Achievement Addiction Is a Real Thing

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I’m an achievement addict, and I’m working on breaking that addiction.

Before I go on, I want to be clear that this isn’t a humble brag. This is not the equivalent of the person who walks around fake-lamenting about how they wish they weren’t so talented at absolutely everything! This isn’t about talent; it’s about a deep emotional attachment to defining myself by what I produce.

I’m talking about a mindset where the search for achievement overrides everything else. It’s a kind of obsession that drives every decision you make. It’s exhausting and it’s dangerous. It sustains ideologies about work that are bad for everyone. It’s a monolithic goal that stands in the way of happiness because it clouds judgment and overvalues production.

I wrote about it here: “Don’t Fall in Love with Achievement.”

Let me know if you can relate.

 

 

Have You Accidentally Joined a Cult? Me Too!

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I’m pretty convinced these days that productivity often functions as a cult. Do you ever feel like you are committing a cardinal sin if you aren’t constantly trying to maximize your output and produce as much as possible? Do you feel guilty about not doing something productive? Do you fetishize being busy as a way of feeling important?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might be in the productivity cult. And once in, it’s so hard to get out. So hard!

Here’s an article I wrote about how to know if you are in the cult or not. It’s very subtly titled Productivity Is a Cult: It’s Time to Deprogram Yourself and Exit.

When your productivity practice becomes the goal — and you are no longer thinking about what you produce, how you produce it, and whether or not you should produce anything at all — you might have become a productivity cult member.

Don’t feel bad if you are card-carrying member because you are not alone. Let’s practice un-brainwashing together.

Tell me how you will resist the productivity cult.

 

The Main Reason You Aren’t Writing? Probably Distraction

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It’s impossible to write well if you are distracted (says I, who is currently writing this while watching the subpar episode of The Office where Jim buys Pam a house).

Resisting distractions is hard and it saps our willpower. (That obviously explains why I ate three salted nut bars while writing this: no willpower left.)

So how do you get rid of the distractions, sit down to write (or read or whatever), and do it well?

(That last part about doing it well is key,  by the way. I’ve produced all kinds of garbage while watching TV. I’m not bragging; I’m confessing.)

I suggest we try creating environments where multitasking isn’t the default. We have to build space and time where distraction simply doesn’t enter the equation.

Easier said than done, of course, but I do have some strategies for doing that. You can read about what I’m trying to do in my article “Distraction Is Keeping You From Writing: Three Ways to Foster Deep Thinking and Improve Your Writing.”

Should you trust me? Probably not. I just paused to watch this video of babies talking to each other.

How do you build distraction-proof areas in your life?

 

Things We Can Blame on Leonardo DiCaprio

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Earlier this month, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, blamed Leonardo DiCaprio for setting forest fires in the Amazon rain forest. “Leonardo DiCaprio is a great guy, isn’t he?” President Bolsonaro said facetiously. Bolsonaro went on to say that DiCaprio “donat[ed] money to set the Amazon on fire” for his own personal gain.

DiCaprio responded on Instagram by reiterating his support for the people of Brazil and for the continued protection of the rain forest.

But the whole incident got me thinking: What if we could just blame everything on Leonardo DiCaprio? What if all the bad things in the world—real or imagined— could just be attributed to him? Wouldn’t that be cathartic?

So in no particular order, here are the things—real or imagined—I intend to blame on Leonardo from here on out:

