What It Actually Means To Work 16 Hours A Day–And Why We All Must Do It

What It Actually Means To Work 16 Hours A Day–And Why We All Must Do It

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?The man who has lived the most is not he who has counted the most years but he who has most felt life.? ? Jean-Jacques Rousseau

To not work 16 hours a day (and succeed), you?ve got to do something you wouldn?t mind working 16 hours a day on. Paradoxically, if you get used to working 16 hours a day no matter what you do, you likely won?t have to work 16 hours a day for that long. However at that point, you?ll be so good at what you do (and everything else) you won?t want to stop working

Though it?s not about working 16 hours a day itself, it?s about the purpose and meaning one acts with in all their waking hours ? thereby able to improve how well they taste their time on the other things outside of work.

To be clear, no one can and should try to work straight for 16 hours a day, and that isn?t the purpose of the article. However it?s using all 16 hours you have to commit and optimize the rest of your life to that one thing ? and make the other things taste even better in the process.

As every hard working committed person knows, how you do anything is how you do everything ? and to master a field and overtake the competition ? outworking others is a way to do just that.

However this piece isn?t about that. It?s about the power of commitment. The commitment that comes from someone willing to commit everything to one thing.

In this article, I?ll explain the nuance of working hard so you can have the option to not work hard, become successful at work and everything else you do.

The Power Of Commitment

?The quality of a person?s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.? Vince Lombard


If you?re committed to work so much, and know you can?t work well if your home life is bad, you?ll actually commit to your home life just as much.

If you?re committed to work so much, and know you can?t work well if your health is bad, you?ll actually commit to your health just as much.

It?s not about actually doing the activity of your vocation for sixteen hours, it?s about attributing every moment you?re up as important ? meaningful enough to take seriously, and this of course includes taking time off for rest and recovery.

This is why the hardest working people are actually often the happiest and have a hard time taking time off. Not because they spend the most time working, but because of the commitment to something, which makes everything else outside of it also important, if not more so.

Not mentioning, humans are highly adaptable, and can make even hard work feel easy. And that?s whether or not we?re talking about hard physical labor or white collar work. But I digress.

As Maria Popova, founder of blog Brainpickings.org, said in an email exchange with a reporter on how she makes money with her blog:

?Regarding hours, actually ? to anyone who knows me, questioning how much time I put into what I do would be laughable. Brain Pickings is not how I make a living ? it?s MY LIFE, Felix. Every waking moment goes into it one way or another ? the enormous amount of time it takes to read books, to research, to meet with people, to interview, and even to do this right now, and of course to write 3 articles a day Monday through Friday, between 300 and 3000 words each. (Add to that the time of my proofreader and any intern at any given time, plus designer and developer when needed.) And here?s the thing ? I do it not to ?build an audience? or ?generate revenue? or any of that, but because it gives me enormous joy and stimulation. It makes me excited to wake up and fulfilled to go to bed.?

To the extent she even has to go out of her way to do other things because she loves Brainpickings so much. I relate as I too have to work hard to not be reading or writing to schedule social outings and downtime.

It?s this level of commitment that makes life taste sweet, and those who taste every second of their time because of their commitment to something ? are able to commit to everything they do, not just work, whole-heartedly.

Because they know how to commit.

Obviously working straight and doing nothing else (for white collar work at least) for 16 hours is what workaholics do, usually from a poor state of mind, lacking something or some form of escape from the things that matter.

And most of those people don?t effectively work anywhere close to 16 hours a day anyway, they?re just ?at work?.

Workaholism ? What This Is Not

There?s a thin yet profound line between this powerful commitment and what can sometimes be perceived or be workaholism, with the power to create heaven or hell for yourself and those you love.

Intention matters.

Immersion through gratitude, not escape through work.

The former are the happiest and taste life the most, while the latter are often unhealthy and miss out on the most important parts of a happy life according to this Harvard study.

Excellence because of the work, not exhaustion.

Resilience because of the work, not decay.

Never ?missing out?, but sacrificing enough so time outside of work tastes sweet, is appreciated and is spent gracefully.

I don?t work 16 hours a day (I don?t believe this is even possible for most white collar work), but I treat every hour of the day as sacred, whether it?s recovering from a burst of writing or transitioning into another time commitment.

The main difference is in how we think about our time, and the value we place on it. That?s what I mean when I say ?work? for 16 hours a day.

The Silver Lining If You Disagree

?Entrepreneurs live a few years of their lives like most people won?t, so they can spend the rest of their lives like most people can?t.?

