Louis CK on Pressure

I like pressure. Pressure doesn’t make me crack. It’s enabling. I eat pressure, and there might be times when I get a bad feeling in my gut that this might be too much, but you feel pressure when you’re not doing something, you know? When you’re getting ready for something, you feel pressure—when you’re anticipating. But when you’re constantly in activity, there’s no time for pressure to just sit there and make you crack.

I like the idea that pressure, when responded to properly, doesn’t make you crack. It helps you anticipate, to keep working, to remain active. Instead of letting pressure swallow you, you “eat” the pressure. Stomach it down and let it fuel you instead of draining you.

Some might say that treating pressure like it’s not dangerous is a silly thing to do, and eventually everyone runs the risk of cracking under pressure. Louis kind of addresses this in another part of the same interview…

I had to put some time and effort into figuring out how to manage energy and time and brain effort and all that stuff. I’ve got a bunch of different things I do. I learned that sharks sleep parts of their brain, like rolling blackouts; they can’t fall asleep because they can’t stop moving or they’ll suffocate. So they sleep sections of their brain at a time. So I do kind of a version of that, where I shut down brain centers. I literally tell myself, “Don’t logistically problem-solve for the next three hours, but you can talk to folks. Driving my kid home from school—don’t think about all the professional things you have to do.”

(Source)

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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.

Invest In Yourself

“What a recipe for alienation. By the time they reach an age to think about what they’d like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one’s work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. Having a job is said to be even more onerous than schoolwork. And yet all the adults claim to like what they do. You can’t blame kids for thinking “I am not like these people; I am not suited to this world.” – Paul Graham

This is an excerpt from Paul Graham’s Do What You Love article. It’s brilliant. He makes a ton of great observations about doing what you love, how we are taught to pursue work, the different between work and pleasure (is there one?), how much time to spend on things, and a lot of other stuff you should probably learn from reading it. Here’s another of my favorite quotes from the article…

But the fact is, almost anyone would rather, at any given moment, float about in the Carribbean, or have sex, or eat some delicious food, than work on hard problems. The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn’t mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month.

This is often neglected, and I have found it is one of the common points of criticism for people when they are told “do what you love.” What you love may not be the most productive thing, or may not pay the bills, or may not be healthy. It’s important to specify that “work you love” (and work itself) is something that contributes to your wellbeing and success over the longview.

Invest in yourself, to put it simply. Don’t take the nickel now when you could have the dollar next week.

“Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.”