Sunday Wisdom No. 61
Availability and responsiveness aren’t proxies for work. Thinking jobs are invisible. Those who can figure out how to measure work have an unfair advantage over the crowed.
Welcome to Issue 61!
It’s not always you who wants to be perfect. As a kid, your parents and teachers want you to be perfect. As an adult, your partner, your society, your circumstances, and your friends want you to be perfect.
The signals aren’t explicit, especially if you are an adult. But you feel the pressure. People look upto you. They don’t want to see you fail. That’s why you push yourself harder. But at the expense of what?
In pursuit of perfection, we lose our priorities. Our priority is to worry less and enjoy more; not to win badges or hoard wealth at the expense freedom and peace of mind.
Hi, I’m Abhishek. Each week I’ll introduce you to multidisciplinary wisdom—in the form of original essays, bite-sized lessons, commentaries, and more—that gives you an unfair advantage over others. If you love Sunday Wisdom, you can buy me a coffee or share this newsletter with a friend.
Why Work Doesn’t Look Like Work
In this week’s essay I talk about how to measure work.
The activities we call work aren’t work. If your work involves strategy, analysis, creativity, management, non-structured decision-making, your primary job is to think. Attending meetings, calls, seminars, conferences look like work, but they aren’t work.
But if all day all night you are busy being busy, ‘thinking’ takes a backseat, and you end up doing a lot of things without getting anything done. You don’t waste the hours, but you waste the years. That’s foolish!
That’s why businesses fail. Founders prioritise moving faster at the expense of thinking better. No wonder most businesses end up either dead or looking like exact copies of each other.
Thinking jobs are invisible. Most people don’t realise this. Availability and responsiveness aren’t proxies for work. Those who can figure out how to measure work have an unfair advantage over the crowed.
What You Don’t See
Human beings are excellent at working around a problem instead of solving it. Paul Graham calls this schlep blindness.
Schlep blindness prevents us from taking on big challenges, and solve bigger problems—because we are subconsciously blinded by it. Graham gives the example of the payments problem that Stripe solved.
Whoever had to process payments before Stripe knew how big of a pain it was, but they found a workaround rather than solve the actual problem. Schlep blindness prevented people from even considering the idea of fixing payments.
But there’s immense value is taking up bigger challenges that others have ignored. If you pick an ambitious idea, you’ll have less competition, because everyone else would have been frightened off by the challenges involved.
Ignorance is a good antidote to schlep blindness. Since you don’t know how big of a problem it is, you might be open to taking it up. As most founders say, had they known in advance how big of a challenge it is to build a particular business, probably they would have never tried it.
The other approach is to take yourself out of the equation. Instead of asking, “What problem should I solve?” ask, “What problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?”
If someone who had to process payments before Stripe had asked that, Stripe would have been the first thing they wished for. It’s too late to be Stripe now, but there are tonnes of schleps out there waiting to be solved. Link
According to the great Romantic poet John Keats, life is about living the questions—the unknown is what drives science, and the most beautiful experience we can have is the ‘mysterious’.
Negative Capability is the willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity.
Several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.
3 Ideas from Roald Dahl
Some techniques Roald Dahl employed to find inspiration and get ideas flowing. We can apply them to become just a bit more creative.
Next time don’t just think of an idea, write it down, and forget about it. Collect more than just vague ideas.
I also find it useful to jot down interesting facts that I come across and that might be useful for my future work. On the inside of the back cover of my notebooks there is a chart listing the number of breaths per minute and heartbeats per minute of various animals.
Dahl had the habit of collecting photos of people to use as inspiration for his characters. He would collate random facts and names, and kept a list of made-up words to use in his stories.
The fact giants don’t exist only makes The BFG more enjoyable. Don’t rely just on ordinary facts to make a story enjoyable.
The wilder the better. You must always go a bit further than you initially meant to go.
Try to be in interesting surroundings to take inspiration from them. Dahl had the experience of a fighter pilot, diplomat, and intelligence officer to draw ideas from. Diversifying your experiences lets your creations breathe new air.
It’s hard to pick apart an idea, but that’s how you produce great work. Rewrite your draft—over and over again if necessary.
You’ll find when you rewrite, you pick out the best material from what you have written.
👋 That’s All!
One last thing. Reading this post won’t help, unless you swallow, chew, and digest these ideas. I urge you to become a demanding reader—one who questions the author, seeks answers, and doesn’t shy away from sharing differing opinions.