Similarly Elon Musk has said those extra hours you put in that your competition doesn?t compounds and leads to exponential advantages.

Have you ever noticed the people who enjoy working all the time, often don?t end up having to work hard for that long? Yet they often prefer working when they don?t have to because of the joy and personal growth that comes from it.

They get pleasure from pain and glory from the grind.

They find it riveting to overcome and excel. Take on new challenges, the bigger the better.

This is why when people become more successful and have to do less, they wax nostalgic the old days.

The start up that started as a small group of couch crashers that felt like a family, that eventually grew into an empire of executives competing for power.

The trader who became a manager and misses the intensity of distilling tons of information and actually making high stakes trades.

Fast forward to where you want to go, the ultimate dream achieved, really feel yourself there with everything accomplished and feel how it would feel like.

This is the point where you feel like you?ve self-actualized. You have all the money you?ll ever need in the bank.

Then ask, ?now what??. Decide what you?re willing to commit to from there.

That?s your raison d?etre, or your ?why?.

As Mark Twain said: ?the two most important days are the day you?re born and the day you find out why.?

What you?ll find is all that matters when you?ve self-actualized are taken care of is the quality of your journey?s pursuit, and the growth that came with it.

The way you are, your being-ness.

Therefore, the mastery and excellence itself is what matters, and being able to taste it daily is what makes us happy.

I often use entrepreneurship to give the most broad context because everyone is the entrepreneur of their lives ? investing time, in exchange for money with decisions on what to do with that money and time.

This determines how you spend your time later.

The feedback loop of life is give and take, so it only makes sense that the ones who work hardest, end up eventually working best, and in doing so, does the best at the game of life.

This is whether or not they?re a cashier or an investment banker.

One cashier rises fast to become manager while the other is apathetic because they think they don?t commit to their craft.

One banker wakes up at 5am and reads up on business generation and another just shows up and hopes for accounts to come in.

Nothing to do with work, everything to do with habit.

Nothing to do with the ?on-court? game, everything to do with the ?off-court? practice.

The people who are willing to commit their daily 16 hours to something bigger, no matter what they?re doing ? end up living the happiest and most fulfilled lives ? even while most often being forced to work that much at the beginning out of necessities like family commitments.

Humans Are Highly Adaptable

?Success is actually a short race ? a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.? Best-selling author of The ONE Thing, Jay Paposan

In Jay Paposan?s legendary book, The One Thing (#1 NYTimes, WSJ, USA Today and winner of 12 book awards), he talks about the power of devastating focus and provides a great framework for to apply it with one simple question asked in two different ways.

?The focusing question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and the other is about finding the right action.?

1. What?s my one thing? Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company. It is your strategic compass.

2. What?s my one thing right now? Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work and, whenever you need it, helps you find the ?levered action? or first domino in any activity.?

Papasan tells the story of Michael Phelps and how he grew up with ADD and was always struggling to behave in school. No one would have believed he?d have the discipline to swim six hours a day and compete in the olympics ? but he found his one thing and used the power of habit to make it easy.

Most won?t go through the initial pain required to adapt or sadly don?t know how. All that?s required is the initial discipline until you?re able to kick into habit.

When we practice a lot, over time, the mind can automatically run without expending a lot of energy or brain power ? kind of like driving a car. This is called automaticity. The learned task becomes an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of repetition.

We?re adaptable, and can build habits. You have them now and they work in a loop like this:

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We have malleable brains that can be molded to learn new skills and with practice make a brand new skill become easy over time.

So the key to not working 16 hours a day is to do something that makes you want to work for 16 hours a day, and form habits that make your behavior automatic and energy efficient, not draining and exhausting.

After a while, you build momentum.

After some momentum, you build confidence.

After you build confidence, you begin to see results in the arena.

When you start seeing results in the arena, you become relentless.

That?s what makes the Michael Jordan?s and Michael Phelps of the world ? they don?t consider it work.


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We should all make our waking 16 as sacred as possible, not so we can be ?working? all the time, but because through committing to something, it makes us a master of excellence.

We can always use our one thing as our compass.

Discipline is not the answer but leveraging the power of habit is. All you need is a boost at the beginning so you can have your traction compound to eventually have habit take over to accelerate you like a rocket ship.

Once you find something worth committing your sacred 16 to, ensure you wholeheartedly commit to your health, relationships and everything else to support your commitment, not takeaway from it.

In any game of competition, hard work compounds and separates you from the pack and the compression of time is not a matter of compounding activities, but the compounding of meaning.

The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives.

Find your one thing that?s worth dying for and make your moments meaningful so you can get the most of your 16 hours.?

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