Have you heard about the ant mill phenomenon?
It was observed in army ants, an aggressive predatory foraging groups, known as “raids”, constantly walking around an object with no fixed home base. When a group separates and wants to get back to the pack, the vanguard might follow the smell of the rearguard making them go in circles forever, basically walking themselves to death. It is not possible for them to spot this behaviour and correct the course to get out.
We as people, organisations, or product builders can get into the same death mill when we’re fixated on a goal and fall victim of a social pressure. We fail to see when the path has become toxic for us and it calls for a reset.
More does not equal better results
I used to believe that if I put more hours into building something, even if some of those hours will be less productive, I would still be ahead of others.
After all, the society has been selling us that hypocritical reality for years. As long as those business gurus were doing something cool, we glorified their despotive attitude (some call it a leadership style) and ignored an underslept, unhappy and often overweight outcome.
Never grow up
You may be recognising the shot from this post’s cover photo – it’s from Big (1988) with Tom Hanks. The movie tells the story of a young boy named Josh, who wishes to be “big” and wakes up the next morning in the body of a 30-year-old man. (Damn, when I watched it as a kid, I really thought 30 years is when you’re really old and you have everything figured out.)
As the stereotypical Hollywood tale goes, Josh navigates adult life, works at a toy company and learns valuable life lessons. When we grow up, we tend to become more focused on work, responsibilities, and practical matters, and we lose sight of the things that once brought us joy and wonder. By embracing his inner child, Josh reminds us that it’s essential to take time to play, have fun, and be spontaneous.
Or don’t. Time off is for the losers.
Do whatever it takes. Hustle. Make Gary V. proud. Work long hours and have little regard for work-life balance. It doesn’t exist, anyway. Especially, when you build your own company. Worry about your burnout later.
“Work like hell. I mean, you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40-hour workweeks and you’re putting in 100-hour workweeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.”Elon Musk
Sure, you could argue that Musk’s demanding leadership style is necessary for achieving ambitious goals and driving innovation. After all, he achieved the previously impossible with his ventures such as SpaceX and Tesla, as evidence of his leadership skills and ability to inspire his teams. Those who refuse to put in some extra work and prioritise family or – dare I say – simple pleasures like holidays, are simply lazy, whiny, ungrateful brats who will end up working mediocre jobs and living mediocre lives. At least, that’s a fate yet to be written, as seen in the eyes of many of those billionaires who chose work over living.
There is no doubt that greatness demands sacrifices, but is total devotion to work the only option to becoming an Original? If not, where is a healthy balance between workaholism and a complete uselessness?
Don’t ask me.
I don’t know. I have days when me and my partner work till 10pm, but I also have days where I can’t be bothered to have any meetings because I don’t see a point of it all.
I still feel guilty when I have fun – go out with my friends or procrastinate – but I do my best to consciously fight this feeling. To rationalise myself that I’m no good as a burned out, uninspired woman that can’t see the bigger picture because she chooses to put out fires (some of which she thoughtlessly started).
Whenever the competition is sleeping is when I shine.Kim Collins
We fall victim to our habits and to what we know. Like those army ants, the societal pressure and our intrinsic need to ‘belong’ and not to lean out, can have harmful effects – until we stop our autopilot.
I may not achieve the level of success as Jeff, Richard or the other guys – although I certainly have high ambitions. But I’m still having only one life (that may change in the future with developments in longevity from Bryan’s Blueprint and the likes which those Jeff-like billionaires pump money into).
Call me lazy, but I want to enjoy it while I’m young and have energy to do those bungee jumps or snowboard without dislocating and replacing my hips.
Ps. I again made a mistake of not releasing weekly, even when I’m not entirely satisfied with the result, and it amplified feeling flow-less even more. Well, I need to just ship. The flow will build up. Keep me accountable. Sign up to my newsletter so I feel that someone is actually reading these words 🥲.