Productivity Can Suck It. Long Live Selfulness.

Here’s the thing, I, like you, don’t want to die without having accomplished a few meaningful things in my life.

And, probably unlike you, I’m getting up there in age and I’m relatively unaccomplished, and I used to think there was always time, but now I worry that it will never happen.

And, I know what all the productivity coaches say. Well, many of them. I haven’t tried Ramit’s class, so maybe that has the answers. I’m seriously considering it for the next time it’s available.

In the meantime, I’m looking for my own answers. Mostly because they feel a little more real when I do that. Integrated. You know what I mean?

Plus, I feel like I’ve tried what the productivity pundits suggest. I read the books, I listened to the cd’s. I watched the videos. I was pretty good at being an obedient follower. But something never sat quite right.

And now, now that I’m old and cynical and arguably under-accomplished for someone with my upbringing and opportunity, now I resent hearing the same productivity bullshit packaged in shiny new tin-foil.

You know the stuff I’m talking about:

-have a goal. write it down. make sure it’s actionable. and measurable.

-know your purpose.


-hustle harder.

-speak very clearly to yourself.

-be deliberate.

-focus on just one thing. just. one. fucking. thing.

-wake up at the butt-crack of dawn and review your goals, and say your affirmations, and exercise, and focus on your success, and eat the frog, and avoid distractions, and kick ass.

-get obsessed about getting what you want.

-focus on your dream or else you’ll work for others’ dreams.

That’s just the start. And I actually like a lot of what’s said. Because there’s a lot of truth there. And I realize—and I want this to be crystal clear—that you can accomplish a lot of wonderful things by listening to these people.

You can. And so, if it doesn’t feel dirty and inauthentic and a little self-important to do what they are saying, then do it. Seriously. The world will likely be a better place because of your contribution.

And stop reading this post right now.

Because I don’t have any of this shit figured out.

But something in this whole performance theology just doesn’t sit right with me.

It feels…fake. It feels insincere.

The practice is good. In fact, if you get to a place of sincere motivation, then you will likely end up doing most of the things you find in these books.

But what of the motivation?

   What are you really after?

Are you after fame and riches?

    Are you after a lifestyle?

Are you hoping you’ll get a certain level of success and then you’ll have all these hot models attracted to you?

Do you even know?

Look, a lot of jobs suck. And it sucks to be a person with talent doing work you don’t like just so you can afford a lifestyle that doesn’t even get you excited to wake up anymore.

Going through the motions sucks.

But wouldn’t it be great to have the kind of job that really built upon your best talents and one that helped people and one that made a shit-ton of money so that you’d be excited to go to work, and people would realize your brilliance, and you would have the kind of money that would feel like true freedom? Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Fuck ya, it would be awesome.

So why not do that?

Well, you should. Read those books, start that company, and let me know how it all works out.

But for those of you who have tried that, or for those of you who still think there’s something not sitting right, well, let’s talk a little further and see what’s bothering us.

I guess it feels kind of selfish.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m an armchair fan of Objectivism. I believe in man (and woman) as a heroic character in his/her own life.

But selfish motivations seem…flimsy.

Sure, a lot of people mask it with the thought that they’re helping people. And maybe they are. I don’t know—do those villages really need Americans to come dig another well for them? Maybe. Who am I to say?

So, you want to be rich, you want to accomplish a lot in life, and I’m here telling you that there exists a motive that is better than ego-building, and also better than feigned altruism. So, what is it?

Welp, I *think* it’s personal development.

I call it selfulness.

It’s an easy concept – personal development trumps ego-satisfaction because when you develop your potential, the whole world benefits. When you simply seek your ego’s insatiable need for more, everybody ends up with less.

Egoic aggrandizement is mental masturbation. You try to mimic other successful people, only to discover you don’t get satisfaction because even as you scale the social ladder, you find more and more people that have more than you. The sense of happiness is relative. If you’re not finding immense joy in your current circumstances, there’s good evidence that new circumstances aren’t going to change that. I won’t bore your further, I’ve already exhausted that idea.

In fact, tons of people have written about that.

But selfulness is not shallow. The motivation is honorable. It’s not about getting more, it’s about allowing your self to experience the fullness of what life has to offer. I know, it sounds super new-age but stay with me. With selfulness you are working to develop your mind into a tool that helps you experience a fuller life. To understand sincerity, spontaneity, richness, integrity. To understand what it means to feel true compassion. To feel flow as you build something that means something to you and provides value to the rest of the world—there is something powerful there.

I think the difference between the two approaches is that the egoic-enlargement, productivity psychology, and all that crap we read about, often comes from the approach of trying to control your circumstances so you can have the life you dream of. It’s an inside-out approach.

And my simple observation is that people who follow those rules do often find wealth. And yet, they feel very empty. Because they never developed what’s inside.

But there are others that are trying to be their best selves simply for the sake of honoring the life they have. Those people often attract wealth, as well. But they don’t do what they do with the sole objective of finding wealth, they do what they do because they want to be the best they can be. They want to connect with those around them. They want to move with the energetic flow around them, and learn to navigate it. They are not forcing things. They are not trying to control things. They develop strength. Power. And that power comes from integrity. It comes from authenticity. And it rewards them and those around them with joy along the way and with a true sense of being.

I tend to believe that the tactics designed to force productivity, discipline, and distraction-avoidance might be red herrings. Perhaps all you need is the courage of a true decision. After that, the rest just sort of falls into the place, doesn’t it? Will there be fear? Sure. But if you’ve truly committed, what is there to fear anymore? There is no failure for one that is immersed in the pursuit of what he’s committed to at his core.

That kind of commitment shapes you. And it reveals you. And then, when you find the path to productivity, you find it because your selful life needs it like your physical life needs air.

So be careful what you commit to, and be conscious of your motivations.

But be even more careful to at least commit to something.

Perhaps it starts with committing to treat your self to the kind of life experience, depth, courage, and integrity that you would hope every person could enjoy.

Maybe it’s your job to show them the way by doing it yourself.