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The Most Clever Life Hack I’ve Ever Learned

Stop masturbating.

Hear me out for a second…

The most clever life-hack I ever learned was to stop intellectually masturbating to pornographic notions of ideas.

We all have a tendency to turn potentially good ideas and values into ways we can mentally jerk off.

Self-improvement can quickly become — as the Fight Club character Tyler Durden said — masturbation.

Be careful separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to thoughts on improving your life.

Productivity Porn

Take productivity for example. Being more productive is beneficial in your life for many reasons. You get more done, it can increase your creativity and your self-image changes when you accomplish a lot.

On the other hand, productivity can quickly turn into productivity porn. This is what happens when you see someone who uses 47 different productivity apps — Evernote, Trello, Slack — and has a meticulously crafted multi-colored calendar, filled up to the point where it looks like someone ate every kind of Popsicle from an ice cream truck and then vomited on the calendar. Productivity porn is when you “track steps” on your fit bit instead of just generally moving more.

An idea becomes pornographic when the idea of doing it is weighted more heavily than actually accomplishing what the goal or value sets out to accomplish.

Success Porn

“Success hacks” is a giant cesspool of success porn.

“Steve Jobs wore the same clothes every day to increase his capacity to make decisions.” — If you wear the same outfit every day, you will look like a cartoon character.

“Elon Musk works 100 hours a week.” — Are you building rocket ships? No? You probably don’t need to work that much. Just find something you enjoy doing and work consistently without burning yourself out.

“Successful people wake up early” — There is no cause and effect relationship between waking up early and succeeding. Maybe there’s some sort of correlation, but waking up early isn’t going to magically transform you into a startup founder or a CEO.

Usually, if you’re trying to “hack” something, you’re avoiding what will actually get you where you want to be.

The Only Real “Life-Hack”

So if I had one hack to offer it’d be this — fall in love with doing instead of the idea of doing.

Everybody wants to be a business owner, but a few want to run a business.

81 % of people want to see their name on a book cover, but less than one percent sits down to write every day.

We all want to improve. To succeed. To be better. And we want it RIGHT NOW.

It’s human to feel that way.

The simple yet difficult to acknowledge and implement answer: the best hack of all is not trying to hack anything.

Everyone is so busy trying to hack by cutting corners that it’s actually easier to stand out by being thoughtful because so few people in this world take the time to be thoughtful and produce quality.

Take the actor Daniel Day-Lewis for example. He may not have as many roles as other actors, but every movie he’s in is a classic and he almost always gets nominated for an academy award. He delays his gratification to both find and perfect his roles. When he releases his work into the world, he leapfrogs everyone around him.

That’s a true life-hack because when you’re diligent, patient, and get it right, you reap disproportionate rewards.

I can’t tell you how much I’d love to be at the top of the writing world this instant, but I keep working because I know there are no shortcuts.

The minute you read an article about hacking something, you should ask yourself why you want to take that route and if that route will actually work.

After this investigation, the answer will be evident.

Don’t fight the truth. You have to earn it. You know it. I know it. Only a few, however, are able to embrace it.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +442,678 people.

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