brad in the event that he hits the same road block. I hope it serves you, somehow.
The essence of how I got out of my destructive cycle of “upgrading”:-
- Self-enquiry: What’s the most important task in your life right now? Are you sure? If so, are you doing it? If not, why?
- Self-talk 1: Confidence comes after you start, not before.
- Self-talk 2: Pain ceases after doing begins.
- Seek help: You can’t see what you don’t want to see. Seek help from a coach.
P.s., Today, I picked up a book. I’ve read it before.
I don’t remember it ever being so good.