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Stop bellowing “I always leave work on the table!” and think about it this way

Yesterday, I took a mid-afternoon walk to go get some hipster coffee and listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast episode with Chris Sacca, which was actually just Chris Sacca speaking by himself and answering reader-submitted questions.

Sacca was recently the cover boy for the ‘Midas Issue’ of Forbes, which prompted this episode. (If you want to hear another interview between Ferris and Sacca, here you go.)

  • He went to Georgetown (hey, I did too!)
  • He thinks a lot of upper-middle class kids don’t really have access to multiple experiences (Concur)
  • He thinks the basic life path, especially education-wise, is changing (Concur)
  • He thinks raising kids is more about adaptability, new experiences, and grit, etc. (Concur, but no link as I presently don’t have kids)

If you’re a total cynic, you can look at Sacca and be like “Pfft, anyone can be philosophical when you’ve got the cheddar!” There’s an element of truth there. But he actually makes one really interesting point somewhere near the front third of the podcast, and said point is applicable to virtually anyone. 

The idea comes from a question that was phrased something like this:

How do you motivate for a run or when there is work that needs to be done?

In Sacca’s mind — and remember, if you view money as a success metric (although you probably shouldn’t), he’s probably more successful than you — these are two different things, because:

  • Going for a run is a finite activity. You know the time or the mileage, and you’re done.
  • Work that needs to be done is an infinite activity. Theoretically, you could keep adding and tweaking things and it could go on forever.

I think this is kind of the crux of where a lot of things with the ‘working world’ go astray. You start here:

Many people want to be viewed as maximizers, because it seems that’s tied to more success and growth and all that. (A ‘maximizer,’ loosely defined, is a perfectionist who doesn’t want to see work get out the door unless it’s ideal.)

If you believe you’re a maximizer, work will truly never be done. You’ll have countless opportunities to tweak, to iterate, to set fires for others, to toss yourself on the cross, to worship at The Temple of Busy, to tell everyone within earshot that you just worked a 100-hour week, and to go back to iterating.

Work can be infinite, then.

But a run, or a period of exercise, or a walk, or a trip to the supermarket — that’s finite.

What if we could make work ‘finite?’

This is likely impossible to many people, but think about this:

Now consider this: another successful man in his field, Mr. Mitch Albom, has gone on record repeatedly saying he only writes 3 hours/day. If you asked some Type-A middle manager how many hours a day he would guess Mitch Albom writes, he’d blurt out “17!” before you could finish the sentence. Remember: we deify quantity of work, but very infrequently do we focus on quality.

So what if…

  • You had finite pockets of time where you tried to get ‘deep work’ done?
  • You eliminated time sinks and distractions during those periods?
  • Outside of those periods of accomplishment, you were free to pursue other ideas and tasks?
  • Wouldn’t this help turn the potentially infinite into the more finite, thus providing you a sense of accomplishment and purpose?

I can’t tell you how many coffees, job interviews, phone touch-bases, information-gathering things I’ve had where someone describes their job or company this way:

“Well, I always leave work on the table…”

If I had to guess, that phrase is in 87 percent of informational networking conversations, and that might be a low estimate.

So if you’re always leaving work on the table, well, work is thus infinite.

But to get pleasure out of anything, there needs to be a stop so that you can appreciate the task being done and what you brought to it.

Maybe the true ‘future of work,’ then, is about making the infinite into the finite.



My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

I learned a couple of cool things in this Sacca Solo show, including:


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