50 years is a bloody long time to commit.
Most of us choose a profession and then blindly follow it for the rest of our careers. I did that with banking.
I’m only lukewarm about the idea of banking. It doesn’t change the world. It doesn’t make me jump out of bed. No.
I just feel a slight pulse but it doesn’t make my heart beat faster.
The way to avoid 50 years of mediocre work is to replace it with 5 years of obsession (hat-tilt to Zach Pogrob whose quote is the headline).
Working a 9-5 is what you do when you’ve got no idea what you want to do
Leah Njoki says “The majority of people don’t want to be at work. They’re there because they don’t know where else to be.”
This idea has driven so much of my thinking about work. Many of us would love to quit our jobs but our family situation doesn’t let us.
We’re trapped by a needy family, or worse, by debt. The debt payments don’t stop just because you want to change your life. Getting rid of the debt isn’t an overnight reality either.
So …. we settle. We do just enough. We keep dreaming. We use the timeline of “one day” and hope. This is no way to live, but it’s the default option.
Obsession is the vaccine to the mundane life virus.
The new science of obsession
The self-help and productivity movements have been huge.
The entire industry is worth billions of dollars. Only recently have I realized the common advice this industry offers falls short.
You don’t need habits, goals, vision boards, self-improvement.
Why? The entire productivity and self-help industry is irrelevant to an obsessed person.
- Obsession makes productivity redundant
- Obsession creates systems
- Obsession automates motivation
- Obsession makes reading less important
Obsession focuses on execution. The tasks are whatever you love doing that you’d work on 24/7 if everyone would just leave you the f*ck alone.
That’s how writing online was for me.
Jerk bosses and certain pain-in-the-ass family members kept getting in my way. All I wanted to do was write. Nothing could stop me. I didn’t need to be motivated to do it or read another how-to guide.
No. I just wanted to let my big-ass fingers slam the keyboard to the beat of a techno dance track until my face went red and sweat beads gushed down my face and formed puddles of water on the floor of my home office.
It sounds freaking ridiculous but this is bliss to me. I’m obsessed. I think about the art of writing all the time. My mind can’t stop. Even on holidays I find myself writing headlines down. I even write down quotes from conversations I have so I don’t forget them.
The whole world to me is full of wisdom I can write about.
See the difference? Obsession hits differently. It’s not lukewarm. It doesn’t require gurus or permission slips or strategies. You don’t find yourself asking strangers on the internet “what do I do?” or “how do I do X?”
You already know. You’re obsessed.
5 years of obsession
The modern career is a fancy form of delayed gratification.
You postpone everything to the future. You build experience. You never really sit down and think “where will I be in 5, 10, 20 years if I keep doing this?” No. Those questions are too damn hard to answer.
A career provides the perfect distraction.
You can ask the hard questions later. You can pretend life is unpredictable and you’ll figure it out later. Maybe you will but the facts go against you.
Obsession is different. Once you know you’re obsessed with a topic or field the only thing you need to do is commit. The minimum commitment for obsession to do its magic is 5 years.
If you can be obsessed with something for 5 years then … it’s highly likely the results will allow you to opt out of working a 9-5 job for the next 50 years and then dying full of potential and untapped obsession.
The results from obsession are different.
The secret power of obsession rarely spoken of
Much of the universe is based on cause and effect.
Obsession is a cause. It’s the domino that smacks down all the other dominos if you’ll let it.
When you become so obsessed with a single activity it allows you to enter a flow state on auto-pilot. A flow state is where your perception of time speeds up and the volume of work increases, thanks to a lack of distractions.
When we go to a rock concert we’re secretly paying to see someone in a flow state. Watching people in a flow state reminds us of our own obsessions.
It’s why when you come home from an experience like a rock concert you feel like making your own music. Or after you watch a chess game of a grandmaster in a flow state you want to come home and play chess.
Flow states are addictive. They’re directly related to obsession.
Mix the two together and you have a cocktail of potential so potent, literally, nobody can get in your way.
The hidden cost of obsession
Obsession has a price.
For me, I was single for years because I didn’t have time for love. For others, obsession can cost them all their free time.
I’ve seen people become so obsessed they struggle to socialize with normal people anymore at mundane events like pizza nights. Why? They’re so far down the rabbit hole of their obsession that it’s all they think about.
I used to sit in meetings at work and daydream about writing. Every spare second I had at my job wasn’t spent finding more revenue to meet my sales target. It was spent publishing more stuff on the internet.
The only cure to this obsessive behavior, that can make you an outcast, is to find your tribe. That’s what I did.
I found a private group of online writers who were as obsessed as me. We got to nerd out on headlines, cover images, turns of phrases, and picture quotes. I’m not the only one.
Legendary Youtuber Mr Beast says in his early days on Youtube he had daily calls with fellow video creators. All they talked about was nerdy video stuff. They swapped trade secrets and helped each other’s channels grow.
In one way you become an outcast. But in another way you stop spending time with people who hold you back. It’s a weird feeling.
The simple way to discover what to do next
Maybe you’ve read this article and thought “great Timbo, what’s next?”
Glad you asked. Maybe you’re not obsessed right now or can’t see yourself being able to quit the insanity loop that is traditional 9-5 jobs. That’s okay.
The first stage is awareness. The second stage is to do what finance guru Anthony Pompliano recommends:
Follow the ideas that you can’t stop thinking about.
The final stage is to commit the next 5 years to those ideas that occupy your brain. The level of commitment needed to reach success in any field is vastly misunderstood. The gap in reality is filled with obsession.
Once you understand obsession and its power, everything else makes more sense. You stop asking how or when. And you allocate more and more time to living in an obsessed flow state that makes the results automatic.
Get obsessed so you can leave the hell of 50 years of 9-5 work behind.
No one should have to get told what to do and get a fixed rate of pay in return as a form of charity. Patrick O’Shaughnessy says it best:
Find your obsession. Then make your exit strategy death.