Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Nothing hinders a cure as much as the frequent changing of medicine.
A plant that is often moved can never grow strong roots.
Taken from “Letters from a Stoic”, letter #2
I have a sporadic, childlike sense of curiosity. I want to do everything.
Learn about relativity? Hell yeh! A bit of stoic philosophy? Count me in!
It even delves into the world of fitness. My training style is the perfect display of my nature.
One day I’ll be doing a CrossFit workout, followed by a heavy strength training session, then my friend will call me over to do some gymnastics and I’ll finish off the day with some track sprinting.
But, as we all know, consistency is key.
This is a major part of my psyche that I have to battle every day, and I have battled all through my life.
This nature comes from the allure of instant gratification, constant thirst for novelty and quite honestly a sense of boredom.
However, this perpetual switching of priority breeds anxiety and a stalemate of passion.
Passion is bred from being great at what you do. The parts of my life that I am proud of have come from years of consistent hard work.
So one must balance this innate curious spirit with a laser-focused discipline.
A great way to do this is with the 80:20 rule. This was invented by Pareto and it states that most of the time, 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. An example of this is shown in language where 80% of the most commonly spoken words come from 20% of the language itself.
Therefore, in order to get to 80% success, all you need to do is find the most important 20% in that field, which, when studied, is labelled as deliberate practice. The hard part is finding the 20% that is the most important. This is why it's so important to plan your work and make sure you are doing the correct work that will actually push your forward in your field, or as Abraham Lincoln said:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
You can be “busy” and spend all your time sorting out emails, replying to texts and wasting your time at work. Or, you can spend 80% of that time finding exactly what you need to do and then 20% of the time actually doing it. At the end of the day, you’ve completed the same amount of work, but one is in the right direction and that is all that matters.
This work is usually the most challenging area in your field, like understanding grammar, doing the things you really don’t want to do in the gym or mastering an extremely hard maths problem. But this work gives you the most bang for your buck, it is the best return on investment, that investment being your time, so it is paramount that you find the most important work that you need to be doing.
A great question to find this 20% is:
If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?
What is the one thing that by doing it, would make everything else irrelevant or easy?
Now that we know what to do, we need to get the work done, and where else to seek inspiration from for efficiency and discipline other than the Navy Seals. They have a doctrine of “prioritize and execute” which links in nicely with the 80:20 rule, where one finds the path of what needs to prioritized, and then you execute. Remember, you can plan all day long but nothing happens unless you get it done.
And execution leads to staying consistent. The best way to stay consistent is to do it every day. Make it a habit. Stick the habit to something you do already every day, like waking up, taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Spend an hour doing it every day and watch how far you will develop in a month.
Don’t procrastinate by planning. Do the work. Prioritise by finding the 80:20, use your rational mind to plan and then bunker down and execute and don't look back.
But what about that innate curiosity inside of you? Doesn't this technique kill that?
We can use 80:20 here again. For 80% of the time, dedicate your work to the most important tasks: the hardest concepts, the consistent money-making tactics or the most challenging feats. For the rest of the time, feel free to branch out and go wild.
This 20% is usually where you will find inspiration to push the frontier of that 80% of work. An unknown angle or approach on your work that no-one had thought of. Specialization is for insects. Allow your mind to flourish and breed concepts you would never have dreamed of. Read that book, broaden your skills and challenge your ideas.
Break down the big goals into small topics by asking questions, plan your time to work on the most important tasks, and then execute by exercising deliberate practice. But remember, don’t forget to make time for curiosity.