Boredom is a greater threat to our ambitions than failure. I have spent a lot of time dissecting my failures in life, and I've rarely blamed boredom for them, but the truth is that many of my failures, and probably yours too, are due to getting bored. Unless we learn to fall in love with the grind, get past the inevitable boredom that will arise, it won't be easy to reach our greatest aspirations.
Failures due to boredom
Toward the end of the book Atomic Habits, James Clear tries to warn us of this inevitable human condition called boredom that destroys any consistent good habits we try to form. He says, "as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty." He also adds, "we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, one business idea to the next."
James also quotes Machiavelli, who says, "Men desire novelty to such an extent that those who are doing well wish for a change as much as those who are doing badly."
Back at the Italian restaurant that I grew up working in; we used to say, "you can only eat Pasta Fagioli so many times in a row before you want some prosciutto or steak." The truth is, though, if you can eat Pasta Fagioli long enough, you can save a lot of money.
In the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, we learn when parents push bored kids in the summer to do work, they come back to school, and their scores have increased by over 15% compared to kids who are just allowed to "have fun."
From the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell:
"Think back to Alex Williams, the nine-year-old whom Annette Lareau studied. His parents believe in concerted cultivation… When he's bored at home, there are plenty of books to read, and his parents see it as their responsibility to keep him actively engaged in the world around him. It's not hard to see how Alex would get better at reading and math over the summer.
But not Katie Brindle, the little girl from the other side of the tracks.
She may still have a wonderful vacation, making new friends, playing outside, going to the movies, having the kind of carefree summer days that we all dream about. None of those things, though, will improve her math and reading skills, and every carefree summer day she spends puts her further and further behind Alex. Alex isn't necessarily smarter than Katie. He's just out-learning her: he's putting in a few solid months of learning during the summer while she watches television and plays outside."
In this book, we also learn that from first grade to the fifth grade, that advantage that kids who are forced to grind through boredom have more than doubles.
As adults, we don't have parents telling us to read books, learn, grow, keep making things even when we are bored. We have to develop that ability to love grinding through boredom ourselves; we have to be our own nagging parents.
James clear tells us, "Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Professionals know what is important to them and work toward it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life."
Success due to grinding
I had an epiphany about my successes. Much of it is due to my ability to stick with something long enough to see it succeed. I am sure yours are too.
I learned about the value of the consistent grind conditioning myself through a video game called World of Warcraft. Most people get one or two max-level characters; then they spend all their time trying to get to the top 1% of raiding or player vs. player combat to get the best gear. The gear always changes with each season forcing the player to grind crazy hours for the novelty of the changes. The characters and classes rarely change, though. I had more max-level characters and classes than anyone I knew, nearly 25+ max-level characters, so I played that game a little differently than most. I didn't have more hours than most to sink into it, but I learned to love the grind, got smart about it, and learned that it has its own rewards. Those max level characters were valuable no matter which patch or expansion came of that game, they have value today.
My ability to lift heavy weights in the gym is wholly due to consistently going for many years. In that time, I varied my exercises very little, one muscle group per day, four exercises per muscle group, with four sets of 6-10 reps for each exercise. Despite stopping for a few years and getting "bored" with the gym, allowing life to get in my way like an amateur, those gains, it turns out, were permanent. Despite nearly half a decade break from the gym, within a few months of being back in the gym, I was right back to lifting heavy again.
It's not just the gym either; that success of putting in the hours and grinding also translated to success in my career as a software engineer. The grind got me nearly five promotions in 6 years. I learned to build and to hire. I built one engineering team, then three, then five. Just like the gym, those gains are permanent.
"But maybe in a different life
Maybe when we make it well meet at the finish line
Maybe this is fate maybe God will send a sign
But more than likely he'll say grind" - Nipsey Hussle.
James clear tells us that "there have been a lot of sets that I haven't felt like finishing, but I've never regretted doing the workout. There have been a lot of articles I haven't felt like writing, but I've never regretted publishing on schedule. There have been a lot of days I've felt like relaxing, but I've never regretted showing up and working on something that was important to me. "
In conclusion, we learn from James that we have to fall in love with boredom; I say we need to fall in love with the grind. The grind has its own permanent rewards that it will bestow upon us after many years of us learning to love it.
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