Bitcoin and Adams Law of Slow Moving Disasters

Scott Adams, Dilbert creator, is an innovative thinker. One of his ideas is “The Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters.” As he puts it, whenever humanity sees a slow-moving disaster approaching, we find a way to avoid it.

Examples of this include:

  • Thomas Malthus predicting the world would run out of food due to increasing population, and humans everywhere living in poverty. What actually happened was farming technology improved and food became more abundant than ever.
  • Experts claiming oil wells would dry up and global oil supplies running out. Instead, advancements in drilling led to new ways of extracting it from the ground and supply increasing.
  • Everyone anticipating the Y2K computer bug to destroy computer programs and wreak havoc on the economy, as computers then could only display the final two digits of a year (so year 2000 would be indistinguishable from 1900). In reality, fixes were implemented and everything was dandy.

Adams believes we’ll find a way to avoid climate change disasters in the same vein.

What’s interesting to me about Adams Law is how it relates to Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has been locked in a scaling debate for years now over the ideal blockchain size, which is ultimately a debate over what Bitcoin’s intended purpose should be. One faction wants Bitcoin to be a global currency system akin to Visa, so they want bigger block sizes to process more transactions per second at lower fees. The other side wants Bitcoin to be more of a secure store of value and global settlement network for moving large sums of money around with larger transaction fees for greater security.

The culmination of this unending back-and-forth led to various hard deadline dates set this year (2017). Most notably, August 1 is the date Bitcoin’s blockchain potentially splits and hard forks into two.

The uncertainty around all this and worries over Bitcoin’s future recently caused its price to fall from ~$3,000 USD to a low of ~$1,800. It’s since rebounded all the way up to as high as ~$2,800 after Bitcoin miners signaled for BIP 91 and locked it in. Bitcoin’s future still isn’t set in stone yet, though, as miners now have to actually use BIP 91 (not just signal for it), and a fork called Bitcoin Cash seems to be imminent despite despite the first step of the compromise solution (BIP91) locking in already.

Despite all this drama and continued uncertainty, as a holder I’ve pretty much turned a blind eye towards it. I have no intention of liquidating any of my holdings nor felt much panic. The only thing I’ve done is add btc through the ups and downs. I see this whole debate as another example of Adams Law of Slow Moving Disasters playing out, and regardless the outcome – whether Bitcoin soft forks or hard forks or which solution reigns supreme – Bitcoin will continue to be a bigger and bigger part of our world.

Time will tell, of course. Let’s revisit this piece in 5 years and see where we stand.

On Deep Work

Deep work, as defined by Cal Newport, refers to “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.”

Be honest, how many hours of deep work do you do per day? I’m guessing the answer for most people is between zero to an hour.

When you think about this, isn’t it a bit sad? We probably spent more time doing deep work in high school and college while studying than we do in our jobs, where we’re supposed to work.

A large part of this, I believe, is due to the typical office environment. The printer is humming at a hundred miles an hour; your co-workers across from you are discussing the latest episode of Game of Thrones; your colleague beside you is having a heated argument with a client on the phone; the talking heads on the flat-screen wall TV are rambling on about Trump’s latest tweet; your boss comes up behind you and asks you how your weekend was…you get the picture.

Why is deep work important? Deep work is what leads to creation: art, writing, music, code – meaningful output of any kind.

Shallow work, characterized by constant distraction and little conscious effort, leads to emails. Hundreds of emails that ultimately produce little value.

Consistent shallow work is more detrimental than first glance though. Studies have shown that people who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. “Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate.”

I see this all the time. I’ll be in a meeting with someone, their phone pings alerting them of an email, and they simply can’t help but glance down. We could be in the middle of an important discussion and their entire train of thought goes out the window – just like that.

If you’ve ever looked back on your day and wondered what you actually accomplished, the solution is to schedule deep work into your day. Block out at least an hour in your calendar and lock yourself in a room with no WiFi. Resist the urge to check your phone or email or surf the Web. Focus on the task at hand.

