I was flat for a few days last week, flat in a human sense.
Couldn't explain it.
Was working hard, but I like working hard. Was performing my core duties and habits well, good enough... but that joyful spark, that animating force, that bright animation to greater heights?
It was gone.
Where had it gone?
It is very insightful to spend even a short amount of time hitting somewhere close to maximum productivity and effectiveness.
You can't really see or feel opportunity cost when you're kind of screwing around, half-working, not getting much, done, etc. You're not getting as much done as you could, that's true, but the suspects for what's dragging on you are not about the other productive endeavors, but about all the distractions.
As soon as you're near peak production for even a few days in a row, you start to see the interplay of how we all have a single well of time each day, 24 hours deep, and it gets drained systematically as the minutes pass.
There is much to be said about this point, about opportunity cost, about focus, about achievement, about whatever else — but we won't say that now.
Rather, let's talk about the days when the water in your well of time is hard to drink, and not so much is happening.
Question from a reader. Important one. Perhaps you'll relate —
Work aside I find myself having a hard time leaving college life and college friends. My work ethic isn't as high as I expected it to be. I find myself just wanting to meet new people and hangout with friends.
What about you? Did you find yourself with a similar mindset when you were 23? Oh, in one of your blog posts you mentioned going into gathering resources mode. What does that look like?
I can't explain this, but try it if you're generally one of those Type A hard-driving mastery-oriented maximizing always-work-a-lot types.
(I'm one of those.)
Ok, try this.
Next time you have a day where you did okay earlier but later in the day things are kind of just dragging along, do this:
1. Recognize it.2. Decide to just chill and do whatever for the rest of the day.3. Mentally say something like, "I'm just going to chill and a have good time for the rest of the day. Not going to do anything in particular, just enjoy myself."
The tools on this table probably cost me about $10, and it's almost as valuable as my Mac Air.
$0.75: Turkish tea.
$2.00: Sturdy plastic folder with current biggest projects in it.
$1.00: Old scratchbook.
Behold — scratchbooks.
I've started intentionally buying lower quality notebooks with an intention to scribble on them, make it imperfect, and rip the sheets out of them once once complete.
Compare that to the very fine drawing paper in the bottom right corner of the photo. If I have an important document I want to endure, I'll copy into that, and put the sheet into my sheaf of project plans in that yellow folder.
But, scratchbooks? These are intentionally meant not to be enduring, and defining that upfront is creatively liberating. Knowing that the sheets will be ripped to shreds in the end, I move faster, don't watch my handwriting, don't obsess over details, write stupid stuff, and — perhaps not coincidentally — I'm more creative in them.
A set of comments by Michael Hopkins on the Maximizers post —
That intrigued, so I asked if there were any interesting takeaways. Michael wrote —
Useful and insightful. I love the phrasing of "One Rule" — it really is like that, eh? Grateful to have such smart readers.
Last week, we discussed the "The Canary in the Coal Mine" case:
There's basically three times people get off track with their routines, habit, and how they run their life: when unusual events or extenuating circumstances happen, when things are going badly, or — most counterintuitively — when things are going well.
From Peter Drucker's Innovation and Entrepreneurship (emphasis added by me) —
“The Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff was executed on Stalin’s orders in the mid-1930s because his econometric model predicted, accurately as it turned out, that collectivization of Russian agriculture would lead to a sharp decline in farm production. The “fifty-year Kondratieff cycle” was based on the inherent dynamics of technology. Every fifty years, so Kondratieff asserted, a long technological wave crests. For the last twenty years of this cycle, the growth industries of the last technological advance seem to be doing exceptionally well. But what look like record profits are actually repayments of capital which is no longer needed in industries that have ceased to grow. This situation never lasts longer than twenty years, then there is a sudden crisis, usually signaled by some sort of panic. There follow twenty years of stagnation, during which the new, emerging technologies cannot generate enough jobs to make the economy itself grow again — and no one, least of all government, can much about this.
“The industries that fueled the long economic expansion after World War II — automobiles, steel, rubber, electric apparatus, consumer electronics, telephone, but also petroleum — perfectly fit with the Kondratieff cycle. Technologically, all of them go back to the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century or, at the very latest, to before World War I. In none of them has a significant breakthrough been made since the 1920s, whether in technology or business concepts. When the economic activity began after World War II, they were all thoroughly mature industries. They could expand and create jobs with relatively little new capital investment, which explains why they could pay skyrocketing wages and workers’ benefits and simultaneously show record profits.”
Of course, the Kondratieff industry cycles don't apply to every industry and are hardly proven.
The key takeaway is that industries which no longer need additional capital to scale can see increasing profits simultaneously with increasing variable costs, but the increasing profits are a short-term phenomenon.
History is complicated.
I thought had a fairly clear understanding of the history of modern Turkey. It's an incredibly impressive country that has had remarkable achievements since winning the Turkish War of Independence.
Originally slated to get the same treatment (or slightly worse) as Imperial Germany got in the Treaty of Versailles, a national movement against occupation and control rose up in Ankara in the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Led by a one of the 20th century's top commander-statesmen, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it became one of the most stable and prosperous republics in the Middle East.
I was ready to write a piece on the area and was double checking some of the recent history, economics, and finance here before writing a piece of history.
And then, I start realizing just how much more complicated this area is than I'd thought.