I became a year older last week. I’ll be traveling on April 1st, so in lieu of a usual 1st-of-the-month Recently, here are some thoughts, on a different day. In honor of growing older, this is sort of a super-cut of a bunch of different drafts that I previously judged to be too odd or personal.
The idea has been rephrased a million times in different medias, but I like DFW’s framing of “whatever you worship will eat you alive”. A decade ago, I honestly believed I’d learn a few things, achieve what I wanted, and settle into a sort of non-striving creative flow for the rest of my days. I was – and am – avoiding flashy purchases or other obvious signs that I’m hopping on the Hedonic treadmill. But it didn’t work. The treadmill isn’t necessarily about money or fame. It can be anything.
I thought that the book was just fine, but Ramit Sethi’s podcast is really good. Sure, it’s pop-psychology, but it drives home a big, important point: circumstances don’t really change attitudes. If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll still fear it after being successful. And alternately, if you have a healthy relationship with something, then you’ll have a much easier time when that thing changes.
It’s not all bad. I used to fear that drive and natural curiosity was an expendable resource. For me, that wasn’t the case.
Diversify your joy
Here’s something I think I did okay. Lots of hobbies, lots of different contexts that I enjoyed in different ways. Though I share Kanye’s views on art, in practice there are different feelings for playing guitar or writing or drawing. One of the ways I battle burnout is being aware of when I’m losing interest or phoning it in and being ready to switch tasks at that moment.
It’s really helpful to have a backup, and a backup for a backup. Even if you have a few things in your life that you love doing, eventually you’ll wake up and none of them will give you any joy. Having a fourth or fifth option won’t always work either, but a lot of times it will.
I’m not. I don’t have consistency. I worked some long days in March, making enormous progress on Placemark. I worked some short days, barely getting anything done.
I used to watch Casey Neistat videos on YouTube. He has one called fat and lazy about his personal schedule, which was grueling. He had a “work harder” lamp. And a “work harder” tattoo. And at the time, he was sleeping 4 hours a night, working or working out the rest of the day. He burned out a few years later and moved to Los Angeles.
Now, I don’t feel bad about consistency anymore. I felt more bad about it when I worked in schedule-driven jobs. We’d try to estimate how many hours a feature would take and divide them and plan for the future. An hour is not an hour, though.
Without the 9-5 norm, I bet some people would still work on a tight schedule. But a lot of us would just get things done when it felt right - when that hour of work was actually going to be the hour in which we made progress.
The same goes for a lot of things, I guess. I average out to around the same number of books a year, but a good amount of the time I’m not reading. I’ve been posting photos recently because a few rolls of film got developed, but that waxes and wanes, too.
The thing is, when I’m inspired and motivated on Placemark – which is thankfully often – there’s no effort in sitting down and working. That kind of work isn’t so different from play, or study. It doesn’t burn me out.
Looking at this draft: is this anything? I guess now that I’m older than probably an alarming percentage of the people working at Google I should be doling out unsolicited life lessons, even if the substance is just reiterating that you too, are not immune to the hedonic treadmill. Oh, and there’s a new Aldous Harding album out, weirder than ever, give it a listen.