Sunday, February 17, 2013

moving forward with tiny steps

There was a woman at the Google gym who had lost 50 pounds.  Every time I went to exercise, I saw her there.  She must have gone to the gym almost daily.

One day, I finally said to her in the locker room, "I'm really impressed at how often you work out."

She said, "My goal is to lose 100 pounds.  I have 50 more pounds to go."

The most impressive thing is that she was able to go every day, even though any given day makes little perceptible difference.  You don't see additional muscle tone or increased endurance after a workout.  It's only weeks and months later that the accumulation shows its effects.

It is the same way with work.  Every day you make steps forward with your company, product, team.  But even though you're putting in work, the outside world only notices every so often.  For some of the startups I'm advising, there's no external validation for a long time, until one day they've built up enough valuable work, and then the world takes notice.

Because you don't see immediate results, I find there are only three ways to motivate yourself on any given day:
1. Love what you are doing
2. Have enormous willpower
3. Get someone else to pay attention to you and tell you how great you're doing

With exercising, I rely on #3.  I see a personal trainer.  Occasionally I go to exercise classes.

With work, I rely on #1.  As a result, I only work on products that I love, with people I love.

I mentally debate whether #2 is worthwhile.  Is it valuable to build up your willpower?  Isn't it more efficient to just divert more resources into #1 and #3?  Let's say you hate going to the gym.  Why not find enjoyable alternatives (sports) and people to go with you, rather than relying on willpower?

1 comment:

Yishan Sparklepants Wong said...

Willpower is built over time in imperceptible amounts too, it's not something you rely on, it's something you build. Once attained, it is a pretty useful capability and key differentiator. Most people won't do this (i.e. you can certainly get by with #1 and #3) but if you do, you'll have an unusual advantage.