Are You Serious?
Related pages: Charts & Checklists for Serious Dreamers
I met a man at a party.
He said “I’m writing a novel.”
I said “Oh really? Neither am I.”
― Peter Cook
Why You Aren’t Serious
- You haven’t accounted for obvious failure cases. Why do you expect success where countless others fail? Passion, intelligence, and talent aren’t rare. Serious people take actionable steps to prevent pitfalls.
- Waiting is waste. To wait is to surrender your fate to others’ whims. You are never helpless.
- You confuse curiosity for creativity. Learning is fun! But don’t mistake interest for intent.
- Luck sucks. Plans of chance are mere gambles. Winners don’t depend on randomness. The wind is always in the sails of the ablest navigators.
- Difficult things are difficult. Magic demands menial labor. On top of the work, you must overcome distractions, anxiety, excuses, self-doubt, etc. Resistance lurks around every corner.
- You dream outside your means. You don’t make the time/money/energy/skill to achieve your vision. You aren’t willing to sacrifice.
- Low-hanging fruit tempts. Not all progress is useful.
- Motivation is a mirage. Don’t gaslight yourself. Develop discipline or cancel your plans. Never depend on systems that demand willpower.
- “Ready” is too late. You will never go anywhere if you wait for perfect conditions. Prepared people miss all the parties.
- Fear-of-failure kills commitment. You live in failure purgatory to avoid serious effort. You crown yourself class-clown to obfuscate your failure.
- Planning paralysis cripples. Making plans is easier than making magic. Don’t mistake checkboxes for work.
Make Serious Plans
Serious plans are simple plans. Don’t Dunning-Kruger yourself into a corner.
Delivery demands discipline. Shipping is a skill. Serious plans are small plans:
- record a single before an album
- write a short story before a novel
- sell stuff before registering an LLC
- create an MVP before a product
- use a simple spreadsheet before automating
- make a short film before a full-length film
- lose 5 lbs. before losing 50 lbs.
When you decide to become serious, make a serious checklist. Your tasks should never depend on luck or other people. Take responsibility for your fate.
For grueling goals, plot your progress on a poster. Shipping is harder than starting. Aim for consistency, but assume your speed will grow slower. Never expect exponential momentum.
Make “milestone meetings” with friends, family, and stakeholders. Everybody loves demo days.
Decide your “do-or-die” dates. If you miss your deadline, abandon your project forever. No excuses. Serious people prevent problems. There is no bad luck – only bad planning.
Make commitments. Create events and set appointments before you’re ready. Embarassment is a strong disincentive. Beginners must book themselves creatively:
- invite friends to a manuscript brunch months in advance
- register for a 5K race or marathon to push your training forward
- tell your advisor to expect your first dissertation draft next month
- book a backyard concert to bring your band together
- perform a comedy show in your basement
- set a recording studio appointment before your first single is perfected
- set appointments with your first podcast guests
- submit your work to conferences and competitions and journals
- schedule a software demo day with friends or investors
- book a “premature-celebration vacation” to end your project
To be serious, work really hard. Give your best. Fight failure ferociously, but accept it graciously. Admit defeat quickly to embark on new ventures. Optimize for attempts.
Life is short. Be serious and make fun.
Oh, are you seriously trying to go out on your own and become self-employed? Are you being serious about it, or are you doing things that feel like they’re working towards this goal but they aren’t really… Hey guy, well you’ll know every day if you haven’t been serious enough because you’re still coming in here [to] work.
This group looks like they’re trying to achieve Objective X but if you were serious about it, what would you do? …Are the steps they’re taking the steps that you would do if you were serious about [Objective X]?
You come across a person, and they’re working on Thing Y, and they claim that they’re very interested in and serious about Thing Y. But you judge that they’re not actually doing the things that if you sat down and wrote them all down on a piece of paper, like “what is the most cost-effective-per-unit-time thing that you should be working on in order to do this?” They’re not doing any of the things that are at the top of that list. They’re doing all the things that are at the bottom of that list… Oh, well they’re just not serious about that. … [They’re] just acting as though this is a thing that [they’re] very interested in fixing this problem…
— CGP Grey via Cortex