When I engage in this kind of deep work, usually using the Pomodoro Technique, I’m always surprised by how much I can get done in a short period of time. After a while of doing this, you realize that most people simply do not work as hard as they think they do. Time spent at work or doing busywork is by no means indicative of how much actual work gets done.

Key takeaways:

  • Start scheduling periods of deep work into your day. Start small with just a 20-minute block of absolutely focused work, and slowly increase it.
  • Schedule research and Internet time later, when you’re not doing deep work. A quick tip is to write [TK] in places where you need to come back to later and find it with a Ctrl+F. Few words naturally have TK in them.
  • Be OK feeling ‘bored’. Like Louis CK says, resist that urge to pick up the cell phone when you feel that ping of boredom. This will help deepen your focus when you need to.
  • Avoid multitasking as much as possible. This includes doing shallow work in the evenings when you should be relaxing.

How to Avoid Information Overload

This is a repost of my most popular answer on Quora. It’s apparently been distributed to and read by over a million people. I’m a bit blown away by that, but I suppose it’s an indicator that the topic of information overload is a pressing issue today.

I just re-read the answer and still fully agree with what I wrote. I still have a long way to go before I’ll be happy with my c:p ratio, but like anything incremental improvements will go a long way over time.


Question: I feel like I’m wasting my time when I’m reading. Is that wrong?

I can relate. For many years, I was stuck in the same trap you describe. I spent hours every day just browsing forums, reading various blogs, and consuming a lot of stuff that had no impact on my life.

Eventually it hit me how much time I’d been wasting. I looked at my consumption:production ratio. I was consuming all of this information but not actually doing anything with it – my C:P ratio was completely skewed.

The most successful people in this world have a C:P ratio that is much more heavily favored in the production side. They’re out there creating things, whether it be art, writing, businesses, etc. adding value to others or themselves in some way. They’re the ones writing the blogs and books. They take action.

What I had been consuming had no material impact on my life. It wasn’t like I was implementing things I had read and making vast improvements to better myself. No, I was just going through the same routine of mindlessly browsing the Internet consuming useless info.

I thought I was “learning” but really it was just another way to pass the time. So I made the decision to fix my C:P ratio. I stopped following the news. I deleted my RSS feed of blogs I’d visit. I stopped going onto sites like reddit and Business Insider. I deactivated my Facebook account every so often. I (tried) watching fewer videos on YouTube.

All of this helped reduce the amount of useless information I was taking in, and freed up time for me to work on producing things or learning new skills that would better me.

I also began to read more physical books, as the signal:noise ratio is generally much higher (i.e. more useful information). Still, I’ve come to realize there’s such a thing as information overload when it comes reading books as well after having read 80 books last year. These days I generally read things only if I need the information and will actually take action from what I’ve read.

The conventional wisdom is that it doesn’t matter what you read, because anything you read will benefit you in some way. I disagree. “Junk reading” exists in the same way junk eating does. Just like how junk food contains very little nutritional value and is full of empty calories, junk information contains little actionable advice and fills your brain with useless facts.

Information overload is a real concern these days. It leads to analysis paralysis and a never-ending pursuit of knowledge just for the sake of knowledge. There’s so much info out there it would take many lifetimes just to get through it all – so it’s up to us to filter through it to determine what’s relevant to us.

I’m not saying you have to meticulously plan out what you consume or that you can’t read for entertainment. Once in while, it’s probably even a good idea to venture outside your comfort zone and read/watch something completely outside your usual domain. But always keep in mind your C:P ratio. If you’re unhappy with where you are and how you’re spending your time, it’s best to reduce your consumption.

Note that all information isn’t some binary “useless” or “not useless.” If you’re reading gossip blogs about what Kim Kardashian has been up to lately just for the sake of keeping up with the Kardashians, I’d wager it’s useless. But if you’re an on-air reporter for E! Entertainment TV, then keeping up with the Kardashians is likely one of the most important things you do.

