Working hard, Playing hard
Richard Branson, multi-billionaire owner of Virgin Group, wrote the followed in his LinkedIn profile:
“Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (who we’ve discussed on this blog before), apparently gave the same answer on the subject.
We often hear this from people – that happiness is the goal, not money.
While we do agree at first, it’s not strange to question the assertion a few moments later.
“If being happy is the goal, then why do you still have so much money? Why not give it up?”
Well, Branson, along with many other billionaires, does give away his money. A lot of it. However, this is also an irrelevant argument. Happiness and money are not mutually exclusive.
Another camp of people, those of the more voracious and ambitious type, will say differently. “Of course, money gives you happiness! The more money I make, the happier I am!”
If I had to pick which camp I’d be a part of, I’d be in the latter. I don’t judge people for what they do with their money and simply want to be amongst their ranks. Nevertheless, I find myself quite happy most days. I find myself content (maybe that a better word) when doing work, and not doing work. Not always, but often enough to consider myself a happy person.
Focus on the Freedom
Now, back to why they’re right about contentment being the goal. In their wealth, Branson, and other billionaires and millionaires, seem to have stumbled upon the valid notion that money is a means, not an end.
If money were an end in and of itself, you would dream of swimming in a swimming pool full of Benjamins all day or staring at your bank account. I mean, when I do become a millionaire, I will certainly try it sometime, and thoroughly enjoy it, but I highly doubt you can spend every day doing something like that (guess we’ll find out?).
For Branson, in particular, money is a way to live comfortably. He lives in the British Virgin Islands (coincidentally named the same as his company, Virgin Group), and lives really without limit. He owns on a private jet (and an airline), kitesurfs at his leisure, and lives what many would consider a dream life.
What this tells me, however, is that he’s free. Sure, the luxuries are nice and desirable, but the most important thing here is that he’s free. He works on what he wants to, when he wants to. He chooses what he’s involved in, because he has no need to work, other than that innate desire in all humans to do something (doing nothing all day would be excruciating boring for anyone who isn’t a monk).
I know this freedom quite personally. I’m not wealthy by any means and still work for other people, but I choose my employers, wake up when I want to, and work on (relatively) my own schedule. It’s not too glamorous yet (I don’t do much but work these days), but I’m still free. I had to give up a lot to get here and don’t own anything that can’t be put into a suitcase and backpack, but am still free nonetheless (potentially more so because I own so little).
As for you, well, nothing, really, is stopping you from doing that right now. Sure, you may have some reasons to stay where you are. Family, friends, etc. But do you have to do what you’re doing right now to still enjoy those? Maybe. Maybe not.
Focus Your Desire
But back to Branson.
In addition to being free, I mentioned that he works on what he wants to. More specifically, he considers himself an entrepreneur who, when frustrated by an inefficient way of doing something, he decides to change it (watch the video).
This ranges from philanthropic efforts like protesting wars and ending conflicts in Africa, to challenging Coca Cola and Pepsi with his own soft drink, Virgin Cola.
When you are frustrated by something, there is also a sense of relief and joy that comes from solving it. Like a video game boss who you finally beat after a hundred attempts. Obviously, too, you have fun along the way, along with some frustration (and maybe also some broken controllers).
In fact, one might even say that true fun can’t be had without a certain amount of frustration. The highs are not only higher because of the downs, but they are only highs because of the downs. Without its opposite, the distinction in emotion could not be felt. We only know light because of darkness and vice-versa.
Furthermore, keeping in mind your struggles reminds you why you do what you do. You are always doing something because it would irk you not to. That irk may range from the thought of being a slave to debt your entire life, to knowing that you may go hungry if you don’t work.
But it doesn’t have to be so gruesome. Especially when you know how to have fun.
Relevant to this article, Richard Branson happens to be among the world’s leading experts in having fun.
Back in 2000, when Branson woke up one early morning to find out that his competition, British Airways, was having trouble erecting the London Eye, as they were supposed to, Branson saw an opportunity for business and fun. He called up an airship company that he owned not far from London. Soon, a blimp rushed to the rescue and saved the day by doing what BA couldn’t – get it up. To make the reference beyond obvious, Branson had, painted in huge letters, a reminder, “BA Can’t Get It Up!!”
You probably can’t have that level of fun just yet, but you can still have fun while you work. As for personal advice, well, my preferred humor isn’t really printable on any respectable website like this one, so I’m going to leave that up to you to figure out. If you don’t know how to have fun while working hard, you might need to talk to someone about that.
As for playing hard when you’re done working, well that’s easy – go do what you love.
Whether that’s dancing at a nightclub, playing golf, or watching paint dry, I can’t tell you how to have fun.
But I can say that if you are having fun, you need to ask yourself if you’re doing it well.
Are you playing hard? Or just playing?
Do you watch Netflix for 25 hours week, or do you go take a weekend trip to Paris?
Do you have a drink at the bar with some friends, or do you spend $10,000 in one night on bottle service?
“I can’t afford that!” you may say.
Yeah, that’s because you’re working. Not working hard.
Work hard, and you can play hard. Otherwise, work like a peasant, play like a peasant.
Download Branson’s Work Ethic
How does Branson use his time to work? Well, luckily, he’s provided a typical schedule for you to read.
Wakes up at 5am (after going to bed at 11). Work > Sleep.
He stays connected all day (for some, constant social media presence might be a distraction, but for an entrepreneur, it provides an abundance of potentially great ideas. It’s about knowing how to use something as a tool of focus and for focus, rather than a distraction).
Constantly writes down ideas when he gets them (It works. I have written dozens of pages of books unwittingly over a long period of time through simple note taking. And I’ve gotten some of my best ideas at random hours, like before going to bed; don’t potentially lose those ideas by thinking “I’ll get to that tomorrow”).
And he also drinks 20 cups of tea a day. Should be a relief to the coffee fanatics reading (who wouldn’t be productive after that much liquid cocaine?)
Productively and play. And play, while you work. But still work.
And do all of it while you’re hard. Wait. That came out wrong. I mean, er, do it hard. Yeah, work hard, play hard.
And remember to keep your mind on the money, but only as a means to end. The real goal should be something big, something difficult, and something worthwhile.
That’s motivation. It’s what makes you want to work hard. Otherwise, you’re just a blind mule carrying all of that stress, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty with no clear finish line in sight. Being productive for the sake of being productive. Doesn’t make much sense.
Once you’re motivated, with a proper and clear goal in mind, the next step is eliminating obstacles, and focusing on the work that gets you to your goal.
To eliminate those obstacles, I strongly recommend FocusMe. The productivity app keeps getting better and better with each update. It now has an application and website activity monitor, so you can see exactly how much time you spend on certain websites and applications. You can, in detail, see if perhaps you are spending too much time on Netflix or on your email (which is likely, if you read the previous post).
If you do all of this, you stand a pretty good chance of finding contentment.
And that’s what matters…according to billionaires.
But, hey, they don’t really know what they’re talking about, right?
Don’t be a peasant. Be a king (or queen).