292: Because or Despite

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Happy Monday!

I published a new DeFriday last week about how you can now skip the Ethereum mainnet (with its high gas fees) and enjoy DeFi straight on the faster, lower-cost Layer 2 networks.

Aaand that's it. On to the Medley!

Because or Despite

When you read Steve Jobs's biography, it's obvious he was an asshole.

A brilliant generational mind for sure. But also an asshole.

Some people interpret his interpersonal behaviors as part of the key to his success. They see the dickishness as necessary to get the best work out of people.

But a perhaps more enlightened crowd often responds with some form of "well, he also could have succeeded despite his shitty social skills."

It's tempting to believe that the "despite" people are right, but I have my doubts. Either way, it's impossible to know which it is. Maybe Apple would have been more successful if Steve Jobs were nice to everyone. Or maybe there would be no Apple.

When we narrate our life, we invoke the "because" logic all the time. This succeeded because I did this thing. This failed because I am this way. So on.

But I suspect we can learn a lot about ourselves and potentially improve ourselves by flipping it and asking if "despite" would make more sense.

Here's one example I've been thinking about from my life.

I've always been kinda lazy with work. I procrastinate as much as possible, and throw things together at the last minute. I'll have brief periods of intense focus, then much longer periods of laziness, until something internal or external compels me to make the next step.

It's worked out fine. I've definitely had some success by the normal measures. And I've always had this idea in my head that I succeed at things because I'm low stress about them, because I don't take them too seriously, because I have an intuitive sense for when to push and when to relax.

But what if I'm lying to myself? What if I've pulled off a few wins despite my general laziness? What if it's actually dramatically holding me back, and I could be significantly more effective and self-actualized if I fully applied myself to something?

The response to that seems like "duh" but there's a counterargument. What if that's just some underlying, baseless guilt about how many hours we should work per day? What if trying to force myself to be fully focused on something would just make me stressed out and less effective? What if I'm just being neurotic? What if it turns me into the type of workaholic I'm trying to avoid becoming?

I have no idea. I wonder this about Twitter too. Do my various projects succeed more because I spend so much time on Twitter? Or despite? Would the productivity boost from getting off Twitter outweigh the loss in reach? Or would the loss in reach dramatically reduce the impact of what I do? I have no idea!

When it comes to personality traits and habits, the "because" or "despite" question is exceptionally helpful to ask. It's often impossible to answer. But it's at least worth exploring.

One of my big questions for 2022 is what would happen if I got very serious about working on something. If I "went pro" so to speak.

But first a few more weeks of taking it easy.

Have a great week!
Nat

Did You Enjoy This?

Then consider joining the 30,000 other people getting the Monday Medley newsletter. It's a collection of fascinating finds from my week, usually about psychology, technology, health, philosophy, and whatever else catches my interest. I also include new articles and book notes.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.