I have just taken delivery of a wonderful tool from Amazon. Here is a picture:
It is a wand with a sponge on the end. You fill it with washing-up liquid, and the liquid comes out through the sponge. At first sight, it looks like a gimmick and most people I tell about it dismiss it as such.
But it is not a gimmick — it is something that makes a huge difference to my life. If, like me, you have a small kitchen, with a sink so small that it won’t take a washing-up bowl, you can’t use the sink and wash up at the same time. This means, for example, that you can’t wash up as you cook, because you may need to drain vegetables into the sink or some such thing. So I tend to leave the washing up to be done later. And because washing up builds up, I tend not to wash up small amounts of crockery as it is used, but instead add it to the pile. And further, because the kitchen is small, the space by the sink quickly fills up, the whole kitchen gets covered in dirty dishes, and I start to feel bullied by the washing up — which might affect my trading performance.
At this point, a lot of people say, “Well, just do the washing up.” But you can only suggest that solution if you have misunderstood the problem. The problem is not dirty dishes; it is that because it is awkward to do the washing up in my small kitchen, I have to set aside specific washing-up time rather than doing it as I go along, and setting aside time is difficult when you have a lot to do. My new tool changes everything, by making it easy to do the washing up under a running tap.
This is an example of a broader idea. I often hear people offer solutions to problems that basically reduce to, “make more of an effort.” If you are trying to achieve a lot in life, however, this is not a generally-applicable solution. Effort will not be maintained if you are tired, or having a bad time in other areas. One’s mood and energy level, and with them one’s capacity for effort, ebb and flow. In order to achieve whatever goal, it is important to recognise this fact and not to pursue strategies that run counter to it. Things that have to be done consistently every day, like washing up, have to be either part of one’s main job or so easy that one will do them without it feeling like an effort. If possible, doing them should be more pleasurable than the alternative (running a sink and doing the washing up is a pain, and worse than just leaving the plates; washing up under a running tap, with a wand, is easy, and the kick of pleasure from having dealt with a job and having a tidy kitchen outweighs the pleasure of just leaving the plates — or at least it does for me).
Things that absolutely have to be done with effort should either be part of one’s main job, or structured so that one can do them when one is in the right mood. And they should still be done in such a way as to minimise effort, other things being equal. If your goal is to feel good about yourself then perhaps effort is a virtue; but if your goal is any kind of change in the world outside your head, making an effort can be a vice.