I’m a strong believer in avoiding the middle ground.
What middle ground? Every point between 0 and 1; on and off; best and bad; in or out. Now this doesn’t mean we need always dwell in the extremes of every spectrum we inhabit, but I do think we should only transit the middle on the way to one pole or other. Spending time in the middle wastes time and wastes energy.
How about an everyday analogy. Have you ever tried to stand in one spot where the waves break on the beach? It is very hard to stay put, but we can (usually) hustle past the breakers into deeper, calmer water. Alternatively, we can move with the breakers on to dry land. Choosing either option is a better use of our energy.
A number of years ago, we adopted a rescued greyhound. That little guy was either in a dead sprint or lazing on his big pillow inside the house. He had no interest in an easy jog. He was bored on walks. But he could run.
I think both of these analogies1 illustrate a good philosophy of self-improvement. We are better off devoting all our spare time to improving something in our life, or recuperating completely by resting totally, than if we just spent 11 minutes a day in mild effort.2
Derek Sivers, entrepreneurial sage, has a similar outlook when it comes to managing your external commitments.
…If you’re not saying, “Hell yeah!” about something, say no. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” then say no.
When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say, “Hell yeah!”
For every event you get invited to, every request to start a new project, if you’re not saying, “Hell yeah!” about it, say no.
We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.3
When we don’t have the bandwidth to do everything,4 we have to be selective. Don’t waste time on the okay commitments. Wait for the great opportunities. Commit fully when they arrive.
Don’t be good. Get better. Reject the middle.
Do good analogies mean a good argument? No, but I think big truths harmonize with common sense. ↩︎
We may only have 11 free minutes a day, sometimes, but on those days we need to give that 11 minutes complete focus. And we need to look for 12 minutes the next day. ↩︎
Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers, link. I really like Sivers. As I post this, his short book is only $1.99 on Kindle. A no-brainer. ↩︎
The motivated young and commitment-less can often do everything…until they can’t. ↩︎