Fun vs Meaningful

You’ve probably heard the saying “time you enjoy wasting is not time wasted.”

Like most sayings, there’s some truth to it. But if you really believe this you’re probably doing yourself a disservice by having a ready-made excuse to wasting time.

And if you’re like me and try to (somewhat) optimize how you spend time, is there a way to determine how to best spend it, and on what activities to spend it on?

The way I’ve begun to think about it is thinking of activities in terms of fun vs meaningful.

Fun

Fun can mean a lot of things, but to me the gist is that you feel good doing whatever you’re doing in the moment and not necessarily after the fact. It’s a short-term, fleeting feeling without many, if at all, future benefits.

An example is drinking alcohol. Drinking is fun; you feel good while you’re drunk and generally the more you drink the more fun you have. But that fun is fleeting, because the day after you’re groggy, hungover, and regretful (How many times have you said “I’m never drinking so much again”?). And how beneficial is drinking? Not very to your body or health. Sure, you might make a friend or two while doing so, but will those be deep relationships you care about?

Meaningful 

Meaningful, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily have that same instantaneous short-term enjoyment that fun can have. Meaningful activities can be fun, but they can also be hard, painstaking work in the moment. The payoff for meaningful activities can also be delayed, but also much more enduring.

An example of a meaningful activity is working out. It’s tough in the moment, and few people enjoy the first few times they start a new workout program. But the after effects of a workout – dopamine, testosterone, improved circulation, confidence – are universal: no one has ever regretted exercising more.

Thinking of activities this way helps you avoid the temptation for instant gratification. Think of “fun” activities like playing video games, partying, going out drinking, vacationing, etc. as the dessert, not the main course. The main course is filled with activities like learning new skills, taking interesting classes, playing on a sports league, contributing to a start-up, etc.

Of course, people are going to read this and still think it’s arrogant to label activities as meaningful or not, or a waste of time or not. They’re missing the point. Of course you’re free to spend your time doing whatever you want. But if you’re trying to convince yourself that watching TV or playing video games in all your free time is not a waste of time you’re likely deluding yourself.

I had to learn this the hard way. As a kid, I used to play a ton of video games – hours and hours every day, sometimes even waking up in the middle of the night to put in more hours. I had a ton of fun playing them in the moment, but when I stopped I’d inevitably have this empty hollow-ness inside me. Did I really just spend 3, 4, 5 hours playing this game? What did I really achieve as a result? What could I have done instead with all that time? 

I didn’t understand the concept of fun vs meaningful back then, but I’m sure that had I known I likely would have spent my time wiser.

Your Past is an Indicator of Your Future

Time for some harsh truths today.

I’m a big believer in embracing reality. Part of that entails cutting through the noise – propaganda, invisible scripts, motivational nonsense – accepting discomfort, and then focusing on what you can control to better your situation.

A lot of people will have you believe that you can do anything you want if you just believe hard enough or want it badly enough. “Your potential is limitless – all you need to do is untap it!” We further this by deluding ourselves with thoughts like, “Yeah, if I really wanted to do XYZ I could.”

And while it’s true that it’s never too late to start something, if you believe that your past has no effect on your future you’re doing yourself a disservice by avoiding reality.

Past performance – while not a perfect indicator – is a pretty good predictor of future performance. I have a hard time thinking of a field where this rule doesn’t apply.

Who you are today is a reflection of who you were in the past; your decisions, your actions, your thoughts, your beliefs. All of the seemingly inconsequential choices and micro-decisions we make on a day-to-day basis – our habits – compound.

There’s a saying that goes “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Like most phrases or stereotypes, this is generally true. If you approach certain things with a 50% mentality you’ll likely approach most other things with the same lackadaisical effort.

This is one reason why some people seemingly have it all. Success has a spillover effect – what you do builds momentum. Success leads to more opportunities available to you and more “luck”.

