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Uploaded:2023-09-20
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The biggest problem I have with all of this "ambition" and "productive" and "achievement" talk is that I want to be really specific that I do not think that these should be an important part of every person's life. I have friends who are very ambitious and friends who are not ambitious at all and those are both very good ways to be.

I don't know what makes people different from each other, but they definitely are! But I'm stuck being me, and I'm very glad I had the advantages necessary to be able to be me .

 (00:00) to (02:00)


I recently made a video on TikTok where I explicitly stated that I am not Type A. And people were like "hahaha, you think you're not Type A, you've started 25 different businesses, of course you're Type A".

Like, you think you know me better than I know myself. Sometimes, of course, you do. 

In this situation, like, first of all, you have to talk about what Type A is/ is supposed to be. 

In the 1950s, when some cardiologists thought of this, it was supposed to be high-performing personality type. And these people were competitive, they were organized, and they were focused, and oftentimes they were, like domineering, uh, and not very thoughtful.

I would like to point out to you that I am me sitting in this office right now, and also I have started companies that have hundreds of employees. So I am smelling some BS right now, like, I am not an organized person. I am not a focused person. And I'm also not a competitive person, but I am a high-achieving person. And I think that it's really important to recognize that, like, the kind of achievement that we're talking about when we say a "high achievement," which I think is an important kind of achievement., can be done, and should be done by people who are not organized, and who are not focused, and who are not competitive. I would like there to be more of me—of course I would. I like me. 

So here's the main thing that this comes down to. I think that the idea of a high-achieving personality type is BS, but I also kinda think that the idea of personality types is BS. Now, we have continued to look into this and there are some things that are useful in trying to understand what kind of person a person is, but they aren't generally what we call "personality type tests," like the Myers-Briggs, and Type A - Type B. I mean in general you should know that trying to divide humanity into two groups is gonna be a fraught activity that will not lead to success. But a lot of research indicates that a lot of that personality type thing that we have done in the past is just not that useful, because people are very, very different from each other.

I think the allure of Type A, and why it sort of caught on a lot...
 I think the allure of Type A and why it sort of caught on a lot was that like, when this was happening in the 1950s, we were first learning about a lot of things and also culture was in a specific moment, you know? And we don't really think about how personality types sort of mesh into culture, but of course those things are not separate from each other. 

At that time there were a lot of people who were high achievers, who were very competitive, who were organized and focused, and people saw that, and you were more likely to become a high-achieveing person, a successful person, if you had those traits. 

But I—and this is just me; I'm not, like I'm not a sociologist—but I think that has more to do with society than with the people and their personalities in society. 

And there was like another type of person, who was maybe not as organized, maybe not as competitive, maybe not as stressed out all the time, and those people were gonna be type B. So they got to have less stress but they also got to accomplish less. It's an appealing idea. 

So, again, I'm not looking to research here, I'm not a sociologist. But the question for me is like, why did we get linked together, a motivation—competitiveness—with like, ways of being, like organized and focused. 

So when people think that maybe I'm type A, they think it because I have done a bunch of stuff and am focused on trying to do interesting things that are effective. But what got me there was definitely not like typical type A behavior. 

So first of all, like, my ways of being, my ways of getting stuff accomplished, is definitely very far away from like, productivity hacking. That's not who I am. I'd love to be that person, but it's not. And so—but I do have a system! 

So here's my productivity system. And I like, I witnessed this, I do not implement it. This is something that is me, it's not a strategy I use, it's just how I am. In any given day, any given hour, I either do the thing that is most interesting to me, and I'm most excited by, or the thing that is scariest and I'm most stressed out by, and I tend to prioritize the second thing. 

Now I agree that this is kind of a superpower, that the thing that is most stressing me out tends to be the thing that I most want to do. A lot of people aren't like this. I know a lot of people who aren't like this, but like that's my main focus, is the thing that's causing me the most discomfort. 

Now I'm not saying this is a good system, but I—by doing the things that sound fun and exciting, I create obligations that then become stressful, and then I focus on the stressful things, and then once I get all the stressful things done, I can do the things that are fun again. 

But that does mean that I never do the things that aren't fun until they're stressing me out, which means I spend a lot of time stressed out. 

Which actually leads me to this video's sponsor. And yes, this video has a sponsor! 

I started using Headspace during chemotherapy for like, obvious reasons. The thing I like about it is that I never feel like I'm doing it wrong. I do it because I like it and it's good at getting me to like it. So it is often the thing that I want to do rather than the thing that I feel like I have to do because not doing it is stressing me out. 

So having cancer is obviously the most stressful thing that's ever happened to me, and though I've always been someone who is like happy to take on stressful things, um, it was very nice to develop some tools to help me have some control over my mind and to calm what was—and remains—a very touchy nervous system. 

So now that I'm in remission, I'm still doing it somewhat regularly because, guess what! The tool remains quite useful! I also had, you know, therapy, and my therapist was like, "You should probably do some mindfulness stuff" in addition to have, like giving me a bunch of other tools to use and it has been helpful, I have to say. 

