No. 476 — June 12, 2022
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Friction: The Hidden Force Holding You Back
“One of the easiest ways to increase your value to an organization is to reduce the friction required to get you to do your job.”
“Often we are ourselves struck at the strange differences in our successive views of the same thing. We wonder how we ever could have opined as we did last month about a certain matter. We have outgrown the possibility of that state of mind, we know not how. From one year to another we see things in new lights. What was unreal has grown real, and what was exciting is insipid.”— William James
There is a constant battle in all of us between our today-self and our tomorrow-self.
Today-self is like our inner child. Today-self cares only about today. It wants to focus on things that offer an immediate payoff. Whether that’s kicking back with a few too many glasses of wine, spending money on status symbols, or avoiding doing things that can be done tomorrow. Tomorrow-self is like our inner adult.
Tomorrow-self cares about things that take time to get results — like working on your relationship, saving money, or consistently moving the project forward one inch at a time.
Imagine you are tasked with building a brick wall. Today-self looks at the empty space in disbelief, discouraged at the size of the project. Today-self decides to start tomorrow. Only tomorrow never comes because the empty space again seems insurmountable. Today-self decides to talk about the wall they’re going to build, as if it were the same as building the wall. It’s not.
Tomorrow-self knows that no one builds a wall all at once. It’s going to take a month of consistent effort from the time you start before it’s done. Tomorrow-self wishes you’d stop thinking about the wall and focus on one brick.
Everything is a matter of perspective. Where you focus determines what you see. It’s easy to get lost in the magnitude of what you’re doing and completely ignore how it gets done. Focusing on the wall makes the task impossible. You have to focus on the brick.
The lesson applies to everything. If you’re writing a book, focus on writing the best paragraph and not the entire book. If you’re playing sports, focus on the next play and not winning the game. If you’re starting a company, focus on delighting one customer. Or, if you’re my kids, don’t focus on the pile of T-shirts to be folded, focus on one shirt.
Don’t focus on the enormity of the task, rather focus on the smallest thing you can do that moves you forward. As the momentum builds, things get easier. The second paragraph is easier to write than the first. The second T-shirt is easier to fold than the first. The second brick is easier to lay than the first.
Grasping this concept and applying it to what you’re doing is the key to accomplishing anything. Focus on a small but critical part of the task that moves you forward. Execute. Repeat. The logic is simple but not simplistic.
The wisdom of tomorrow-self is this: Focus on one thing you can do today to make tomorrow easier. Repeat.
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+ Enough: “The knowledge that I have got enough”
+ Organizational Debt: “The interest companies pay when their structure and policies stay fixed and/or accumulate as the world changes.
+ David Sinclair: How to Hack Your Sleep
P.S. This is crazy.