Got a long email from a reader with some great questions - he's a very impressive dude, but he has a hard time sticking with something for more than 1.5 to 3 years. If you have this trait as well, you might want to pay close attention to this post
And I have a real problem "falling in line" with the rest of society in a stable, consistent and "normal" life. I just feel like it's not me.
Yup, I know exactly how you feel. I've been in similar places. So have a lot of my friends. Some thoughts -
What I see as a recurring theme in my jump from job to job and industry to industry is my utter lack of real fulfillment. Don't get me wrong, I do have a temporary sense of fulfillment and meaning with the careers I have pursued, they just don't seem to last. Once I have focus on what it is that I want to do I am relentless in achieving it. For instance, after 3 years in the --- industry I have acquired the knowledge that many people don't achieve until 10, 12 or even 15 years in the industry. However, that life-cycle tends to be around 18-months, where I then become unfulfilled by the rate of learning and progress I am making. This ultimately leads to erratic behavior within the succeeding months and a feeling that I need to drop what I'm doing and move onto something else - whether that be a new job or a new career altogether.
Google the term "rage to master" - click around, read some summaries, and then check out a couple academic papers. It will be very worth your time.
A lot of my social circle has the same sort of thing going on. The rage to master. You get in, you put in a MASSIVE effort to learn the intricacies of an art or field, you master it, and then... meh. You've done your thing. It gets boring and you want to move on.
This can be a hugely beneficial trait if you harness it, and a hugely hindering trait if you don't.
Me, I've built my life around the fact that I know I don't like conformity. I dropped out of a couple high schools and a university, but when I finally went back to study after I'd done some professional work, I found project management and fell in love. It's really cool because it's a flexible set of skills that can be applied to a huge variety of different situations.
I've also traveled through... I don't know how many now, I haven't counted in a while, but in the range of 40-60 countries? I'll spend a bit of time in each place, exploring, picking up some of the local language and customs, make some almost anthropological type notes (maybe you've seen some on my blog, I did quite a few on Mongolia), and after a while, I move on to a different society. Some places can hold my interest for a very long period of time (NYC, London), but many can't and I get an "itch" to move on after 2-3 months or so.
Anyways, I've built my life around making that possible. I'd recommend you think and plan and do the same.
The biggest, most important thing for that is getting the achievements/skills/credentials/assets/whatever in the time frame where you're still highly engaged, and then automating or selling or otherwise intelligently transitioning afterwards. I have a friend who is just like you and I. He's been in sales, music production, music recording, business consulting, IT, and now he's starting his own company.
Every time, he really puts in a HUGE effort for 18-36 months or so, but then his interest falls off. He's had some big successes in sales and consulting in particular, some medium successes in IT, but he barely missed in music. He had his first album almost finished, but couldn't quite get over the hump and he never released it.
I've heard his music, and some of it is quite good. If he'd pushed out an EP while he was engaged in it, he would have picked up some cash, and for the rest of his life he would have been a musician who released high quality music. But he didn't release it and so he's not, and he doesn't get the benefits from that. (He still appreciates music on a deep level, but he missed some big benefits that he came this close to getting)
With sales, on the other hand, he picked up a skillset that serves him very well going forwards. In consulting, he did some prestigious jobs that got him good credentials and open doors for him. In IT, he picked up enough skills to make computers do some cool stuff for him.
Now, he's starting up his first company. He's going to be a huge success I'm sure, I actually made a small investment and took an advisory role there. But one thing I've been massively putting in time talking over with him is having a transition plan for years 2-3. The company needs to be profitable enough to hire a general manager at that point to run ongoing operations, or the company needs clean books conducive to a sale.
He'll be able to keep re-igniting his interest if he moves and plays in different aspects of the company, but he absolutely needs to delegate/automate/whatever the core roles that he'll lose interest in that are required for day to day ops, or otherwise transition the company so it doesn't need active management.
I'd recommend the same for you. For instance, if you got into mobile development, I'd recommend you make a hell of a lot of apps for robust platforms while you're highly engaged, get them in the relevant app stores, and build up a nice looking portfolio - you get to keep that forever. Also, think on what skills you absolutely want to develop, and get them while you can.
Rage to master is a great trait if you harness it and plan around it. Also, you could develop willpower and stick it out in a particular discipline, but it sounds like that goes against your nature and you don't want to do it. So, run with it. Early on into any endeavor you start getting serious on, make a list of the skills, assets, credentials, contacts, cash, whatever that you want to get out of it, and get them ASAP. Absolutely force yourself to finish things you start while you're still in the rage-to-master-zone.That's crucial to succeeding with your temperament.
It's hard to get good advice because I feel there are not many people who view the world the same way I do and the suggestions they offer tend to be along the lines of, "sometimes life is about doing something you don't want to do" or "you need to just get a job and stick with it". Those seem like unacceptable answers to me. It seems status quo and it seems like what we're expected to do. It does not feel right to me though. I can't help but feel there is something more important, something bigger I should be working towards. My issue now is that I feel like I've lost my passion, my drive and my focus to discover what path I should take.
Okay. This I understand.
I remember something a friend of mine said to me that was really, really valuable after I'd been sitting on my ass for a while looking for something very important to do. I really owe him a lot for talking straight to me.
He said to me, "Sebastian, you've got these huge goals that you're so caught up in that you're missing... well, it's like this. You want to go the moon. So you stare up at the moon all the time, thinking about how you can get to the moon. And someone comes along and says, 'Hey, Sebastian, you interested in learning how to be a pilot?' And you say, 'No, sorry, I'm too busy trying to figure out how to get to the moon.'"
