I tend to do things in the extremes. There’s no middle ground. It’s either 100% or nothing. It’s a blessing and a curse.
For some things like work, creativity and learning new skills, it plays to my advantage. I will create a mini-obsession (or a full blown obsession) and allow that thing to occupy all of my brain capacity for as long as it takes. This is amazing for problem solving.
For other things like video games, Netflix, gambling and drinking, it’s more of a liability that needs to be closely monitored. When I play beer pong, I want to win 18 games in a row or not even play. Video games that have no ending were specifically designed to be my nemesis.
Pulling the right levers
It’s quite easy for someone like me to lose control to these extremes. I have to make sure I avoid certain environments and certain people. Avoiding those negative environments is (relatively) easy. Avoiding those people is not.
The people and environment are just part of the game though. To live in the extremes, sacrifices have to be made, but it’s what allows me to be happy, successful and uniquely me.
I view the extremes as another tool in my tool belt. When I need to dial it up to 100, it’s time for world domination. When I need to dial it down to 0, I can mentally escape to another planet.
This tool is something I’ve been developing over the years. It takes effort, attention and is a constant, never-ending work in progress.
It’s knowing what levers need to be pulled in the right order to maximize (or minimize) the output.
The most non-obvious levers
Lever #1: Start by going grocery shopping
When I know I need to be on point, one of the first things I do is go grocery shopping. When I have the proper ingredients in the house, I cook myself an amazingly healthy breakfast. When I get all the vegetables and nutrition I need for the day from breakfast, it does three things: 1) it properly fuels my body for ass-kicking mode 2) deciding what to eat becomes one less thing that has to occupy brainspace and 3) it starts the proper sequence for a productive day.
Lever #2: Save up something epically unproductive
I’ve got some things tucked away in my back pocket as rewards for when the time comes to be extremely unproductive. The greater the achievement during the productive extreme, the better the reward. I’ve got some massive rewards that have been tucked away for many years now. Breaking Bad is the perfect example of this. I haven’t seen one episode, but I know that I have 1 day, 23 hours and 32 minutes of glory awaiting me.
Lever #3: Give your love equally
I have to make sure that I love both ends of the extreme equally. If it’s not an even tug-of-war match, things can get ugly. This one took years to truly understand and is so critical. You have to love putting in massive work effort as much as love going off the grid. Conversely, you have to love the unproductive as much as you love the hustle. If they are not equal and opposite, you’ll either burn yourself out (been there) or fail to achieve anything significant (also been there).
This may seem like way too much effort is required to live in the extremes, and to that I’ll agree. It’s a place where most people don’t, won’t or can’t live. Somewhere in the middle is much more comfortable for most people, and that’s perfectly fine.
I’ve tasted the highs and been through the lows. I know what’s possible, and I’m comfortable chasing it. I’ll battle the extremes every day of the week to avoid being stuck somewhere in the middle.