9 Things I'm Trying to Avoid

Enough is enough

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Today, I’m thinking a lot about “enoughness”. Maybe it’s because this week I interviewed Paul Millerd, the author of The Pathless Path.

Paul got his MBA at MIT and worked as a strategy consultant before leaving it behind for the pathless path to work as a creator and freelance consultant. Over a year ago, his book was the kick in the ass I needed to quit my job in corporate America and go all-in on content writing.

Now, I’m fortunately at a place where I’m offered more opportunities than I can handle without going crazy from overwork. As someone who loves making money, it’s a struggle to know when to say no — when to say enough is enough.

Jason Levin: I'm curious about something that you've been writing about a bit as well: figuring out when enough is enough. I guess this is a bit of therapy for me right now cuz I'm struggling. I have more clients than I can handle, which is obviously a good problem and I'm very grateful for that. But I start to work myself into a craze where I could keep saying yes, and at some point, enough is enough, Right? So how did you figure out when enough is enough?

Paul Millerd: For the most part, people learn this by burning out. And I think it's like people just can't help themselves, so they go burn out and then they teach themselves the lesson. The interesting question for me has always been like, how do I never burn out? I haven't come close to burning out in six years, but I took a very slow and deliberate strategy, really defined like, what's the work I will and won't do? […] I think one thing I did is actually just write out a big paragraph in my book, defining what enough is. Right. And for the most part, you have to value things that are non-monetary. If money is the most important thing in life, I don't think money can ever quench enoughness.

I’ve had this burnout happen to me before. I take on too many clients and I’m so busy I can’t think straight and I end up exhausted all the time and doing terrible work. Slowly, I’ve come to realize I’m much happier and more productive when I work deeper with 3 clients than more shallow with 7 clients.

I love Paul’s idea of How do I never burn out? I think Paul’s completely right. The answer to avoid burnout is to say no a lot (something you can do as a freelancer, but not as much as an employee). Saying no is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I say no to clients who don’t have the budget for me, who seem like they’d be difficult to work with, or who are just plain old assholes. Every time I say no to a potential shitstorm, I feel like I say yes to my true self.

“Business is often seen as the art of acquisition. Acquiring talent, customers, revenue, profits, mindshare, marketshare. Building and growing requires consumption, addition, parlaying some of this into a lot of that,” writes software entrepreneur Jason Fried. “But the smartest businesses — the ones that tend to stick around for the long haul — know that existence is also about avoidance. Avoiding careening variable costs, avoiding getting involved with things that aren't core to your business, avoiding spending time on things that don't matter, avoiding bad investments, avoiding people who don't help you prosper, and even avoiding customers who aren't the right fit.”

Jason’s sentiment is as true for a software business as it is for a freelancer. Avoiding the wrong customers is just as important as not dating the crazy person who may stab you when you’re asleep.

“All I want to know is where I'm going to die so I'll never go there.”

Charlie Munger

In a video titled Apple’s Forbidden words, Marques Brownlee explains how Apple does not once say “Virtual Reality” during the Apple Vision Pro announcement. Why does Apple refuse to say these words?

“There are two really good reasons for why they do what they do, why they don't say what they don't say, and those are: control and comparison.”

Brownlee posits that Apple wants to maintain control over as much as possible regarding PR and branding. “If you come out with a new product and you associate it heavily with a word that the general public already uses or that another company uses, you run the risk that the sentiment around that word might actually change and might actually have a downturn at some point in the future, thus dragging the whole reputation of your product down with it.”

It makes sense now why Apple will never associate itself with crypto. My best guess regarding VR is they don’t want to say “virtual reality” because people will associate it with the failings of Meta. Even though the Apple Vision Pro is an augmented reality device, they just don’t want to even be in the same room as these virtual reality schmucks. Like Apple is trying to avoid the stench of Meta, I too am trying to avoid a lot in life. Here’s a random list.

Things I’m Trying to Avoid:

  1. Arguments with internet strangers (no one wins except the people reading it for the drama). “Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot,” wrote Paul Graham in Hackers and Painters.

  2. Investing in the public market. I invest in things I can alter the outcome of: my business. I keep all my money in the bank or a 5% APY savings account.

  3. Bad clients. Rule of thumb: the cheapest clients are always the most demanding because they value your time the least. I’ll include other rules in my freelance pricing guide Wednesday (get access here)

  4. One-time jobs. I don’t price per blog or per thread anymore. It’s monthly contract or cya later. Not worth the headache.

  5. Hard relationships. “I’m not interested in anything unsustainable or even hard to sustain, including difficult relationships,” wrote Naval Ravikant. His Twitter bio for a while was “I block miserable people”.

  6. Reputational damage by proxy. I don’t work with shady people. This meant saying no to quite a few crypto clients.

  7. Boring books. If I read a few chapters and hate it, I’m not gonna finish it just because I started it. I’m happily a book quitter.

  8. Working on things that aren’t one of my superpowers. I was offered a role as the Head of Marketing at a startup I write content for, but turned it down to stay as a freelancer. We’ll both be much happier if I stick to my superpowers (writing bangers) than coming up with TikTok ads or whatever.

  9. Taking on mentally draining things. I say no to projects that sound like they’ll drive me insane. I say no to calls with exhausting annoying people. And I say no to 99% of plans in Brooklyn.

They say to stop avoiding your problems.

I say avoid problematic shit before it becomes your problem.

Creators Corner

Every week, I curate 3 resources to help you create more cool shit:

📘 Check out Paul’s book The Pathless Path currently on sale for $4.99 if you’re looking to do something new with your work and career.

🎶 This video of 14-year-old Mac Miller rapping will remind you no one starts out great; hard work and practice compound.

🐦 If you missed Wednesday’s post, here’s my Viral Twitter Hooks Database. Premium members only.

Thanks for reading nerds.

Create some cool shit this week.

Jason Levin

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