God, that was really valuable for me to hear. A good kick in the ass.
Start doing something. Anything. Get busier. Just do some stuff. Get cash or skills or whatever... it's most important to just get into motion.
I feel like kind of a hypocrite typing that, because I only learned that recently. I've got a whirlwind of activity going on right now in my life, but that's one I've gotten wrong a lot. Too busy staring at the moon to learn how to be a pilot.
Final thought: fundamentals are good. A little exercise (even ten minutes of walking), fill up your dead (I recommend audiobooks or podcasts, particularly the Lifestyle Business Podcast), time with people you respect and admire, time in nature, drink enough water, normalize your sleep schedule, get the right amount of sleep, refine your diet, all that stuff. I know it's not new and exciting advice!!!! but usually, when people are off track, some of those fundamentally get off track. Certainly, re-focusing on fundamentals is never a bad idea. It's probably most important when you're off-kilter.
Hope that helps. Best wishes from Tokyo,
I always think of Darwin and his polymath cousin, Francis Galton, when a topic like this is discussed. If you were a betting man then you would most likely not have backed Darwin and you would have been wrong. This seems to point to the idea that regardless of your capabilities if there isn't some "bigger" problem that you somehow come across then you might just end up spinning your wheels (as was the case with Galton). So instead of looking to cash out while the Rage has you maybe it would serve you better if instead of focusing on the technical mastery of whatever and find a suitable challenge, something that poses a worthy challenge.
My two cents.
Excellent article, Seb!
James Altucher has the same opinion on fundamentals. He said one can't function properly without good sleep, emotional balance, regular physical activity and a balanced diet. Gotta do more of those... I sometimes kill it all by eating too much junk food even though I do sports (climbing and MTB) or maybe I sleep too little...etc.
About the "Rage to Master" - I'd say do something, keep busy as you said BUT also think about the business model you're in. If you're doing freelance work, that's just a job...and the lifetime value of the "business" declines once you stop doing it.
So try to build assets while you're on the Rage to Master - online media properties or any other kind of brand that's not as tied to your time as freelance work is. You're the entrepreneur/creator so create things that can be passed on to someone else to manage. These assets can either be sold later or they can function on their own bringing you cash, prospects or whatever.
Yeah, keep working on whatever you're doing but try to build assets. Don't just create a job for yourself.
I also go through low motivation periods but then I get business from all the work that I've put out there (online) and I realize that I've built an asset that could be ran by anyone else. And that motivates me back to work some more, without any external pressure from clients or a boss.
Thanks for the opportunity to add my two cents!
Cool article. Took me a while to see myself in it since I usually don't kill old hobbies/jobs entirely but keep them on the low-burner.
Still the advice here is great: to plan ahead with the realization that (without change) I will lose momentum after 2-3 years.
Great article. The Rage To Master fits me to a tee. Jumping from job to job, project to project after I got bored. For years I thought I had a "problem", but never realized that it could've been a hardwired personality trait. Its strange to say I even feel relieved, almost like it was a diagnosed medical condition.
Act I: The Discovery of Conflict Invigoration
I recently discovered a phenomenon common among many highly successful people. I'm calling it "conflict invigoration" - this is a personality trait, a mixed blessing and curse. It's the kind of person who can move heaven and earth when inspired, but doesn't do as well when they aren't... and who is always invigorated by a fight.
I first noticed conflict invigoration among a number of the most successful people I knew personally. See, I don't think this is an entirely new observation, but a lot of the people that reach stratospheric levels of success are kind of deranged. You almost have to be, to keep going after you've "won" by every conceivable measure, to work yourself to the bone at the expense of your sanity and longevity and vitality, to neglect so many of the basic human needs and pleasures and comforts.
I saw this trait in lots of successful people, and then I started paying attention to biographies and histories. Indeed, many of the most expansive people in our generation and previous ones are conflict invigorated - they've perhaps always got a baseline of creativity and striving, but it really comes out when a fight breaks out.
"Competition is always a fantastic thing, and the computer industry is intensely competitive." - Bill Gates
I recently took a voice lesson. I've been working on composition so much in my music work lately that I've let a couple of performance skills atrophy a bit. Noticing this, I signed up for voice lessons to make sure my (already limited) range and technique didn't completely wither.
I've studied music quite a bit in the past, but never with someone like this. Like myself (but not for voice), this teacher studied formally in college, learning classical and operatic technique, but has come to living the Brooklyn indie-rock musical life instead. (To anyone rolling their eyes at that, it's quite a powerful combo, the stereotypical shaggy guy in a plaid shirt who can sing a perfect Aria or identify any concerto) I've always liked this idea of learning as much as you can, then picking what's relevant to apply to your situation later. I did this in the past by spending years studying jazz saxophone with some of the best players around New York City, and later applying most of the knowledge in harmonic choices as a singer-songwriter and guitarist in an indie-rock band…not an obvious use of such skills, but it really worked well!
This voice teacher, went about things a little differently. He studied formally like I did, then after school he threw out everything he learned and tried writing/performing/recording being purposely absent-minded of what he learned. He did the opposite of every technique and every rule the conservatory world preached to him.
He then had polarizing approaches to compare to make a choice for his third act. The music he's making now is his most excellent and he supposes it's due to the fact that he's now making choices based on the best of each of the prior two situations. Pulling back some of the conservatory technique, as well as using tricks he only would've learned by purposely not following the rules.