Are society’s default rules right for us?
Rules are created by people no more intelligent than us
Dick Fosbury was a track and field athlete. He made his international debut, competing in the high jump, at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Competitors jumped forwards over the bar and landed on their feet. Dick had a different approach. He found greater heights were possible by jumping and twisting his body mid air, i.e. jumping backwards, then landing on his back. Competitors could not believe what they were seeing and the crowd shouted Olé each time he cleared the bar. Not only did Dick Fosbury win the Gold medal, he changed the sport going forward. By the 1980 Olympics, the vast majority of finalists had adopted the Fosbury Flop. He changed the conventional rules of the sport.
We can change the rules
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you're life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again. - Steve Jobs
Society and organisations need rules to function. However, we should not accept norms and follow rules blindly. Work is not fun and we should postpone happiness until we retire. Being busy is good. We should avoid risk, in favour of certainty. Stress is bad. Really? Conventions are not always right for us and we can change the rules.
Retirement may not be the best option
Retirement planning is like life insurance. View it as nothing more than a hedge against becoming physically incapable of working and needing money to survive. - Tim Ferriss
I believe that for many retirement (how most think of it) is a flawed goal for two reasons. Firstly, it assumes our work is not something we would wish to continue doing. If so, why not find work we do enjoy? Secondly, to maintain a good standard of living into the future, based on typical pension provisions, will be challenging. The average age of the population is increasing and life expectancy has increased. Given that current workers fund state pensions, many question its sustainability. I do not intend to retire (in the traditional sense). Rather, I want to spend more time working on my own projects, things that inspire me most.
Doing less is not lazy
Laziness is the road to progress, but only when it is allied to intelligent thought and high ambition. - Richard Koch
Doing less low value work, to enable us to focus on more important activities, is not lazy. For many, this is hard to accept as being busy is a badge of honour. I’m very busy is a standard refrain. Our culture applauds personal sacrifice (input) rather than productivity (output). This is a throwback to the Industrial Revolution, where inputs and outputs were closely correlated. We should focus on being productive (at the right things), rather than just busy. Each day, I Make Time to address the most important task of the day.
Stress can be good
Not all stress is bad. Indeed, some stress, known as eustress, is a positive motivator. Distress is a harmful stimuli that makes us weaker and less confident, e.g. destructive criticism and aggressive bosses. Eustress, on the other hand, builds confidence, helps us develop and feel euphoric. Examples include, coaches that expand our horizons, practicing a new skill and playing sports. There is no progress without eustress. Taking responsibility and action helps fulfil aspirations. My commitment to write this weekly blog is an example of eustress for me.
How to Find Your Life’s Task talk by Robert Greene
My 5 Habits for Change post by Phil Martin
Tackling 3 Success Blockers post by Phil Martin
Steve Jobs provides a handy reminder. Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.