If this post is depressing, it should serve as a wake up call that you’re unhappy with your current situation and are probably worried that the future holds much of the same.

You can either whine about it and blame some external factor for your misfortune, trying to convince others in some way to alleviate your situation (hint: getting other people to do what you want that’s not in their best interest never works)…or you can embrace reality and start taking corrective action today. 

All we can do in life is try to take things one day at a time. Improving ourselves 1% a day is a victory.

What this looks like in application:

  • If you’re overweight: Go for a 5-minute run outside today. Tomorrow, 7 minutes. The day after, 10 minutes.
  • If you’re stuck at a job you hate: Update your resume today and apply to one job posting. Tomorrow, two job postings. The day after, three job postings.
  • If you’re trying to improve your confidence: Ask a stranger for the time today. Tomorrow, ask two strangers for the time, or directions to the nearby Starbucks. The day after, strike up a conversation with the cashier.

Start small. Progressively overload yourself. If you do this consistently for two weeks…a month…three months…how much closer to your goals do you think you’ll be?

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s June 2016 and it’s been over six months since I last wrote anything or updated this site. I know, I know, I dropped the ball. A lot has changed since then though, so I’ll go over what’s happened and some of the things I’ve learned.

The biggest change is that I got a new job in NYC. I’m working for a fintech company that’s disrupting a traditional industry and is the leader in its space. I’m excited at the opportunity and it’s been great so far.

This might be surprising because many of my previous articles were tinged with a very pro-entrepreneurship lens of view, and a slight distaste for the corporate world.

But humans change. And one of the great things about writing is that it allows you to go back and revisit your old thoughts and points of view.

One of the ways I’ve changed is I’ve come to be more accepting of working a corporate job. It sounds silly, I know, but 20-year old me associated jobs of any kind with depression, stress, anxiety, you name it. I had this idea that everyone who worked a 9-5 was some corporate zombie who hated their bosses, their colleagues, and everything about it. While true for some people, there are also plenty of people who enjoy their jobs and find a lot of meaning in what they do.

This realization came to me in part because of my previous stint working for a real estate entrepreneur. I enjoyed most of the perks that come with entrepreneurship that everyone glorifies so much: working from anywhere I wanted, largely having control over my time, freedom to pursue other activities, and so on.

But at the same time I was also being paid pennies. And working directly for someone else meant that my future was largely in someone else’s hands. It was certainly a learning opportunity as I had my hands in all sorts of different industries and functions, but it got rough at times. Projects we’d worked on for months or even years sometimes never came to fruition or didn’t close, legal issues arose, personal matters conflicted with business situations, and on and on.

This is the unsexy side of entrepreneurship that hardly anyone ever talks about. Too many people try their hand at pursuing their passions and starting a business without fully understanding the risks involved and just how much it sucks to not know when or who your next check is coming from.

The plus side to the lack of financial security was that it forced me to get creative with other incomes. I learned copywriting and freelanced for a bit (more posts on that in future).

I previously wrote an article titled “How to Make $1M in Four Years After University” where I gave an example of someone who actually made $1m in four years. I highlighted the fact that he held onto his high-paying job all while pursuing side hustles. This is the model I’m going to replicate, and it’s one that I think more than 90% of recent graduates should also take.

Now, I used to think holding a regular job would prevent me from pursuing my own activities on the side. I’d be too tired after work, too grumpy, too stressed, whatever. All of these thoughts were just excuses.

“I don’t have time” is truly one of the biggest BS phrases we all throw around. It’s true that I do have less time now than before; by the time I get home around 7-8pm, go to the gym for an hour, shower, and eat, it’s 9-10pm at least…but, that still leaves me with a couple hours. Even half an hour of dedicated, focused work can produce great results if done consistently. I just need to prioritize my time and attention to actually do so. Or wake up an hour earlier. Or work at my desk during lunch.

