A brain-hack to make life more pleasant


Hey friends,

You know that feeling when you come across something on the Internet and it immediately resonates with you and you think of 100 different applications for it? Well I had that feeling after reading one of Seth Godin’s daily blog posts this week. Here’s what he says:

Deadlines work. They work because they focus the mind and create urgency. They work to get us to file our taxes or finish an assignment. They’re an external lever for the work we have to do.

On the other hand, dessert works too. You don’t need an external force to encourage you to eat dessert after you’ve finished all your vegetables. It’s something you get to do, not something you have to do.

You can build a work life around deadlines. You can procrastinate, pay the late fines and push through the last minute emergencies because you need all of that in order to get to ‘have to’ mode.

Or, you can follow the path of the most productive and happy people you know. By redefining the work you’ve chosen to do as something you get to do.

And yes, I’ll point out that you can even do that with your taxes. It’s something you get to do because you’re successful and lucky enough to live in a civil society.

I’m a big fan of how changing the way we talk about stuff changes the way we think about it. In Medicine, we love to complain about how we have to do these discharge summaries, how we have to go through the tedium of our e-portfolio and getting things signed off. Instead, if we internally (and perhaps externally) rephrased it as get to, perhaps our working lives would become more pleasant.

In general, I wonder to what extent we can hack our own brains into acting as if doing stuff is a privilege rather than a burden.

Replying to emails for instance – I could think of it as “aargh I have to reply to these hundreds of emails from random people around the world #humblebrag”. That wouldn’t be very fun. Instead, I think of it as “I get to offer my thoughts to people around the world who somehow found me on the internet and seem to value my advice about their personal issues, this is awesome”.

Ultimately, I’m doing the same thing – replying to emails. But in one version of the narrative, it’s a chore. In the other, I’m having a great time. And it’s just that seemingly simple switch from have to to get to that makes the difference.

Have a great week!


This week’s podcast episode

Not Overthinking | 006 – Why do we love our jobs? | Episode 6

This is the first episode that features a guest! Paul Tern, a Cambridge-grad junior doctor who works in London, joins the discussion about why we love our jobs. We start off with some meandering around the history of the ‘I want to enjoy my job’ mentality, and then share our personal experiences and philosophies about what it means to have fun at work.

Stuff I’ve enjoyed this week

1 – Podcast – The Next Catalyst of Internet Opportunity (Gary Vee) – I really enjoyed this 45-minute fireside chat featuring Gary Vaynerchuk. It was a good mix of actionable and inspiring, and I particularly liked his ‘positivity is a strategy’ riff.

2 – Podcast – I also enjoyed the IndieHackers podcast episode featuring AJ, a developer who makes $30,000 a month from a website (Carrd) that he built by himself. I’ve been following AJ and his work since 2015, and this was a rare chance to hear the behind-the-scenes of his success from a refreshingly self-aware perspective.

3 – Video – Peter McKinnon 60p vs 120p – Bit of a niche video aimed at people who make videos, so if you have any interest in the field (or in watching entertaining on-camera personalities) then you should check it out.

Kindle Highlight of the Week

Get inside the heads of the people who made things in the past and what they were actually like, and then realize that they’re not that different from you. At the time they got started, they were kind of just like you … so there’s nothing stopping any of the rest of us from doing the same thing.

From the chapter featuring Marc Andreessen in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.

Here’s a related quote from Steve Jobs (1995):

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

This week’s video

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