Technically a few weeks late for a new year’s resolution, but better late than… whatever. Just stumbled across an incredible essay by Ryan Norbauer of 43 Folders: Death and Underachievement: A Guide to Happiness in Work
Norbauer chips away at the notion that productivity and achievement are pathways to happiness, and in so doing opens up a Pandora’s box of existential questions for the workplace. For those of us driven like rats to sip from the sugar-water spouts sticking through our cage walls looking for one more rush, one more minor achievement to fool our impatient selves into thinking we’ve found a scrap of meaning in our lives, Norbauer says it’s time to step back and take a close look at ultimate motivations:
The essential point that we must confront here is that the achievements which seem so important and for the pursuit of which we perpetually torture ourselves are on the one hand futile and the other utterly insignificant. What is the ultimate summit we expect to reach? And if we can’t answer this question, why do we exert ourselves as if we’re heading towards one?
His observations are in part triggered by the release of The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great, which rests upon these core principles:
- Life’s too short.
- Control is an illustion.
- Expectations lead to misery.
- Great expectations lead to great misery.
- Achievement creates expectations.
- The law of diminishing returns applies everywhere.
- Perfect is the enemy of good.
- The tallest blade of grass is the surest to be cut.
- Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder.
It’s a powerful piece, and one I needed badly to see. I’ve been feeling all of this for a while now, but blaming it on the wrong things: ennui, exhaustion, a fragmentated work environment, my own stupidity. But maybe the problem is that I’m looking for
love satisfaction in all the wrong places.
My (fittingly late) New Year’s resolution is to chill more, back off the treadmill, and to remember to breathe.