The point is if we truly want something bad enough, we’ll set up systems to make it work. I’m looking forward to making it work. One of those ways will be to update this blog more often. The quality might go down sliiiightly, but that’s only because I won’t stupidly be spending a week writing and re-writing the same article trying to perfect it now. Goes to show constraints are beneficial.

6 Wastes of Time In Your 20s

As humans, we’re all born to different circumstances, but the one commonality we share is time. What we do and where we end up in life is most impacted by how we spend this incredibly valuable asset.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to fully appreciate this asset in your early 20s and prior, precisely because it’s so abundant at this age. And yet how we spend our time during these formative years is so important; an early investment of time in something can pay dividends for years and decades down the road.

After thinking about the various ways in which I’ve wasted and waste time, I’ve come up with the list below.

The problem with the following items is that they feel good in the moment, but don’t actually generate much happiness/utility/benefit after the fact. They’re forms of instant gratification, much like candy. You could eat five bags of candy in one sitting and feel great while doing so, but almost immediately after regret your decision to do so. I’ve found I react the same way to the following activities.

And to those who say time enjoyed is not time wasted, I agree…but only to an extent. Take an extreme example: I could do drugs all day and have the time of my life – yet we can all agree that that “time enjoyed” was certainly wasted, unproductive, and even harmful.

So, on to what I think the biggest time wasters are:

Alcohol
Consider a typical night out in college:

Pre-game for an hour, head out to the bar to drink for a couple hours, go to an after-party/club for another couple hours, find a pizza joint after and spend another hour eating/chatting, finally head home at 3-4 am, then wake up hungover the next day and stay in bed half the day nursing a headache.

When you repeat the above multiple times a week for several years, the hours quickly add up.

Now, yes, you may argue that all that going out serves a purpose: to meet new people and develop relationships with. But let’s face it: most people in their early 20s go out for the sake of getting drunk with a close-knit circle.

I realized pretty early on in college that I didn’t enjoy getting sloshed to the extent my peers did. So I simply stopped accepting invites to go out when I knew the event centered around consuming as much alcohol as one could. Once I came to terms with not letting these feelings of pressure / societal expectations dictate my evenings, I was free to spend my nights on other hobbies or events – reading, writing, playing poker, trying board games with friends, learning new skills, playing intramural league, or just sleeping early.

Now, none of this isn’t to say I think alcohol is bad or that I never drink – I just think it’s important to have a good relationship with it.

It’s still too early to say how this will impact my future, but I can say for certain that had I gone out more this past year, I would not have had the time to read 80+ books, learn copywriting & direct marketing, generate income from poker, and spend as much quality time with friends.

I’m also comforted by the fact that others have echoed this idea. For instance: Ryan Holiday recently credited not drinking as instrumental for his success at an early age.

Bad Relationships
Just glance at all the relationship questions on Quora and you’ll see bad relationships are one of the biggest headaches and timesucks for people in their 20s.

People stick around too long in bad relationships and try to make it work with the wrong people. This doesn’t just mean incompatible boyfriends/girlfriends – it includes negative people, people who drain you of your energy, compulsive complainers/whiners, abusive family members, etc.

Realize that you are allowed to cut people out from your life. You can stop accepting invites to go out. You don’t have to try and salvage every relationship and every friendship. As you get older, you’ll naturally be more exclusive with who you associate with. I think the sooner one realizes this, the better.

Video Games
I spent my entire teenage life playing games. I easily racked up hundreds, if not a thousand, hours of playing video games. In first year college, I would routinely stay up playing Heroes of Newerth with friends over Skype. I actually essentially lost money while I was playing because at the time, my hourly rate playing online poker was $100-200 – a huge opportunity cost. The addiction was real.

I not only played for hours every night, I also studied my past games, watched streams, and read guides all in the name of improving myself. That took up another few hours every day.

Were there benefits from all this? I really can’t say at the moment. I want to believe that this compulsive drive to better myself at anything I do translates into other endeavors. But what if I had simply put my time and energy into something else to begin with?

