Nothing hinders a cure as much as the frequent changing of medicine.
A plant that is often moved can never grow strong roots.
Taken from “Letters from a Stoic”, letter #2
I have a sporadic, childlike sense of curiosity. I want to do everything.
Learn about relativity? Hell yeh! A bit of stoic philosophy? Count me in!
It even delves into the world of fitness. My training style is the perfect display of my nature. One day I’ll be doing a CrossFit workout, followed by a heavy strength training session, then my friend will call me over to do some gymnastics and I’ll finish off the day with some track sprinting.
But, as we all know, consistency is key.
This is a major part of my psyche that I have to battle every day, and I have battled all through my life.
This nature comes from instant gratification, constant thirst for novelty and quite honestly a sense of boredom.
However, this perpetual switching of priority breeds anxiety and a stalemate of passion. Passion is bred from being great at what you do. The parts of my life that I am proud of have come from years of consistent hard work.
So one must balance this innate curious spirit with a laser-focused discipline.
A great way I have found to combat this superfluous nature comes from Pareto and a Navy doctrine.
You may have heard of the 80:20 rule. This was invented by a man named Pareto and it states that most of the time, 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. An example of this is shown in language with 80% of the most commonly spoken words coming from 20% of the language itself.
Therefore, in order to get to 80% success, all you need to do is find the most important 20% in that field, which, when studied, is labeled as deliberate practice. As Abraham Lincoln said:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
You can be “busy” and spend all your time sorting out emails, replying to texts and wasting your time at work. Or, you can spend 80% of that time finding exactly what you need to do and then 20% of the time actually doing it. At the end of the day, you’ve completed the same amount of work, but one is in the right direction and that is all that matters.
This work is usually the most challenging area in your field, like understanding grammar, doing the things you really don’t want to do in the gym or mastering an extremely hard maths problem. But this work gives you the most bang for your buck, it is the best return on investment, that investment being your time, so it is paramount that you find the most important work that you need to be doing.
The other concept is the Navy Seal doctrine of “prioritize and execute”. This links in nicely with the 80:20 rule, where one finds the path of what needs to prioritized, and then all you need to do is execute. Remember, you can plan all day long but nothing happens unless you get it done. Don’t procrastinate by planning.
But, what about fun? That sounds pretty hard Ollie. Yep, I know. But we can use 80:20 here again. For 80% of the time, dedicate your work to the most important tasks: the hardest concepts, the consistent money-making tactics or the most challenging feats. For the rest of the time, feel free to branch out and go wild.
This 20% is usually where you will find inspiration to push forward that 80% of work. An unknown angle or approach on your work that no-one had thought of. Specialization is for insects. Allow your mind to flourish and breed concepts you would never have dreamed of. Read that book, broaden your skills and challenge your ideals.
However, we need to stay on track with the 80%. Remember the start of this post, consistency is key.
So, do it every day, find the work you that is the most important 20% and make the probability of completing it as high as possible.
A great question to find this 20% is:
If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?
And then stay consistent. The best way to stay consistent is to do it every day. Make it a habit. Stick the habit to something you do already every day, like waking up, taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Spend an hour doing it every day and watch how far you will develop in a month.
Break down the big goals into small topics by asking questions, plan your time to work on the most important tasks, and then execute by exercising deliberate practice. But remember, don’t forget to make time for curiosity.