Competition

I’ve never really been particularly competitive. I played Little League baseball and one year of football in 6th Grade, but I never really got into it that much. The truth is, I’ve never really cared about winning that much and when I am competing (these days it is most likely a board game) I don’t really try that hard. I haven’t done much where failure was a strong possibility, and when I have done risky things I just shrug it off as unimportant. Like most things, I have a lot of trouble getting emotionally invested.

I always viewed this apathy to competition as a good thing, but my morning reading from “The Daily Stoic” has me reconsidering that.

“Difficulties show a person’s character. So when a challenge confronts you, remember that God is matching you with a younger sparring partner, as would a physical trainer. Why? Becoming an Olympian takes sweat! I think no one has a better challenge than yours, if only you would use it like an athelete would that younger sparring partner.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, 1.24.1-2 (Translated by Stephen Hanselman)

I don’t really buy into the whole idea that there is a God who has hand-picked a struggle for me to rest my mettle against. That kind of supernatural determinism reminds me too much of my Christian days where empty platitudes like “God won’t give us a struggle we can’t handle” replaced actual positive support for people, but there is still something there that is gnawing at the back of my mind.

Maybe there is some value in competition to test myself and grow stronger. Maybe my “I’m not competitive” mindset is a way of saying “I’m afraid to test myself because I might fail”. I have a history of focusing on individual tasks like school and running while ignoring competitive tests like chess or sports.

I think I’d like to change that. I’m not going to ignore yoga, but maybe there is room for some martial arts in my life. I’m going to keep studying and reading, but possibly I could benefit from chess or another mental test that requires an opponent. It might do me some good to give something my all, try as hard as I can, and then get my ass kicked.

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What Kind of Life Employee Will I Be Today?

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. I started earning my income around the age of 12 when living in Gresham, Oregon. I delivered newspapers, sold sodas at the local park, worked in my grandfather’s rare coin shop, and mowed lawns. Since then, my “career” has been a bit unconventional (a full list is at the bottom of this post), but I’ve noticed my work style at each place usually fell into one of two categories: run out the clock and create value.

What determines how I approach a job seems to have little to do with the job itself. Take being a grocery clerk, for example. When I was 15 I started working for Safeway as a grocery clerk. I didn’t care about the job and I felt like I was just a cog in the corporate machine. I saw no opportunities to create or add value, so I just did what I was told. I was running out the clock each day.

That experience was very different than my time at the Good Food Store when I was 33. At GFS I was constantly looking for ways to improve the system and make life easier for all of us clerks. I felt like I was part of a family and my supervisors cared about me and would take my recommendations to heart. The social incentives were in place for me to work hard. I felt like being a value creator.

The reasons for my different approach during these jobs are many. Certainly, my age difference and life experiences played a big part, but I think the institutional incentives were a big factor as well.

I write all this because I’ve been thinking about what kind of employee I am within my own life. Are my days spent “running out the clock” until payday, vacation, the holidays, or death? Sadly… sometimes, yes. And on those days I’ve only hurt myself and wasted moments of my life that I’ll never get back.

On my best days, I am a value creator and that value grows exponentially. When I work to improve my skillset for work or read a book on a new subject or go for a run or eat right or write I am adding to my life, but it is more than addition because that growth acts like compounding interest. And, as Einstein might have said, “Compound interests is the most powerful force in the universe”.

Take my crypto investments, for example. Over the last 115 days, my cryptos have earned ~0.67% per day, which seems like nothing. That isn’t even a new penny for every dollar, but over time that daily growth becomes incredible. If that growth rate continues then a $100 investment becomes nearly $150,000 in three years. I don’t know if my financial investments will keep growing at that rate, but I hope my life can.

I don’t know if my financial investments will keep growing at that rate, but I hope my life can. If I can grow as a person by 0.67% per day than my body and mind and life will grow quickly. All it takes is a little time per day, a little focus, and a little perspective… 30 minutes a day or so dedicated to personal growth (and, of course, more time means faster growth). Every action I take plays off other actions I’ve made, exercise clears the mind and improves neurological function, reading books on new subjects increase creative solutions to old problems, writing publicly grows my network, meeting new people provides new opportunities and perspectives, etc. It isn’t necessarily important how I start being constructive each day, maybe it is a run and maybe it is meditation or maybe it is chatting with a friend, the important thing is that I actually start doing it.

I only have one life and I need to decide, am I just running out the clock as entropy takes hold or am I working to make this the best damn life I can?

 

Full List of Jobs (maybe?)

  • Age 15 – Grocery Clerk
  • Age 17 – Papa Murphey’s Pizza Maker
  • Age 18 – Lube Technician at a Honda Dealership
  • Age 18 – Papa John’s Delivery Driver
  • Age 19 – US Army
  • Age 23 – Go-Kart Track Attendant at a NASCAR themed track
  • Age 24 – Security Guard at Strip Mall filled with bars
  • Age 26 – Papa John’s Delivery Driver
  • Age 26 – Student Body Secretary
  • Age 27 – Intern for Economics Department
  • Age 27 – Student Body Vice President
  • Age 28 – Researcher for Non-Profit
  • Age 29 – Operations Manager for Non-Profit
  • Age 31 – Security Operations Manager for Private Security Firm
  • Age 33 – Grocery Clerk
  • Age 34 – Researcher for For-For Profit Organization

Got something to say? Wanna buy me a beer? There are many ways you can show support and connect with me! Send me a message anonymously via Sarahah or SurveyMonkey or email me. If you’re interested in a bike adventure I went on you can read my book! And I’m always accepting tips via PayPal or Bitcoin.

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6 AM

I am not a morning person.

When my alarm starts buzzing at 6 am it takes all my effort to get out of bed and as the haze of sleep starts to clear up I often ask myself the same questions.

Why wake up at 6 when I work from home?

I ran yesterday, why run today?

Can’t I just be more productive at night instead of pushing myself in the morning?

These are rhetorical questions. I know the answers very clearly… I wake up because I want my life to be more than what I’m paid to do. I wake up because yesterday’s run is part of a lifelong habit and not an excuse to be lazy today. I wake up because I know that I won’t be productive at night if I sleep in, that just isn’t how I work.

Every day there are two finite resources at work: the hours in the day and my motivation to be great. Both of these resources count down regardless of whether I am being productive or not. My drive to write, create, and exercise will be less at 5 pm than it is at 7 am, even if I don’t write, create, or exercise during that time. Mornings are where the magic happens, particularly when it comes to things I find difficult.

There are certain things that I know I will do each day, regardless of circumstances. Maybe they are things I love to do, like reading or listening to podcasts, or maybe they are things that I need to do, like work for pay. Either way, I don’t need to worry about getting them accomplished, they will happen even if I am low on motivation. It is the tough things that I need to knock out in the morning because those are the things that I’ll find excuses for or neglect in the evening.

Whether it is creating a new habit, running five miles, or calling my credit card company to ask for a lower interest rate, it must be done early or it won’t get done. The rest of my life, the habits I’ve developed and the work I know I need to be done can wait.

So, that’s why I wake up early because if I don’t then my life will drift along in mediocrity. I won’t meet my potential, I won’t experience as much of life as I possibly can, I won’t know my limits because I tried to push through them. Whether it is using my mind and body to transform my body or to write a book or to gain financial security, my mind and body are at their best in the morning.

It sucks sometimes, but truly living requires early rising and when you rise early there are plenty of hours in the day.