When I started doing this blog thing, I remember promising that I’d write it in odd moments, whenever time allowed. Some days there’d be a post, some days there wouldn’t. It all depended on how I felt. Which is fair enough, right?
But then something weird started happening. On the days I was too busy and didn’t write a post, traffic on this site was as high as when I did, if not higher. I couldn’t believe it. More people wanted to read what I wasn’t saying than what I was.
In other words: a certain amount of effort on my part produced a certain result, but zero effort produced an even better result.
And I guess word got around:
A: “Did you hear, he didn’t write anything today?”
B: “Nooooo. You’re B.S.ing me.”
A: “I swear to God. Go see for yourself. It’s the same post he had up there the other day. He’s written nothing – no-thing – today.”
B: “Hang on – I’ll be right back. This I have to see.”
And the number of hits went through the roof.
Which is both funny and, at the same time, utterly baffling. It basically means that the less work we do, the more we get rewarded.
And that’s when I realized – it came to me in a loud, epiphanous blast like the crack of thunder you get when a casino collapses – that this is a theme of my life. And possibly of everyone else’s too. We’ve been doing this all wrong, and there’s a lesson to be learned.
In college, for instance, I studied law. Studied the hell out of it, as a matter of fact. Actually, I’d go one step further: I’d say that no student in history has ever studied as much or worked harder to get his degree than I did in those days. Looking back, I think I may even have intimidated the law by studying it so hard. Seven days a week, all hours of the day and night, every free moment, pursuing knowledge with so much vigor and such a punishing zeal that it wanted to run away and hide, and ’til my eyes bled with the effort.
I was a perfectionist. I wanted to be the very best at studying law, and beat my friends, many of whom studied only half as hard as I did, preferring to mop up their free hours with heavy drinking, meaningless sex, and smuggling all my furniture and belongings out of my room onto the lawn the moment my back was turned. Slackers.
So imagine my shock when, at the end of three laborious years, I emerged from university with only a mediocre degree, while my slacker friends all did unusually well. Way better than I did anyway. They shone. Where my overall marks weren’t that great and my relative understanding of the subject considered disappointing, especially given how hard I’d tried, theirs were top-notch, and every last one of them drifted – again, with almost no effort – into top-paying legal jobs all over Britain.
Not that I’m bitter about their success or anything, but…grrrr.
Anyway, I learned two things from that particularly grim episode of my life: a) don’t trust your friends, they’ll steal your furniture; and b) hard work doesn’t pay off.
In other words, slackers rule!
Isn’t that wild?
Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe by your parents and Anthony Robbins, keeping your eye on the ball, being diligent, and committing to a goal 100% – that’s the loser’s way. It virtually guarantees a poor outcome, leading to years of hardship, disappointment, and personal misery.
I’m a living example. Looking back through my life, the harder I’ve tried to make something perfect, the more man-hours I’ve plowed into it, the more effort I’ve invested in a particular pre-determined outcome or goal, or in making something work out, the less likely it ever was to succeed.
My TV show was the best example I can come up with right now. Unless, that is, you count my latest travel book.
Conversely, the more laid-back you are about what you’re doing, the more you don’t care about outcomes, the less you chase success, attention, approval, readers, or blog traffic, the more chance there is that you’ll get the very thing you don’t seem to care about.
This phenomenon doesn’t have a name right now, so let’s give it one. As from today, it will be called The Peters Paradox. A whole new system of not giving a rat’s ass.
In short, the message seems to be: back off. Work, by all means, but only up to a point. Do what you have to do, then stop. Don’t let it consume you. Fill your life with fun and distractions and enthusiasms and interests and whatever else catches your eye. Don’t make your job the be-all and end-all. And to hell with perfection. Getting it done is more important than getting it right. Trust me, I know.
So today, for instance, I was going to write 700-1000 words about Kirstie Alley’s weight issues, continuing the conversation we began last night on my BBC slot. But now, after mature consideration, and employing the full power of The Peters Paradox, I won’t be bothering.
All I’ll say is, when Kirstie starred in Cheers she was thin and gorgeous. Then she exploded to 200lbs. That’s when she became the Jenny Craig anti-obesity spokesperson for a while. The moment she stopped being an anti-obesity spokesperson, however, she exploded back up to 200lbs or so again. Now she’s as big as a truck, and she went on Oprah this week to apologize for letting everyone down.
Truth is, though: 1) we don’t care – be fat if you want to, Kirstie, just stop telling us about it; and 2) you were probably invited on the show to make Oprah look thin, because compared to you she is. And that doesn’t happen very often.
There. Everything I wanted to say in a full article, but dashed off in a paragraph with absolutely the bare minimum of effort.
Now, with my new free time, I’m going to start drinking early and I might even have sex, if I can find someone to have it with. And once I’ve had sex I will be smuggling my partner’s furniture out of his room, and dumping it on the lawn. That’s the kind of guy I am nowadays. A slacker.
It’s a perfect example of The Peters Paradox in action.
TV Swami – he say NO to hard work and getting anything done – EVER.