  • He handwrites letters to children telling them there is no Santa Claus.
  • He shot J.R. Ewing.
  • He greenlit Season 2 of The Masked Singer.
  • He’s on a friends and family phone plan with O.J. Simpson and Matt Lauer.
  • He replies-all in all of his email, just as a matter of course.
  • He thinks Friends would have been a better show if Paula Deen had played the Rachel character.
  • He dated Taylor Swift, but he was so boring, she never wrote a song about him.
  • He used Lizzo’s tiny purse as a handkerchief.
  • He invented Tik Tok, autoplay on Netflix, and those plastic anti-theft cases cassettes used to come in.
  • At karaoke, he only sings the full version of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
  • He suggested Beyonce and Jay-Z name Blue Ivy “Mildred Ethelred.”
  • He thinks Tom Hanks is “just not that nice.”
  • He signs you up to receive robocalls, junk mail, chain letters, Candy Crush invitations, and evites to that co-worker’s fourth baby shower.
  • He wants to recast all of Hallmark’s Christmas movies with the Kardashians.
  • He’s always on a juice cleanse and wants to tell you all about it.
  • He’s already seen the script for Season 4 of Stranger Things, and he tweeted that the lovable weird kid dies at the end and Barb is NEVER COMING BACK.
  • He came to Thanksgiving and said the turkey was “quite moist.”
  • He thinks puppies are overrated.
  • When he comments on your blog, he uses all caps and hashtags his own comments. #LeoWasHere #Blessed
  • He knew how to get everyone off of Gilligan’s Island, but he said nothing.
  • He eats egg salad on your holiday flight.
  • When asked who his favorite poet is, he said Justin Bieber.
  • He has a selfie-stick. And he likes it.
  • He messaged Kate Middleton and told her Meghan hates all of her hats.
  • He uses that old dial-up modem sound for his ringtone.
  • He picked you in Secret Santa, and he bought you a Peloton.
  • He’s the reason TSA makes us take our shoes off at the airport. It’s a weird foot fetish thing.
  • He ate all the Popeye’s chicken.
  • He went to see himself in The Revenant, but he whisper-talked the whole time.
  • He was steering the Titanic.
  • He insists his essential oils MLM is not a pyramid scheme.

See? Don’t you feel better already? What do you want to blame on Leo? Go for it!

Do You *Do* Productivity?

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I have a secret vice: It’s productivity self-help literature. I read everything about it because I secretly believe that there’s some elusive–but ultimately accessible–method for producing more and more and more and more.

I’m here to say there is definitely a method for producing more. In fact, there are many methods. It turns out they aren’t so elusive, nor are they particularly hard to implement. Many of them work very well.

But I recently realized I’m asking the wrong question. Yes, I can be more productive, but the bigger question is should I be more productive? And if so, at what? All work isn’t good work.

I wrote an article about my new anti-productivity mindset for The Ascent. Here’s a snippet:

When we talk about productivity, we lack the language to even interrogate the concept because we’ve built virtuousness right into the definition. We can’t examine, critique, or even question productivity without accidentally endorsing laziness, a cardinal sin in our culture. Questioning productivity is like trying to make an argument against generosity or kindness.

Anti-productivity is all about questioning what we are doing so that we can ensure we’re doing the right things.

What anti-productivity look like? Well, let’s talk about it. It’s about time.

Traveling While Being a Curmudgeon: My Case Against Carry-on Bags

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I’m back on a plane again, and while nobody has reclined their seat in my lap, I’m wondering how much ire I’m allowed to have for carry-on luggage. Hear me out.

I get that checking luggage is a giant pain. It takes longer upon arrival, not to mention that the airlines charge an arm and leg for our privilege of traveling with clean underwear.

In the past, I have traveled with just a carry-on bag, but I usually check my bag because I enjoy being able to shut the door in the tiny airport bathroom stalls that aren’t meant to accommodate luggage.

Now that everyone brings the largest carry-on possible, it takes three days to board the plane while people stow their steamer trunks. Upon landing, you have enough time to knit your own suitcase while you wait for everyone to find their overhead compartment and pull out their luggage filled with gold bricks.

I fully admit to being irrationally (and quietly) annoyed with people pretty much 132% of the time, so my latest rant about carry-on luggage should probably be filed along with my other public policy proposals to legally enforce silence in grocery stores and pass laws making small talk on planes punishable by immediate ejection.

Nevertheless, I propose that anyone who doesn’t have a carry-on should be allowed to exit the plane first. Anyone with a giant carry-on should be strategically placed in some kind of labeled area that we checked-bag-people can file past with superior smirks on our faces.

I know, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t been consulted by the airlines yet to discuss my amazing ideas. It’s probably because some fat cat airline CEO is flying on his private jet, fully funded by my checked bagged fees.

If I ever get a hold of that guy, though, I have some flowcharts I’d like to share with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Hair Day

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I have bad hair. I’m fine with it. But I haven’t always felt that way.

Here’s a piece I wrote  for P.S. I Love You about how I accidentally got a haircut that makes a radical statement about me. I didn’t realize that until I walked around in the world with short hair!

It turns out, though, that what people say about your hair says a lot more about them than it does you.

What does your hair say about you?