Advice for myself. Inspired by this. I've also taken a couple of pieces from it.
On the future
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where-"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"-so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
-- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
Our culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic. We hear about people burning the midnight oil. They pull all-nighters and sleep at the office. It's considered a badge of honor to kill yourself over a project. No amount of work is too much work.
Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, but it's also stupid. Working more doesn't mean you care more or get more work done. It just means you work more.
Workaholics wind up creating more problems than they solve. First off, working like that just isn't sustainable over time. When the burnout crash comes - and it will - it'll hit that much harder.
Workaholics miss the point, too. They try to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at them. They try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force. This results in inelegant solutions.
They even create crises. They don't look for ways to be more efficient because they actually like working overtime. They enjoy feeling like heroes. They create problems (often unwittingly) just so they can get off working more.
Workaholics make the people who don't stay late feel inadequate for "merely" working reasonable hours. That leads to guilt and poor morale all around. Plus, it leads to an ass-in-seat mentality - people stay late out of obligation, even if they aren't really being productive.
If all you do is work, you're unlikely to have sound judgments. Your value and decision making wind up skewed. You stop being able to decide what's worth extra effort and what's not. And you wind up just plain tired. No one makes sharp decisions when tired.
In the end, workaholics don't actually accomplish more than nonworkaholics. They may claim to be perfectionists, but that just means they're wasting time fixating on inconsequential details instead of moving on to the next task.
Workaholics aren't heroes. They don't save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.
-- Rework by 37signals
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You've just gotta fight your way through.
-- Ira Glass
...time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.
-- Franz Kafka
Working hard at the process and being relaxed about the outcome are not contradictory.
Sometimes I don't understand why my arms don't drop from my body with fatigue, why my brain doesn't melt away... Sometimes, when I am empty, when words don't come, when I find I haven't written a single word after scribbling whole pages, I collapse on my couch and lie there dazed, bogged down in a swap of despair, hating myself and blaming myself for this demented pride that makes me pant after a chimera. A quarter of an hour later, everything has changed. My heart is pounding with joy.
-- Gustave Flaubert
- Leaving doesn't mean losing. Choosing to not work on a project for your own sanity is worth it. Taking a break is worth it.
- I had this one in the shower: There's a reason why everything happens. Short-term bad effects does not equal long-term bad effects. This applies to nearly everything except for, currently on the list, mental health. Please do not sacrifice your mental, emotional, and physical health in the "short-term" for "long-term gains". There is no short or long term for health. There's only life and no life.
- Take your time. "Rome was not built in a day" is so cliche, but only because it's true. Rome can be built in a day, but you'd probably forget about that Rome in no time. Besides, if you're building to just produce "things", there's no value.
- Don't plan too far ahead. You change day by day, so why do you think your plans wouldn't?
- Try it anyways.
- Take a break. Find something else to do. Play the guitar. Lay on the hardwood floor and dream. Anything except what you need a break from.
- Don't apologize for things you can't control and what you haven't done wrong. As someone who grew up in an Asian household, apologizing was more common than saying "Hi". If you can't stand up for yourself, who is?
- Writing is about expressing oneself, not aesthetics. Don't expect everything to be organized. Sometimes, conveying things in an uneven structure (e.g. bullet lists like this) and using phrases like "things" can be quite effective.
- Side point: If you lose your writing or forget a thought that's okay. You don't need to get every thought down on paper. It may seem inspirational at the moment but if you forget about it, it's clearly not at the top of your priorities for good reasons. Writing all over the place (this blog, my portfolio, Slack, Markright, Notion, Apple Notes, Google Calendar) is okay.
- Give credit where due.
- Don't compare yourself to others in any way, shape, or form. Don't let others get to your innate intuition either.
Care and attention to key relationships in your life will pay off.