I’ve written before on the importance of urgency and focus on the fulfillment of one’s value through business, writing, art, music, or any other medium. However, no matter how certainly one is convinced of the value in doing so, convincing alone is often not enough to drive one to live such a life—this is made clear by the fact that I could offer my opinion on the matter after it has already been explored profoundly on The Ordinary Life and elsewhere, and so many people still have difficulty living valuable, productive lives. Of course, this is most directly dependent on the power of one’s own will. However, I think it would be beneficial to explore what such a life looks like in practice.
The valuable life requires simplicity. Its sole aim is the pursuit of its value through means such as those mentioned above; thus, factors which tend to complicate one’s life, such as social pressures, become insignificant. For most people, it requires a fundamental restructuring of one’s life—but it’s actually quite simple; in reality, this just means a serious examination of one’s priorities, and how well they are reflected by the allocation of one’s resources.
Indeed, a productive way of life begins with the abandonment of superfluity. Everything one does is an expenditure of various resources, all of which are finite; thus, I think the most common reason that one might live an unfulfilling life is because he spreads these resources too thin (if he doesn’t misallocate them entirely) and his priorities are compromised by his refusal to forgo extraneous complications.
Of course, the most obvious of these resources is money, and it reveals some clear mistakes one might make; for example, if one spends his money on expensive clothing or other things he does not need, he will have less to spend on things like books to help him learn, or to save and secure freedom in the future. Thus, as Trevor has argued in the podcast, it is optimal if one can live below his means; this obviously allows freedom in the future, but it is also a possible result of abandoning meaningless complications which consume one’s other resources, such as time.
Time and mental energy are the most sovereign resources. One has a limited time to be alive, and even less to be able-bodied; one also has limited time in each day, and less still to have the energy to be productive; thus, one should spend it well by ending meaningless engagements. And even if one has ample time to pursue his desires and manifest his value, that time may not be spent as efficiently as it otherwise could if one’s mental energy remains entangled in whatever engagements remain. Thus, distractions can continue to hinder one’s productive abilities even when he has plenty of time to be productive.
But all of this is still simple. The real question is, why is it so difficult to embrace such a simple, focused life? The unfortunate reality is that the two most sovereign resources, time and mental energy, are those which one most often finds arrested by extraneous complications. Usually, the causes of this misallocation are obvious, but may be difficult to avoid or to escape. It may require a change of profession, of friends, or (such as in my case) a change of educational path. However, when the stakes are the fulfillment of one’s highest value, such changes usually prove themselves overwhelmingly worthwhile in time.