Doing Hard Things Easily

this is a loosely edited brain dump. less clean, tight, and structured than my usual threshold of self-acceptance for publishing things, but I’m trying not to overthink this and just get it out there.

hoping to revisit this 1) when I feel overwhelmed to regain perspective and 2) to clean it up for public consumption.

I think this will eventually split into 3-4 different essays.

lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “necessary and sufficient”

doing what’s necessary and doing it sufficiently

not too much, not too little, not too short, not too long

mismatched expectations, unverified assumptions, not understanding incentives

  • going gung ho on a report to realise only a small portion of it is relevant to your line manager.
  • pulling all sorts of nice graphics into your deck just in case it helps you seal that partnership
  • anticipating and planning an elaborate yet premature discounting schema to close that sale
  • priorities and cancelling on your plans to drive an important team meeting then getting RSVPs declined because you haven’t done the work to communicate why the agenda is important.
  • planning, designing, and implementing 18 features when you know there are only 3 that make your most valuable customers buy and keep them buying. but hey why risk. we need to keep working on something
  • drowning in worries, resentments, and getting discouraged after creating all these scenarios in your head about how you’re being treated unfairly, your merits unappreciated, and how many initiatives you’ve failed to drive and execute perfectly only to hear management thinks it’s a solid year and all your efforts and ideas are well-recognised. work is sufficient, stress not necessary

life could be simpler if you get your assumptions verified, set a quality bar and ship it, conduct research within a set time frame to make a sufficiently informed decision (because all decisions are wrong, you can only make one and make it less wrong as you go), get out of your cave and hang out with your friends to realise what you’re going through is normal, calibrate your view of reality, break out of your bubble

brute forcing throug life is easier, feels safer, and somewhat fun, but it’s tiring.

effective and efficient is one articulation of this

“doing the right things right”

“right” is the emphasis here.

and there are many ways to interpret and unpack what right means. “right” is contextual. it’s what makes “decision making” a rather nuanced and complex subject. and arguably, the root of many problems is on having the different definition of “right”

deciding what to do, when to do it, to what degree, for how long, with whom, in what sequence, through which angle

I don’t think anyone is capable of cruising along life doing just the bare minimum for the sake of it. the place I want to get to is to decide to go above and beyond after estimating where that line of “above and beyond” lies

life is all about trade off. you have limited resource. when you’re doing this, you’re not doing that other thing.

this is not about freeing yourself so you can dabble and move an inch into million different directions. it’s to know if you’re procrastinating on busywork or working on actual things that will make an impact. what’s the value-producing work are.

to get better at identifying the things that move the needle. to know when to stop optimising and start shipping.

this tension between necessary and sufficient is the underlying principle behind the idea of MVP. Pareto principle, noise vs signal. opportunity cost, working hard vs working smart

knowing how much pressure to apply, effort to exert, how far you still have to go, and whether this is even the right direction to be walking in (hint: it’s almost always is… because whatever happens to “Theresia 2” in an alternate reality doesn’t matter to “Theresia 1” and Theresia 1 will only know and interact and make the best out of this current one reality)

we can never find out for sure and be in total control of everything. we can never get a perfect buffered version of everything, the perfect dataset.

we can only take the first step, reorient, take the next step, figure it out as we go, build on it, let it compound. and iterate. no shortcut. no secret.

there is no signal if there is no noise. there is no 20 without the 80. and we can’t work smart if we don’t know what to be smart about on the “hard” part.

so don’t reject or renounce the “bad”.

a noise is a signal in another game.

and a lot of the time, you just have no frickin clue if this is the right thing to do or the right amount of pressure to apply. but I’d argue if you’re being honest with yourself, you do know when something is just your Resistance demon, whispering down your ear.

yes this is messy, confusing, and hard, no shit. if this were easy what are we supposed to be doing in life?

you can’t rush it.

it took me 3 years of going around in circle of unhealthy relationship with food to relax back into this body. every mental chatter matters. every negotiation matters. every inner arguments matter.

it took me 1.5 year to go from doing the work in the trenches to scaling, delegating, and getting a team off the ground. every shake-ups matter, every firefighting matters, every retrospective matters, every 1:1 matters, every mess-ups, every reorg matters, every project overruns matters, every training matters.

it took me 10 years to return to where I started, knowing that everything is perfect as it is and to trust the process, every detour matters, every rabbit hole matters. every

sometime I end up someplace new, sometime I end up at the same spot. but I am a different person now. I think a better one too.

and the thing is. you will be a different person no matter what you do or don’t do. it’s just that you get to choose what kind of person you will be if you actively choose the actions and directions.

and if I could do it all over again, I would still do all the same things at the same pace but I’ll do it with less weight on my heart.

more letting, less getting

You can do anything the hard way or the easy way.

I have the tendency to choose the hard way.

If I wanted something, I will start thinking of the things I need to start doing more of. I’ll start adding things.

More rules, more reminders, more system. More tools, more apps, more processes.

Get fitter, faster, stronger. Exercise more. Read more. Socialise more. Take on more projects.

More knowledge, more techniques, more tactics. More money, more assets, more skills. More friends. more experiences, more vacations.

Do more, control more, know more. Collect more, research more, try more.

I love the feeling knowing that I am doing all I can, as fast as I can, on as many things as I can.

I work hard and am killing it. It makes me feel important and useful and needed. It gives me self esteem and sense of purpose.

But I suspect I’ve been making my life more complicated and effortful than it needs to be.

What would it look like if this were easy?

getting unstuck

the past 3 days I’ve ben strangling a draft, trying to get it out there

it started as a casual flow of thought, which grew it’s hydra head, going into different tangents, touching many interrelated points and it’s hard to get back to just making that one point.

but this is more elaborate! I have most of it here, it’s 85% done, I just need to give it a little more push. so I kept organising, rewording, cutting

I know this just needs rewriting. I know I can get it done much easier and faster if I just throw this shiny draft away and start from scratch. go back to the fundamentals:

  1. what am I trying to say?
  2. kill your darlings

yet I still spend another 1.5 hours trying to edit it, frustration score: 50%.

irational, but I can’t help it. I don’t want to lose any of these pretty words.

it feels so close to completion. just a little bit more

then today during journaling I was casually unpacking one point sparked by a discussion with a friend, not completely related but in hindsight brush up against the draft I had been working on.

apparently it serves as a fresh angle to the thing, and it just flows out.

yes it’s less tight but it has all the points, contain less cliches, just felt more honest.

when you’ve spent the past 5 hours tracing a bug. and it seems so close to reproducing it and nailing the fix. and you leave it to have dinner or play a game with your colleague. and you get it fixed in 15 minutes

when your code doesn’t work and it feels you’re about to figure it out. this next edit is going to be it. then you get to sleep and the next morning you got it done in 30 minutes. so obvious

when pushing more doesn’t seem to produce more results. when doing more doesn’t get me somewhere faster. when everything you try seems to be failing.

sometimes you can’t get it done. you can only let it be done.

dieting is not hard. doesn’t need to be hard. it’s just setting your system correctly

it’s just starting small, setting your env up for foolproof success, and never stopping

and know you’ll never arrive and “done” with it

so don’t start anything you’re not ready to maintain till the day you die

Also published on Medium.

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