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I found this approach was leading to depression. My attempt to have "extremely productive hobbies" just made me feel bad about them when they were neglected. It also led me to taking on too many things that interested me (garden, car, reading, tech, and so on). I found that when I quit prioritizing and just did stuff I enjoyed doing without worrying what the long term outcome would be, I was happier. If you've ever read Shop Class as Soulcraft [1] or Mastery (by George Leonard, not the Robert Greene book) [2] you will have some idea of what I mean. I began to pursue things for the sake of pursuing them, not because there was an end goal in site.

I realize that this is a purely personal anecdote and I realize this is not how people get rich, run a triathlon or change the world, but maybe I just can't do those things.

[1]: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/shop-class-as-so... [2]: https://www.amazon.com/Mastery-Keys-Success-Long-Term-Fulfil...




"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through." -Ira Glass

I think some of the frustration comes from not sticking with any one thing long enough to get meaningfully better at it.


This assumes getting better is necessarily the goal, which it may not be. For example, I like to play soccer. I'm not terribly good at soccer, nor do I spend much time outside of playing to improve (i.e. doing soccer specific workouts, drills, etc.). I have the self awareness to realize that my ceiling is limited and my enjoyment would not be greatly impacted by "fighting my way through." I just want to play. In a twisted way, I feel I achieved a sort of mastery just by doing the thing for the thing's sake.

This isn't to say that it's not good advice, but when I spent my life relentlessly trying to optimize (a trap I still fall into frequently, I'm reading these comments after all), I just got frustrated and felt like a failure. I decided it was OK to watch a TV show I enjoyed, to read books that had nothing edifying except a story I enjoyed or to simply waste time.

I think regular self assessment and awareness are possibly more important that optimization or improving.


Getting better at soccer is so much fun though! Watch a little pro soccer (try the EPL or Champions League) and see how the pros can do more with less effort. Force entire defenses to rotate by changing the angle of your body. First touch the ball into space instead of nowhere. Make the tight cut at the right time to slice through a defense.


Oh, I watch soccer, though less now since I did the above self assessment and decided the hours I spending watching it were probably not really making me happier. And I can admire Robben cutting in diagonally from the wings on his weak foot to create an opening or even Suarez's almost instinctive genius. But firstly, I will never be Robben. Secondly, the level I play at has limited tactical sophistication (the traditional 4-4-2 formation has given way to more of a 0-5-5 or 5-5-0 depending on where the ball is). Thirdly, I'm "good enough" for my level.

Off topic, but if you're interested in sports theory and writing, Suarez always makes me think of John McPhee's "A Sense of Where You Are", a profile of Bill Bradley when he was at Princeton. Probably one of my top 5 favorite sports books or articles.


> I will never be Robben

And that's ok! And neither will I. I think some of my enthusiasm comes from picking up soccer later in life. I've found learning things as an adult is a totally different skill from learning as a child. By accepting that my goal is improving myself, and not competing with the world's best, I've found great joy in the smallest steps towards being a more perfect player.


It only works if you keep your eye on the goal, rather than what’s in front of you immediately. Otherwise it’s just self punishment


> I found that when I quit prioritizing and just did stuff I enjoyed doing without worrying what the long term outcome would be, I was happier.

Eh, this only works if the stuff you enjoy happens to line up with "productive" activities. :P




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