3 Minute Monday
One of the most common tensions I talk about at the moment is between a desire for success and a desire to feel like we’re enough.
Success is a strange thing.
Presumably we want success because we think a more successful life will bring us more happiness, meaning and fulfilment.
Here’s the problem.
We sacrifice the thing we want (happiness) for the thing which is supposed to get it (success).
Failure can make you miserable but I’m not sure success will make you happy.
One of the most common dynamics I see amongst high performers is this:
Parents want their child to do well.
Parents encourage their child to do well by praising when they succeed and criticising when they fail.
The child learns that praise and admiration is contingent on succeeding.
That lesson metastasises through early adulthood into “I am only worthy of love, acceptance and belonging if I succeed”.
Now, powered by an internal feeling of insufficiency, this person is driven to achieve many things.
They’re prepared to out-work, out-hustle and out-suffer everyone else because they’re not just running toward a life they want, they’re running away from a life they fear.
Success and progress ameliorates the feelings of insufficiency.
Therefore, success and progress become prioritised above everything else.
Now don’t get me wrong, many high performers genuinely love the work that they do.
And many are driven by a well balanced, simple desire to maximise their time on this planet, rather than trying to fill a void inside of themselves.
But if I was to place a bet, I’d guess that the majority of high performers are driven by fears of insufficiency, rather than a holistic desire to be better.
I think people who are high achievers, on average, are more miserable than the average person.
So what does it mean that the people we most admire, are the ones with the least admirable internal states?
If the pursuit of success is in an effort to make us happy.
And in the pursuit of success we make ourselves miserable.
Why not shortcut the entire process and just BE happy?
Is that even possible?
Now, external accolades do count for a lot.
I don’t think that recanting all worldly possessions and retreating to a cave in the woods is an optimal strategy.
Some degree of external, material success is important to make us feel validated and satiate our desire for status and respect.
But external success won’t fill an internal void.
Insufficiency Adaptation is this:
If your drive to succeed comes from a fear of insufficiency, and you continue to disprove those fears with success in the real world, and yet the feeling of insufficiency persists, what makes you think that the answer to this problem is more success?
There’s no clean answer here, the world is messy and we’re hopelessly irrational.
You don’t need to let go of all success goals.
But spend some time working out whether there’s a shorter route to the life you want by removing obstacles, rather than just pressing harder on the accelerator.
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This week’s upcoming episodes:
Chris Bailey – a great breakdown of the most important elements that research-backed studies and real-life experience says are most effective for being productive. And some tips about green tea.
Dr Rangan Chatterjee – one of the UK’s biggest podcasters on why happiness isn’t as simple a prescription as we might think and how to see it through a more useful lens.
Not sure yet, maybe Iain McGilchrist on the tension between cognition and intuition.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED
Women bred status-seeking men.
“More men than women are obsessed, and the average level of interest in wealth and status is higher among men.
Why might that be?
Women’s preference for wealthy, high-status mates is plausibly part of the answer.
While men were busy breeding better-looking women, women were breeding men with a hunger for status and resources.” — Steve Stewart-Williams
The simplest reasoning for not committing tax fraud.
“We want money to exchange for freedom.
When we do illegal activity, we risk our freedom for money.
We risk the thing we want for the thing that’s supposed to get it.”
Double h/t Alex Hormozi for this & the inspo for today’s newsletter
Joe Russo is not Joe Russo.
In a 1946 congressional race, JFK ran against a guy named Joe Russo.
Another guy named Joe Russo was encouraged to run and put on the ballot so voters wouldn’t know which Joe Russo to vote for.
h/t Morgan Housel
You need Athletic Greens.
I tried an inadvertent reverse-pilot experiment without Athletic Greens for 3 weeks in America when I was travelling around and then after some bastard in my Austin apartment block got delivered my parcel.
You don’t actually know how well something is working until you stop using it.
Digestion wasn’t as good, energy levels weren’t as good and I felt less awake in the mornings.
Life is significantly better now I’m using it again.
If you want to fill the nutritional gaps in your diet by having a single scoop of something each day, this is for you.
Plus there’s a 60 day money-back guarantee so it’s risk-free.
I really appreciate all the feedback after last week’s Q&A. I’m feeling the love, thank you.