3 min read

Two weeks ago I shared a piece called “ordinary inputs” that discussed the sacrifices and behavior changes required to do extraordinary work.

When you’re doing any type of creative work or starting a business, you’re already doing something that is not “normal” by the standards of society.Not normal isn’t bad, in fact I think it’s great, it’s just not what the average person is doing…But if you truly want to create something and make it more than a hobby, you’re talking about doing the not normal. Not ordinary, but extraordinary.And you just can’t expect ordinary inputs (spending the ‘normal’ amount of time socializing, Netflix-ing, etc.) to yield extraordinary results.

Several people replied to that email (thanks!) and one reader replied to that email with the following question:

I think this is a really interesting post/article. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about what holds someone back or what drives someone to do something creative (which could literally be anything).Then I also start wondering why is FOMO so real and how to eliminate FOMO. Finally, I just wonder why can’t we just do everything?Essentially what I am saying is, I’m interested in what your non-normal route will be.

I sent a quick, highly-caffeinated response before heading to the gym, and I wanted to share that more broadly, because I think it hit a couple strong expansions to the idea.

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I’ll be honest — in my experience, it’s a sobering pill to swallow to say “I’m going to take the hard route and do things I don’t want to do in the immediate term for an aggregation of marginal gains and long term success.”

I can go a couple of weeks being “extraordinary” and then crash hard into a weekend-long binge. And I hate that. It feels cowardly and weak — but I think it’s subconscious. We live up to the status that we think we are/deserve.

It’s the reason people who suddenly find themselves winning or in a great position to capture a big opportunity self-sabotage. It’s hard to take status leaps. But by being mindful, and understanding what it is that’s happening, we can thoughtfully force ourselves to take those leaps, in the small decisions we make every day, that essentially forever raise our baseline.

It happens both through actions and proving things to ourself, but also association. Surrounding yourself with “higher status” or more aspirational people has the same effect. (Unreal is as much of a benefit for the members joining as it is for me).

I really think it’s about just saying no. It’s not that you have to work 14 hour days — it’s taking the chances you get to extract an extra 1-10% of time and opportunity out of situations. Don’t go to the happy hour, or reduce it by one drink. A night of drinking removes all the hours of that hangout, plus the sleep lost from sleeping in, plus the recovery time when you’re not sharp. Maybe stay in one night a weekend (I spend Sunday writing all day now).

Sounds like a bummer, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve heard it called, “blissful dissatisfaction.”

Said differently — imagine taking a bite into a dish you’re really into; you are in bliss, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want more or won’t continue eating!

There are a lot of ways to spend your time sort of escaping or disassociating, and that has the same physiological/hormonal effect as actual happiness/bliss, but it’s like taking a hit of a drug. It’s hollow, short-term, and causes long-term damage (at least in opportunity cost).

I’m trying to live that life that brings me blissful dissatisfaction.