If you want to see how Headspace might be helpful for you, you can try it out completely for free for 60 days, all you have to do is sign up with my link in the description or scan the QR code that is currently on-screen. 

So yeah, my strategies for how to get stuff done are very not type A. I am not really a list guy. 

But in addition to my like, ways of being not being very type A, neither is my motivation.  I am not a competitive person.  And that might sound like BS to you, but I promise it's not. Like, I do not have a competitive relationship with my brother, who I share a YouTube channel with, and who is by many measures more successful with me.  It's never occurred to me to think that I should be competitive with John, except in sort of like a fun way that like is for the views, if nothing else. 

And the idea that competitiveness is the only thing that drives achievement is I think, like, bad? I don't want the only people who are like achieving a lot and thus gaining a lot of power in society to be the most competitive people. I don't want every person who is in a position of power or who has a lot of status in society to be a person who sees themselves in sort of a zero-sum competition with all of humanity. Like I don't—that would be bad. That would be bad!

And it's kind of, a little bit, the system we have. So if we could find other ways of motivating toward achievement, the kind of achievement that we mean when we say achievement, then uh, here's some of mine. 

Obviously I am motivated by something, and I've done a lot of thinking over the years about what motivates me, and for the majority of my career it's been two things, and I think it's a little bit different now.  So in the beginning, I was very motivated by guilt. By feeling like I did not deserve the stuff that I had and so I would have to, I had to do stuff in order to deserve the stuff that I had. The thing was, no matter what I did, no matter how like... I never felt like I deserved what I had, and I don't! 

Of course the thing that most determines whether someone is going to be high-achieving is the resources of their parents, you know? Like, their zip code: where they're from. It's like the biggest thing that determines achievement, it's not like whether you're type A or type B, so like I'm never gonna feel like I—and I shouldn't ever feel like I deserve what I have. 

And so over the years that has shifted for me towards—away from deserving toward a model of "what are you doing with what you have? And so with the resources that you have at your disposal, what are you doing? And I think that that's the model that most people should be using, though it's a tricky one to get your mind into. 

You should do what you can with what you have. So if you have resources, you should be creating things that you think are doing good in the world. And I really do believe that creating things is more important than wielding influence. 

So a frame that has less guilt and isn't being weighed down by guilt but is sort of like saying that I do have this stuff and so I do have an obligation to try and do some good with the, with the resources I have, keeps me feeling like I need to accomplish stuff, which I think is important. I don't know, maybe it's not. I think—I feel like it is. Without being weighed down and having the sort of negative consequences of it being sort of guilt-driven. 

And second, I am very motivated by having people feel positive things about me. I hope that this isn't a surprise. This is like very not type A behavior; type A is supposed to be like you're kind of dominating, and you are exerting control and you don't really care if people like you as long as you're achieving the achievements.

But I tend to achieve things so that people will feel good about me and I don't tend—I don't think, but I don't tend—maybe sometimes this becomes a problem, but I don't tend to be saying like, "Ok, I've got this idea, let's just execute it", I want to be very open to the fact that I, like a lot of times my very good ideas are not good, that I need people who will poke holes in them and tell me, "Actually, Hank, you need to reign that one in or change it or let's just not do that." I often defer to other people and I'm often right that other people's ideas are better than mine. 

But also I just really like being liked. That's a lot of why I have been focused on achievement, so people will think positive things about me. And I think that's fine! Like I think that's a fine and good reason to want to achieve. 

Now, I also don't think that people need to achieve a bunch of stuff in order to be valuable, nor do I think that people need to achieve stuff in order to be liked—I like a great many people who are not trying to be the biggest, most impactful person in the world. 

But I do kinda feel like I need to achieve stuff in order to be liked and that probably adds a lot of roots in a lot of different things. But I do think it's good to achieve things!

And like it's not something that just happens and it is more stressful than the alternative of just sort of going with the flow.

Hopefully, it's not controversial to say that it's good for good people to want to accomplish stuff and like gain power in society. I think that's good.

Ultimately culture is always gonna have power dynamics, it's always gonna have like levels of status.

And so I'm extremely in favor of like not imagining the world as only having one kind of person who can be successful in it. And also, like finding ways for people who are not super organized, who are not super focused, and who are not super competitive to, like be successful and to accomplish things, and to have a big impact on their world. 

And when you have the resources to have the strategies and motivations to actually have an impact, and to continue to grow that impact, and to feel like you should. Even if you aren't doing it for the traditional type A reasons.

And I hope that society continues to change so that it is more easy for people of what, different sets of understandings, different motivations, different worldviews, different experiences, to find success in this world. 

And hopefully, maybe, I could be some kind of model for all of the messy people out there who are motivated, instead of by like dominating and winning, but by trying to have a positive impact doing what you can with what you have and having people like you.

Having those be your motivations and having like the tools and ways of doing things that actually mesh well with those motivations and strategies. Which I've had to build a lot of from scratch, I also love building stuff from scratch. But maybe you won't have to, maybe you can learn something from this.

I'll throw that QR code for Headspace back up on the screen now, and again, there's a link down in the description if you want to check them out.