Emotional Work

Day 338 and Effort

The real world rewards talent. It largely doesn’t give a fuck about effort. Sure, we like it when someone with talent works hard at honing their gifts. But if you just work hard it is largely ignored. The end result still matters most. Talent more easily gets the desired outcome.

This is a sort of hard truth that isn’t particularly hard to grasp. Every bit of evidence you have from a young age indicates that we reward outcome. Even if you are in a school system without grades, like I was, we still know what a quality outcome looks like. But we spend all this time and effort lying to kids with this separate system of effort that suggests that working hard and putting in a lot of effort are the thing “good” kids do.

I’m not wild about praising effort and hard work on its own. Sure it matters, hard work honing your skills, even when you suck, has its own value. But not when it comes to what the world expects of us. We inculcate habits and emotional expectations that are basically cargo cults. No wonder kids, after being praised and rewarded for effort for a decade or two, are confused when they get their first job. I’d be fucking pissed if I were that kid. I’d slowly shaped my behavior around one set of expectations only to find it had no bearing on reality.

Why do we spend so much time cultivating the myth that effort matters as much as talent? Why do we praise effort so consistently among our youth when we know that at a job being told “well you work hard but…” is probably a prelude to being let go. You have to work hard and achieve the desire outcome. It’s enough to drive people nuts. It is literally crazy making to contradict reality with all these lessons on effort. We are gaslighting our youth.

Emotional Work Startups

Day 174 and Easy for You

I’m not normally the type that reads business books. I’m pretty disinterested in management techniques and organizational structures because I suck at it. And I bring up sucking at MBA style topics because as I was doomscrolling I came across an older article from the Harvard Business Review. The headline was “why do talented people not play to their strengths?” I clicked.

It begins with fairly standard case study chit chat about the NFL and I’ll admit my eyes glazed over. Why had I bothered to click when I’m so not the business school type. And then I spotted a nugget that rang so true I swear I’ve got a little tinnitus from the “ding ding ding” bell that rang in my head.

We often undervalue what we inherently do well.

I’ve written in the past about my struggle to accept things that come easy to me. I have had a self limiting belief about the necessity of struggle and it’s inherent morality. Maybe I’m rationalizing pain and hardship because emotionally I need there to be a “why” for having fought through a chronic illness. Surely suffering through and taming a spinal disease has made me a better person right? Or maybe shit just happens.

And maybe I’ve been downplaying all of the many super power and talents I have. I’ve spent so much time grieving the loss of the hard things like working long hours and always hustling that I’ve been ignoring that i can win doing things that feel easy. Because they might just be easy for me but not easy for everyone. Quoting the article.

Often our “superpowers” are things we do effortlessly, almost reflexively, like breathing. When a boss identifies these talents and asks you to do something that uses your superpower, you may think, “But that’s so easy. It’s too easy.” It may feel that your boss doesn’t trust you to take on a more challenging assignment or otherwise doesn’t value you — because you don’t value your innate talents as much as you do the skills that have been hard-won.

Working long hours were always hard for me. I fought to stay up late because I would find myself fatigued and in pain. I really valued that because it hurt me. It was hard for me. Whereas I never valued being at being ahead on news and trends, or my facility at gaining media coverage, or how easy I found it to spot when the market was going to move. I distrust the skills I can do effortlessly.

But I realize now that those are valuable skills. It makes me a good investor, especially in private markets where seeing where the market is going and alerting people to potential is very well remunerated. So next time you scoff at a compliment from somewhere on you work ask yourself if what you did is easy or just easy for you. You might be surprised to find you have a superpower you never noticed.