The Tension

There is a tension in today’s digital world. It consists of two opposing forces: the work and the growth.

The work is everything you must to do grow. It’s the new proposals, the emails, the conversations, the hard thinking, the emotional labor, the meetings, the slack channels, the drive to the office and the drive home.

The growth is what you seek from the work. A bigger paycheck, more status, perhaps more responsibility, more respect, and more connections.

The tension is: the work steals time from the benefits of the growth. For instance, a bigger paycheck is great, but if you are too busy to even enjoy it, it’s just money sitting in the bank. Worse off, if the work keeps you so busy you are unhappy, you will use the money to make you happy on small things that are typically unnecessary.

Another example is more connections is great, but if you are too overwhelmed by your immediate connections to even keep an email conversation or text conversation with a new acquaintance, you can come off as a jerk.

But this all stems from one fallacy. One dangerously easy to believe but unsound argument in our heads: The only way to grow is by being busy. Or, put another way, the only way to grow is by doing more work. This fallacy leads to working 17 hours a day, feeling overworked and underutilized, always being in motion but not feeling a sense of progress. It leads to putting everything else we care about on the line for the work.

One dangerously easy-to-believe but unsound argument: The only way to grow is by being busy. Once you found success, you think the only way to keep it is to continue to work your face off.

It also builds the ideology that more work now means less work later. In part, this is completely true. If you build enough capital and equity in the world over the course of a specific time period, you open up freedom in another time period. But, it’s in part true. The other part that is often overlooked is what forms during those years of hard work. Jason Fried and DHH put it this way, “Yet people deceive themselves all the time. They think they can put in long hours for years ‘so I won’t have to do it later.’ You may not have to do it, but you probably will do it. Because it’s a habit.”

Habits are hard to break, even when they are unnecessary. So, the challenge in all of this is still real - how do I grow (to gain the freedoms and benefits of growth) without selling all my time and attention to work? It’s a question very few people come to analyze but can have profound changes on your day-to-day living.

You can build your business and not burn yourself out. You can go home and be home, away from work at 5pm everyday. You can and for many, they probably should.

David Iskander