I have a confession to make. I have read every single one of those articles about ‘The 6 Things Billionaires Do Before 7 am’ that the rest of us don’t do in terms of productivity and time management. I love reading that kind of stuff even though I know I probably won’t do some of the more extreme routines that get mentioned. However, these types of things remind me why it’s so important not to model your habits off of others.
The other day on social media, I saw someone talking about the writing habits of David Foster Wallace and how he would get stuck sometimes when he was writing. But then once he started writing, he would write and write and sometimes even forget to eat or communicate with other people. Hearing this bothered me on a deep level.
Famous People Are Not Always the Best Reference Point
First of all, there was only one David Foster Wallace. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, he was a genius, who wrote in a way that no one else can. That said, he killed himself because he couldn’t live in this world.
So before you go idolizing these heroes and trying to model your habits off of others, make sure you take a step back and look at their whole lives. Taking productivity tips from David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, or Ernest Hemingway isn’t a long term strategy. The same probably goes for the 8 different things that billionaires do differently before 7 am. If you look at anyone’s life as if they have all the answers, you won’t get anywhere.
For writers especially, make sure that you’re following writers who have healthy lives and that have a life that you want and could honestly live. For entrepreneurs as well, realize you can’t model your habits off of others or base your life on the life of someone who just presents a different thing. Yes, it’s probably a fairly innocuous thing to argue with strangers on the internet about, but it bothers me every time around graduation when David Foster Wallace’s speech to graduates comes up.
While the advice he gives in the speech is fairly good, he apparently didn’t take his own advice since he took his own life. And so before you buy into anyone’s dogma, make sure you know their whole story. Make sure you realize that when you idolize a slice of someone’s life like Steve Jobs, for example, you might also not go and get cancer treatment for a diagnosis that you could solve.
Don’t Model Your Habits Off Of Others – Do This Instead
Just make sure that you’re living your life on your own terms. To me, that’s the biggest takeaway because when we take the entrepreneurial path, that path is ours to create. It’s ours to map out and we can decide how it goes. We can take our cues from people who are ahead of us and we should do this.
But to think that we could be the next Hemingway or the next David Foster Wallace is doing ourselves and those people a disservice. You can’t put someone else on a pedestal because everyone else is just a person, too. You can’t be someone else because you are special.
The way that you synthesize your life and understand your expertise is the way that you show up in the world. It takes some courage and probably some experience to be comfortable standing on your own path. That’s probably why I read all those productivity hacks and have tried a fair number of them myself but people aren’t successful because they get up at 4 am.
How People Really Become Successful
People aren’t successful because they take ice baths or because of any of these little quirks or routines. People are successful because they have put themselves on a path to be successful. You can do it too. This is not a bootstrap thing. This is just a reminder to be careful who your heroes are because you are your own hero. You’re my hero. The way that you show up in the world is important.
The fact that you get your stuff done between 7 and 10 pm? That’s fine if it works for you. It’s fine. You don’t have to do anything according to anybody else’s template. That’s what I want to take away. You really don’t have to model your habits off of others. Make sure you’re not giving too much headspace to heroes who aren’t around anymore. Be your own hero.
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