Yes, I enjoyed playing video games in the heat of the moment. But once in a while, there would be a hollow feeling inside me. Did 3 hours really just go by? And think of all the things I’m procrastinating on… Eventually, I realized gaming didn’t align with my future goals at all. I slowly eased off of it and eventually quit for the most part.

When it comes to determining whether gaming is a waste of time or not, it helps to decide which side of the “# hours played” curve you wish to be on. On one side, you have 1000+ hours – this is if you have ambitions to go pro, enter the competitive scene, become a prominent YouTuber, start a Twitch stream, or some other way to monetize your gaming. On the other side is <100 hours – think of the casual gamer who plays for an hour every couple of days after work to unwind.

Falling on polar ends of this spectrum seems to be ideal for optimizing your time. Either you make gaming your life’s work or you use it as a relaxation tool. The problem area is the middle area in between these two poles – where you spend so much time gaming that it interferes with your regular life but you don’t spend enough time to reach the top or monetize your gaming hobby.

When it came to HoN, I fell in that middle area. I was good but not top-tier and frankly, never really thought about going pro. I spent a lot of time playing and studying, but not enough that I could monetize that time. However, it was enough time that the game affected my sleep schedule, study habits, and social life to some degree.

I could write a lot more on this topic (and probably will in the future), but I’ll leave it at that for now.

Living Someone Else’s Life

For the better part of our entire lives up to our 20s, we largely follow the instructions of others – our parents, our teachers, our peers, the media…rarely do we make a major decision without influence from others.

Left unquestioned, the result is we spend a large part of our lives living in a way that doesn’t resonate with who we really are. We may choose to do things based on what others think is best for us and discard the very things that could have led us to genuine happiness.

I have a friend who was pushed all his life to become a doctor. He studied all the sciences in high school, majored in biochem in undergrad, then entered medical school. A couple years in now, he’s come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t truly enjoy what he’s learning or the path he’s taken. Yet he feels like he’s spent too much time, effort, and money already not to continue on.

Realize that what others say you should be is based upon their own experiences and how they feel you’d be of more value to them. Neither should be the basis for determining how you should live your life.

The early 20s are a great time to question the ‘truths’ you’ve been taught growing up and figuring out who you are, what you really enjoy, and how you want to live your life. Taking the time to do so can be really rewarding and prevent time wasted living someone else’s life.

Accepting Complacency
It’s supremely easy after you graduate college and get a full-time job to fall into a state of complacency. You’re making decent money, your schedule is largely fixed, you have a daily routine, and you mostly associate with the same people. Life is pretty good for the most part, and it’s easy to just coast along.

As humans, we seek this kind of comfort and stability. We wouldn’t have survived as a species till now otherwise. But comfort breeds complacency, and complacency can be dangerous. It hinders personal growth, which to me is an important aspect of life. Even moreso in your 20s, when time and energy is abundant and responsibilities are still relatively few. At no other time in your life will you have the same kind of opportunity – accepting complacency at this age can only lead to mediocrity.

What’s especially dangerous about complacency is that it’s a non-obvious timesink. You may feel “stuck” but choose to continue living within the status quo simply because it’s safe: an OK job without advancement potential because it pays the bills; a mediocre long-term relationship that you’re staying in for convenience and obligation (“I’ve already invested 5 years into this, easier to ride it out”); pursuing a degree in something half-heartedly on behalf of your parents.

Next thing you know, several years have gone by and you’re stuck in the same job or relationship or major in college discontent, wondering where the time went.

Thoughts on Perfectionism

The master at anything was once a beginner. Everyone starts somewhere.

The stars will never perfectly align and circumstances will never be optimal. Start before you’re ready.

David Foster Wallace once said, “If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” The only way to overcome this inertia is to just dosomething.

Consider the anecdote of the ceramics teacher and the pottery class.

