Decision making, discipline and the limited f***s you can give.

For: You who live in the guilt of not doing something productive in "what should be" your time of recharge. You know "quality > quantity" but the ease and lure of quantity is so hard to resist. 

I don't believe pulling all-nighters and outrageous hours are required to achieve great outcomes. I really doubt all 18 or 20 hours of that day are "quality" hours. I'd actually consider it to be a breakdown in the system for it shows a lack of effectiveness and a clear miss in prioritization. 

Prioritizing things and sticking with them is commonly translated as "discipline". When I fast for 16 hours or train at the gym for 12hrs a week my friends commend me and say "Man I wish I was that disciplined". I do these activities because I've prioritized them. But what many are seeing is not discipline; it is a mere habit. It doesn't take much for me to do these tasks. 

Discipline is the illusion created by habit. 

I don't have to think twice about not ordering pop or drinking 4Ls of water a day or picking up a book to read everyday. They're just habits.

Each act of doing something or choosing to NOT do something is a decision. Hence, habits are are "instinctive" decisions. Now, not all decisions are equal in how much effort it takes to make them. That's where the habitual decisions stand out. They don't require much effort. 

You have decision making muscles that get tired the more you use em. It's no different from training physiological muscles at the gym. Just like how your muscles recover over night after a hard day's training, so do your decision making muscles after a full day of making decisions. 

Not smoking a cigarette requires no effort for me. It's like lifting a 5 lbs dumbbell for a person who is used to lifting 400 lbs every day. But for someone who has been an addict of 25 years choosing not to smoke that heavenly stick will feel like a person who has never done an ounce of exercise in their life trying to lift 300 lbs on the barbell It's all relative given our individual state.

A woman who can squat 300 lbs can't just go up to a bench press and hope to do similar weight on a completely different movement. The proper muscles and technique required for that were not trained so she won't be able to carry it over. Hence, for decision making too, certain muscles need be prioritized to train them make the decision-making process easier. 

There are only so many "flying fucks" you can give.

I commonly hear friends say "I couldn't give a flying fuck about.... my diet at dinner.... going to the gym after work...... the formatting for this powerpoint at 11pm...... that friend's party..... my own sleep and health." 

I usually hear this near the end of the day and I think they literally are out of "flying fucks" to give the world.

prah fucks.jpg

We all want to be like Oprah but we can't.

Why is that?

Well, as I said, you have decision making muscles. Imagine you start the day with 100 Flying Fucks (FF). These are your currency and you get to allocate them however you want throughout the day but after you use them all up, you get no more until the next day after you've rested (now if you haven't rested properly you'll be in debt, so you'll get less than 100 FFs but that's a topic for another day). For each decision you make you must pay up. Like life, nothing is equal and there is no reason that should apply to decisions either. Harder decisions for you will cost more than making the habitual ones like eating to survive or taking a shower. 

Be picky. Prioritize what to give a fuck about. 

I know there is a book out there about trying not to give a lot of fucks. Rather than that, the focal point should be about where and what you allocate your FFs to; not about ignoring everything. Some decisions will require 1 FF, and some may require 5. The harder it is to stay disciplined, the more FFs required. Since you only get about 100 a day you best prioritize. You'll easily end up spending 50 to 70 FFs in a day on basic habitual decisions so you won't have much bandwidth to do everything you want. That is still a major problem with me. I just want to do everything. I want to work on 10 habits at once and completely revamp my system non-stop. But alas, that is not a viable long term solution. It just won't be sustainable without prioritizing where to allocate my FFs.

For someone who has never read a book, saying you will read an entire book today may require 70 FFs whereas saying you'll pick up a book and just stare at it for 10 minutes will cost 4 FFs. Now the next day you may go to the gym, prioritize tasks at work and you may not have enough FFs to dedicate to reading a full book. But you only have to spare 4 FFs to stare at a book for 10 minutes.

It will be easier to keep up the task of staring at a book for 10 minutes everyday since it's an easy task for your decision making muscles. Over time the 4 FFs will go down to 1 FF. At this point you increasing that to 10 pages instead of just staring for 10 minutes can be the new benchmark for 4 FFs. If you started out of the gate with wanting to read 10 pages that may have cost 15 FFs and that would've been harder to maintain. Why so? Because going from 4 to 1 is easier than 15 to 1. Once you get the initial 4 down to 1 you've elevated your baseline and that makes everything relatively easier. 

It's not discipline.

Not in the long term anyway. It started out requiring tremendous discipline. But over time, the decision making got easier. It started taking less effort because it became a habit.

It became a habit because it was prioritized to become instinctual from something that required a conscious decision every time.

Some of the habitual decisions I make that my friends tend to be envious of like 16 hr fasts, daily reading/journaling, building relationships every week with new people, limiting junk food intake, cold showers, daily task prioritizing, and saying no to things that don't fit my mental model all became habitual after I prioritized them and worked on building them one by one. The habits I listed will be easier to some than others. They were each of different levels of difficulty for me as well. 

As I write this essay from the Highlands Coffee shop in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam, I can confidently say that this new environment and state of "vacation" makes it harder to keep a 16 hr fast or train at a gym for 12 hrs a day. The priorities have changed and with that I'm learning to allocate my fucks I give to different areas... like relaxing my mind.... it actually requires lot's of effort on my part to do this so that is where a lot of my effort is going to at this point. It's a constant process... a never ending one in fact. 

What I wanted to share with you is that it's okay not to be able to hit all the habits you want to create. You just can't. Some just require more FFs than others. For the proverbial type-A overachiever persona it can be painful trek to try and accomplish everything. As a victim of such "exuberant ambition" it's been a refreshing new point of view to take small bites over time instead of trying to take too big of a bite at once.

I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over - Warren Buffett

What is the 1-foot bar you'd like to work on now? 


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