We’ve all seen and read about entrepreneur war stories where they talk about working through the night for weeks on end just to launch a startup or manage a crisis.
A family friend told me about how he was juggling his full-time job and his bento meal bistro that he was running. He would literally finish his work and rush over to his store to work at the cashier stand. It came to a point where one day he stood over the cash register and felt a sensation in his neck, only for it to seize up his body.
After wisely deciding to head home and rest, he woke up in his bed drenched in sweat and could barely move. Thankfully, he was able to phone an emergency call to his brother for aid.
Stories like this are common, especially with entrepreneurs.
How did this question come about?
A couple of weeks back, while we were able to work in the office, I was having a conversation with the VB18 team and they noticed I was playing what looked like a game on my computer.
Out of curiosity, they quizzed me about what it was and I told them that I was playing a blockchain centric cryptocurrency game called Alien Worlds.
Alien Worlds is one of the biggest blockchain game with over 2 million users. The game allows you to mine the native currency in the game which is Trillium (TLM). You can then use TLM to trade it for other cryptocurrency or fiat money.
After I explained the game to them, Pamela exclaimed that I was absolutely obsessed with tokens! Which I was and I can’t deny … 😅
I had been researching and talking about tokens the past few weeks so I was beginning to exhibit signs that I was becoming obsessed about this burgeoning space.
As I went home and thought about it, I was asking myself this question, why I am so obsessed? Why am I obsessed about entrepreneurship? Why do I spend my weekends working on my own projects, writing and reading up?
It led me to ask, are other entrepreneurs even more obsessive than I am?
Enneagram 7: The Source Of My Obsessive Nature?
The answer became clearer when Peter got me to do a quiz about my enneagram, which explained a lot about my obsession. 7s are described as adventurers or epicureans, and that sums up my journey as an entrepreneur. I see myself as a character in a game, embarking on an adventure. This adventure isn’t straight-lined, it isn’t for everyone and because of that, I find myself dedicating most of my time doing things that empower myself with tools to become a better entrepreneur.
From listening to podcasts and audio books to following a workout regime, whatever that enables me to perform at a higher level everyday, I’ll do it.
Often times, I hear people say that they are attracted to the romanticised aspects of entrepreneurship because they can’t see themselves working for “the man”, or they don’t want to work in a 9–5 environment. While I understand why they feel the same way (because I feel the same way too), I question their dedication. Are they choosing this path because they want to avoid pain? Because they are seeking an “easier” path?
More often than not, entrepreneurs give up working in a 9–5 environment only to work even longer hours, 7 days a week particularly during the beginning stages of a business.
If you aren’t prepared to swallow that bitter pill, it may not be the best time for you to leave your full-time job.
Writer Ryan Holiday was asked by a young aspiring writer, “how do you become a writer?” His answer was pretty scary … He said something like:
“Don’t be a writer if you want to be writer, become a writer because you have to be one”
That’s some heavy stuff right there. But it’s true.
I hear a lot of bullshit from the people I meet. The same people who say that they want to start a café in the future, but are doing absolutely nothing to prepare themselves for that eventuality. It sounds cool to say something like that, rarely do they show signs that owning a café is something they have to do.
I guess that’s why I do what I do, I may not have the capital to start a $500 million dollar business, but I’m going to work with my own constraints and explore every single avenue that I can to make that a reality.
People view that as obsession, I view it as a necessity to become who I need to be. Most people only see athletes making the legacy defining winning shots that cements their place in sporting history, no one ever sees the thousands of failed attempts they make during practice.
What keeps these athletes going? Obsession or dedication?
When An Obsessive Nature Turn Bad
The same obsessive nature that forces me to do everything I can to be a better entrepreneur also haunts me in different areas of my life.
Early on in my life, I spent a lot of time playing video games. That was my vice, I was obsessed with a couple of games like Call of Duty and Dota. The moment I started playing, it was as if a shark tasted blood for the first time. It often times felt intoxicating and invigorating, I felt alive gunning people down and stomping noobs.
