The balance between boring and pushing

“Well, in his experience, soldiers spent little time doing soldier things. They instead spent ages walking places, waiting around, or—in his case—getting yelled at for walking around or waiting in the wrong places.”

-Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

I think most jobs are like this. We rarely push our skills to their limits, and we spend most of the time at work doing routine stuff. This can be boring but it can also be used to replenish our energy and improve ourselves. It is not sustainable to always be on our toes, always creating, and always stressed. The challenge comes when we spend too much time in the routine or too much fun stuff that pushes our limits. One leads to stagnation and the other leads to burnout.

You can’t compare sports to normal work but if you look at elite athletes they spend at lest 90% of their time practicing and 10% competing. I admire their commitment, willpower and grit. Their amazing achievements comes from spending so much time training for one thing.

It would be very expensive for everyone to practice the same way in most organizations. But I think most companies need to focus more on making sure everyone learns and develops more during everyday activities and continues to push themselves to become better at their jobs.

Can scarcity help?

There has never been a military in the entire history of the human race that has gone to war equipped with more than the least that it needs to fight its enemy. War is expensive. It costs money and it costs lives and no civilization has an infinite amount of either. So when you fight, you conserve. You use and equip only as much as you have to, never more.

– Old Man’s war by John Scalzi

An organization will need trained people, resources, equipment, and support to succeed.

The question is:

  • Do you want the best people?
  • Do you need as much time and money as possible?
  • Do you need the best equipment?
  • Do you need all the help you can get?

Or can scarcity increase creativity and help people focus on what is really important?

Overdoing strengths

She has wanted to sleep with other people, of course. One or two in particular. But the truth is she has good impulse control. That is why she isn’t dead. Also why she became a writer instead of a heroin addict. She thinks before she acts. Or more properly, she thinks instead of acts. A character flaw, not a virtue.

– Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

Sometimes I would rather have less impulse control instead of overthinking everything. At other times I’m really happy that I thought a bit longer and not just said whatever was in my head.

All strengths are great until you overdo them and then they become some of your biggest weaknesses:
– Attention to detail vs pedantic
– Funny vs mocking
– Caring vs over-protective
– Good listener vs Silent
– Storyteller vs Talkative
– …

The two machines

“One should never mistake pattern for meaning.”

– Iain Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

Humans are pattern-seeking machines. We try to find connections everywhere and we will find them even if they are not there. After we find a pattern the story-machine takes over and will immediately create a story to explain the pattern and it will search in your vast memory to find all the evidence that will boost the story and the pattern, and hide away all the evidence that contradicts it. These two machines has created many horrors and wonders.