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.

All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.

Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged:the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Start small and start badly. Then keep working and refining the edges. This is the only way to improve and achieve any semblance of perfection.

Your Passion vs Your Parents

We live in a more confusing time than ever today.

Entire industries have sprung up that never existed just one or two decades ago. The old way of doing things is often broken.

Because of this, much of the advice that was passed down through the generations has become obsolete. Conventional wisdom is sometimes no longer relevant.

Every day, we’re barraged with advice from other people about how to live our lives. Parents, siblings, teachers, friends, society at large all tell you how to live your life. Everyone imposes their will on you, whether they mean to or not.

As a result, young people are pushed into careers they never wanted. They choose their college majors based not on their interests but on what their parents think is best. (By the way, I think the whole idea of choosing a major at 18 is ridiculous to begin with)

They (or I should say, we, as I still identify as a young adult) seem to never cultivate a sense of identity, instead relying on the guidance of someone else to tell them what to do next. The concept of choosing their own life path is foreign to them.

It’s unfortunate, because those who listen too much build a habit of trusting others to make decisions for them. As time goes on, this habit only grows stronger, leading to a life of conformity and blind trust in authority figures.

Continue reading

Do Something

This past weekend, I was running behind schedule to go to the gym. It closes at 7pm, and at 6:30pm I hadn’t even left the house. It takes me about 15 minutes to walk there.

I had a decision to make: do I go to the gym, with about 15 minutes to do a workout, or do I give in and tell myself I’ll do it the next day?

It seems like a somewhat trivial decision at first glance. After all, missing one workout a week won’t make or break me.

But throughout our lives, these kinds of decisions occur thousands of times. The choices you make in these moments compound and can have an enormous impact in the long run. Sure, missing one workout won’t have much of an impact on my health or body. But that one workout missed just once a week amounts to 52 missed in a year. And hundreds missed in several years.

Plus, once you miss that first workout, you rationalize to yourself it’s OK to miss the next one. And then the next. When you accept that first excuse you tell yourself, it gets easier and easier to accept the next ones. You train yourself for complacency. You hold yourself accountable less and less.

Thus I think this seemingly trivial decision was, and is, very important.

So back to the story…at 6:35 pm, I finally left the house. Instead of walking there, like I usually do, I half-sprinted there. I got there in about 5 minutes. 6:40 pm.

When I walked in, the staff were already beginning to pack up. I handed the guy at the counter my card, to which he said, “Uh, you know we’re closing at 7, right?”

“Yeah. Going to do a quick workout.”

And I did. I superset all my exercises back-to-back-to-back. It wasn’t the workout that I had planned on doing, but I got it done nonetheless in about 20 minutes (Parkinson’s Law, anybody?).

Why do I think this story is important? Well, this decision is like a microcosm of a philosophy I try to apply in my life.

It’s called the do something principle: When faced with a choice between doing something and not, doing something is better than doing nothing.

It sounds so obvious it’s not even worth mentioning.

But it’s often the most obvious or trite advice – sayings we’ve heard millions of times they’ve lost their impact – that are actually the most powerful.

A mediocre workout is better than no workout at all.

Writing just 100 words a day is better than writing nothing at all.

Reading five pages a day is better than not reading at all.

Practising the piano for 10 minutes is better than not practising at all.

Again, obvious, right? Yet for many of us this principle is actually difficult to apply.

We look at starting something new and think that we immediately have to go from 0 to 100, otherwise there’s no point to doing it at all.

A friend of mine wanted to start running every night for half an hour. She bought all the right equipment and clothes to get started. But she eventually realized she couldn’t dedicate the full half hour she wanted to. She didn’t think there was a point to run for just ten minutes a night. So she gave up entirely.

So despite the obviousness of the concept, it’s a handy one to keep in mind. The next time you want to forgo your workout, or are procrastinating on something, just do something. You’ll be glad you did. And it’s infinitely better than doing nothing.