But that came at a cost. 1 hour became 2 hours, and 2 hours became 4 hours. A gaming session snowballed quick, sometimes ending up as late as 4am at in the morning. Everything affected me mentally as well and it led to my parents telling me that I was sleep talking about the game in the middle of the night.
The scary part was that I would also unintentionally carry over my frustrations built from playing the game to my friends. It came to a point where some friends would tell me that I was getting snappy with them.
That’s when I knew I had to stop. Now that I’ve completely weaned off gaming, I feel way more productive and happier. When I do get the itch to play a video game, I end up getting a really bad headache after each session which cements the decision not to pick it up in the first place.
My obsessive nature is also one of the main reasons why I don’t smoke at all or drink too much (limiting myself to 1 beer/ 1 cocktail). I know how easily I can go from hating these activities to absolutely getting hooked on it.
And so, I intentionally choose not to craft my entire social circle around specific activities like that but would rather do something healthy like working out or playing a sport.
Being Successful Is Not Just About Being Obsessive
Connor McGregor famously said: “There’s no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist, we are all equals as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that’s that. I am not talented. I am obsessed.”
While Connor is right on many fronts, I would also like to offer a new angle to what he says.
On one hand, it is true that you have to put in the time, day and night to get good at what you want to be good at. But you can’t just aimlessly put your time into the wrong things, you got to put your time into the right things, the ones that make an impact on you and your goals.
Just this week, I was listening to a fascinating episode of the Joe Rogan Experience. Joe’s guest was John Danaher, one of the most brilliant coaching minds of the sport of Jiu-Jitsu and they were talking about one of John’s star athlete — Gordan Ryan.
For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Gordan Ryan is a multiple-time Jiu-Jitsu world champion and is arguably one of the greatest grapplers to have ever lived.
Joe Rogan asked John Danaher an incredibly insightful question. He asked John what was Gordan’s greatest attribute as an athlete and John’s answer really surprised me. I was half expecting a grappling related attribute.
But John began to explain that in order to the best in the world at something, you can’t just have persistence. Many people persist in doing the wrong thing, which is called stubbornness.
So, you can’t just show up everyday at the gym and expect to be like a Gordan in your field. You have to employ what John describes as Intelligent Adaptive Persistence.
What is Intelligent Adaptive Persistence?
The first part of this formula lies heavily in being adaptive in nature. That means that you have to look at what you’re doing and assess if it’s working or not.
Then comes the tricky part, John says that you have to ask yourself why is something you tried working, and why is another failing? What am I missing out? So, the adaptive portion really relies heavily on your willingness to go through a trial and error process.
This is not something that is easy to do. It requires you to let go of your ego, replay unpleasant experiences in your head and to exercise large amounts of self-awareness.
Once you have begun to to remove or reverse the failures, what you have to do next is to follow intelligently guided routines.
These routines are paired up with persistence, constitutes our definition of discipline. This discipline isn’t merely about putting in the reps, it’s about having discipline in thought.
It’s about being mentally engaged, even after you’re dog tired from a long day at work and you really want to sit down on your couch and binge on Netflix.
But you don’t.
Instead, you sit down, pull up your notebook and assess what you did right and what you did wrong. After that, you can begin your research and chats with your mentor or co-workers and figure out a way to intelligently solve the problem.
This is not easy at all. It requires a huge amount of mental persistence, time, and an incredible level of dedication.
Can intelligent adaptive persistence be considered obsession or is it really dedication to a craft?
At this point, I don’t even know anymore and there’s no point trying to distinguish one from the other. All I know is that I have a long way to go in this journey, and I have to be applying the right kinds of persistence if I ever want to taste success consistently.
I can’t be wasting time doing things that don’t help me achieve my future goals.
I hope you guys enjoyed this week’s thoughts!
I’ll see you guys next week!