Always Produce

“Always produce” is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you’re supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. “Always produce” will discover your life’s work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof. – Paul Graham

I used some quotes from this same article a couple day ago, but this one really stuck out as a valuable lesson by itself. To clarify, a heuristic is a rule of thumb, or a practical method for finding a solution to a problem that can’t be easily diagnosed.

I often push myself to do things that I’m not convinced are the best for me. It’s sometimes a way to Act As If. Sometimes this backfires, and what I do burns me out. Sometimes it’s a wash. Sometimes I end up being productive.

Always pushing myself to produce, while frequently uncomfortable, usually benefits me in some way. At the absolute minimum, it makes me feel productive. Beyond that, it often helps me discover something new, form a new relationship or improve an existing one, write some good content, or maybe clarify my dreams. Always producing (which I never do all the time) makes me accountable to myself to have something to show for my efforts.

Ever write a nice long paper or article, or edit a great video/song, or create anything in a digital format and have it erased unexpectedly? That feeling you get is the feeling of having what you produced be washed away. All the work you put in just went down the crapper. But that’s how you know you did something productive. Chase that feeling. Temper it with health, don’t overextend. Don’t confuse being productive with always being busy. Downtime is absolutely vital.

I take “always produce” as meaning, don’t waste your time with busywork. If you’re going to work on something, make it something productive.

Sometimes It’s A Wash

Sometimes you work real hard. You put in lots of effort. You research, experiment, trade. You try to come out ahead, to profit, to gain something.

But… it’s a wash. You know what? That’s okay. Maybe it’s better to come out on even ground, if you’re not coming out behind. Not succeeding is still better than failing. Making a real effort and ending up in the same spot is still better than falling behind. And even falling behind can be okay if it gives you a chance to try something again.

When you try to come up with an answer, to complete a task, to put yourself ahead, or make the right choice, and you end up with a wash… just pick the thing you prefer. If you can’t find better, then find preferable. If stressing over the answer isn’t productive, then just pick one. Flip a coin. Don’t stress. Be happy when you can just call something a wash, and move forward.

I think some people see a wash, or no gains as failure, but it’s not. When you actually fail you know the difference.

“It is very easy to say that the important thing is to try your best, but if you are in real trouble the most important thing is not trying your best, but getting to safety.” – Lemony Snicket