Do you want results or do you want happiness?
No matter how I did it or what in my character enabled me to get there, I have achieved results; The facts are that I am rich, fit, have a serious relationship since almost 10 years, and I am happy.
I have put in at least my fair share of work at the gym, at school and at work. Regardless of whether I am lazy, a flow addict, follow the path of least resistance or just want to avoid being in people's way, what actually happened is that I made sure I knew everything beforehand at school and then rehearsed and re-rehearsed from that point.
When I got my first job (broker assistant), I gave it my all; I gave up martial arts (albeit partly due to an injury), all but quit going to the gym, worked around the clock on everything I could lay my hands on (mapping investors, programming back office applications, summarizing annual reports, getting lunch for the senior brokers etc). I never thought consciously about if it was plausible or not to work 80-100 hours a week. I just did it because the work lay before me, and I just didn't, couldn't, quit until I really, really needed sleep. I wasn't even looking for rewards, wasn't doing my dog years to lay the foundation for a career. I simply got a task, however lowly it might have been, and I finished it. That was how I was wired; more like a beast of burden than anything else. Where did it come from?
When I turned 10, I was about to get something extra for my birthday, perhaps a bicycle. My dad, however, noticed my interest in electronics, motorized construction toys, digital watches and such. So, as a complete surprise to everyone in the family, he bought a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K in London on a business trip. Yes, a computer with a total memory space of 48 000 bytes, which only cost the same as a bicycle but changed my life forever.
Nobody around me even knew what a computer was in late 1981, early 1982, but I was completely hooked from day one. In the beginning I just played Space Invaders days on end, shunning food, sleep, play, just chasing that next high score.
The key to my success
I just wouldn't give up until I had finished that next level, no matter what it took. Back then, you never got to save your progress either; when your lives were up, you had to start from the very beginning. Imagine that, kids! I think that built character, stamina and emotion control.
Since new games were usually too expensive for me (typically around 15 USD, which I could afford just a couple of times a year or get at birthdays or for Christmas), I got into programming. First I just copied the code off a magazine (many computer magazines had print-outs of simple games in addition to game and hardware reviews). Copying meant literally reading the code and typing it character by character by hand with zero error tolerance and then de-bugging for typos (both your own and the magazine's).
Soon, I began programming and inventing my own games. That's how I laid the groundwork for skills like English, algebra, programming, symbolic and hierarchical thinking, reasoning, not to mention focus and patience. Between the ages of 10 to 15 my brain must have been on fire from new efforts, new information and new challenges.
I didn't choose to be that way, but my fascination for controlling the outcome in a game, for controlling what went up on the screen, for understanding and controlling variables and graphics, my curiosity for whatever might show up around the next corner or at the next level in a game made me push myself toward my genetic maximum intellectually, one increment at a time, every day, for years.
What I had from the start was curiosity and early and strong reading abilities as well as an inclination for math and somewhat less developed social skills (probably light Aspbergers/Autistic Spectrum Disorder). Combined with a computer at the exact right time I developed an invaluable skill set (without even consciously trying, just by following the unhindered path to being me) for my future education and career.
My early years, the Spectrum era, formed me and made me succesful at school (once we got grades, I almost stopped fighting and made sure I performed in more than just math and English) and later on at work (due to my patience with any kind of task and systematic approach to complex problems in the stock market).
However, once I had reached high enough, to not have to work anymore, I started contemplating the meaning of life, of working in the stock market versus growing as an individual. And work lost out, so I quit.
You may need different sets of habits to, respectively, become successful or happy. I think that is what this blog is about (apart from educating the masses about the Singularity, the stock market, weight lifting, new findings in psychology etc.)
I was lucky to stumble upon a habit that made me exactly what was needed to ace school and get noticed as a valuable team player in the stock market. The likes of Start Gaining Momentum, Tim Ferriss, Danger & Play, Bold and Determined, Tynan, Barking and others are applying an adult's structured thinking to the "problem". They are perfecting formulas on how to become manly, productive, momentum machines that get incrementally better than everybody else. They certainly produce a lot of good ideas on efficiency and productivity that should be enough to propel anybody's career to unexpected heights. Most of them also have ideas about happiness that are similar to mine. I just sometimes have a hard time reconciling the various advice.
I am ambivalent. On the one hand, you shouldn't chase happiness. On the other hand, happiness still demands a conscious effort from most people, an effort to stop rushing about, stop chasing. Just STOP and experience, be mindful. However to become a whole person,you should probably strive to go in the direction of difficulty, to evolve, develop and grow. At the same time, flow is the highest state of happiness I can think of, and flow is inherently effortless (even if it means working at the limits of your physical or mental abilities). This seemingly paradoxical relationship between conscious effort and flow/happiness is difficult to resolve, or to give soundbyte-type advice about.
However, just contemplating the issue should bring you closer to a full and happy life experience. My way right now, since I already have achieved material success and a strong skill platform, is an ad-hoc approach. I go with the flow, trying a lot of different things, somewhat chaotically, to see what sticks. I do strain myself a bit, but not more than that I actually like the effort and can see the reward clearly.
For some, results and happiness are intimately intertwined, but don't just presume you are one of them. Think hard about what is most important to you; happiness or results. Also consider that it might just be your self-confidence addiction speaking (as opposed to self esteem serenity), whence results won't make you happy, just needing more.
NPR/TED Simply Happy
And, if you are thinking a lot about this topic, do listen to the NPR/TED podcast about happiness. I wrote a summary of it in Swedish here. In short, the main points were:
1: Life edit, declutter - Edit out unnecessary living space, stuff and storage. People have tripled their living areas in the US but still there is a booming self storage industry. And nobody is happy. Try going the other way with less stuff instead.
2: Three months after a major life event there are no lasting effects on the level of happiness. The brain exaggerates its fears about the impact of a coming event but smooths over any past event. The brain hides your true you from yourself because if you knew how easy it would be (afterward) to quit your job or get a divorce you might make decisions like that too often
3: The brain can make us happy no matter the actual circumstances. E.g., the guy who quit Beatles righ before their stardom claims to be happy, or even happier than if he had stayed.
4: The key to happiness is to pause and experience, feel, contemplate and appreciate life, instead of rush through it (chasing happiness). There is no big secret to happiness, but you need to put in a little effort every day; play with your children for five minutes with 100% attention, take a walk and actively appreciate and be grateful to be alive, to be able to walk, to get one more second and one more breath of air. "Be mindful and grateful"
5: Opportunity does not knock only once; quite the opposite; "Opportunity keeps on knocking, constantly". There is always one more second, one more chance.