You only get out what you put into it

You only get out what you put into it

Life can be very unfair from time to time, but not always. There is one important rule in life that we often forget about and is quite fair. You only get as much out of life as you put into it.  Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Nothing great can be achieved quickly and effortlessly. If you want to blossom in life, you will have to put more into it than other people do.

The global trends are unfortunately heading into the opposite direction. We are becoming more and more of a “fast food” population in many ways, where fast food doesn’t only mean eating fried meals, but also indicates the way of dealing with information, relationships, activities, and so on.

The average attention span is getting close to zero. Unfortunately, investing close to zero into things brings you almost zero real value.

That is the biggest trap you can get caught into in the 21st century. But that’s okay. You have to choose for yourself. You can join the crowd and live a fast food life. You can watch “important” news, hate your job, scan articles on the internet, share funny pictures via e-mail, eat fast food while you watch TV, and hope to win the next reality show.

It’s just good to know what you will get out of that. A very average life or maybe not even that much. I call it zombie life. From negative TV shows, you will get a more or less negative mind; from scanning articles on the internet, zero progress in real knowledge; from eating fast food, fat all over your body; and from hoping to win the next reality show, a nice little fantasy you can escape into.

In real life, all those “fast food decisions” make your body less healthy and less attractive, your mind more unfocused and confused, your emotions more shallow and escape-seeking, your soul losing its purpose. The average life today is more or less about escaping into short-term fake hedonism.

Don’t get me wrong: we all need this kind of stuff in our lives. You cannot be ultra-productive all the time. And you simply can’t escape the global flow of short-span activities that come into your life, like Twitter for example. It doesn’t at all make sense to ignore global trends. You just have to use them to your advantage.

That means being on the right side of the table.

Level 1: Have awareness and control

The real and the most important question in the beginning is who is in control. Do you control your life and decisions or is “fast food” stuff controlling you? Are you able to keep a healthy limit of “fast food” stuff injections or not?

The situation is very similar to using a fire. You can burn yourself or you can cook a nice dinner. Technology, including TVs and smart phones, is not good or bad. It’s neutral. Like money. The only question is what you do with it. You need to have control over it and use it to your advantage.

The test for having control is very simple. Set the limit for how many times and for how long you may look at your Twitter and Facebook profiles, your favorite TV shows, newspapers, pointless instant messaging apps and other time wasters. If you can set healthy limits and stick to them, bravo.

Not many people can take such control. Most people get caught in the so-called “online loops”. When you check your e-mail, you automatically check a dozen other applications. Before you know it, an hour passes. If you can’t maintain control, you should go straight to the next level, which is eliminating most “fast food” stuff from your life.

Level 2: Replace fast with real progress

Let’s go to the second level. The best thing to do, whether you can control your “fast food” desires or not, is to replace all “fast food” stuff with stuff of higher quality. The higher the quality of the stuff you do and consume is, the better your quality of life will be. It’s that simple. Garbage in, garbage out. Quality in, quality out. Throughout your life, you should try to replace as much “fast food” things as possible with real progress. It’s part of the process of eliminating waste from your life.

Slow down

Slow down and do high value added activities. Impress with making a step further.

Of course you can become Dionysus from time to time and have a real “fast food” fest with all the “mental masturbation” you want, but the funny thing is that the more of a quality life you live, the fewer “fast” things you need. At some point, you don’t need “the breaks” at all. It’s like an addiction you get rid of. The biggest illusion that prevents you from doing that is the belief that a quality life is a boring life. In reality, it’s far from it.

Therefore try to identify all the “fast food” things you are doing in your life and think about what the best replacements would be. It’s a no-brainer, really. Let me give you a few examples. You should switch from burgers to broccoli, from newspapers to quality books, from shallow parties to deep relationships, from checking your online profiles to exercising in nature, and from scanning meaningless articles on the internet to reading posts on this blog. Replace as much fast as possible with real progress. I promise you won’t regret it.

Level 3: Go from a consumer to a producer

If the first level is taking control and the second level is total elimination, there is one more level beyond that. You can step to the other side of the table. You can go from being a consumer to being a producer. Instead of just giving your money, attention, time and energy for short-term satisfaction, you can build products you believe in and offer them to the market yourself.

You go from having a job you hate, buying things to impress people you don’t like and doing activities for time to pass, to creating value, earning money, sharpening your skills and leaving a real legacy. It’s a simple formula: producers get rich and consumers get poor. When you watch TV, the actors and the director on the other side of the screen are making money while you are losing it, together with your life. Be smart and go to the other side of the screen. Start brainstorming business ideas.

Length does matter

This blog post is very important in another way. You have probably noticed that some blog posts written on here are really long. Well, they aren’t fast food articles. They are meant to help you master your life better, be more productive and happier. The purpose of the long articles is to guide you in setting a superior life strategy. That will not happen from scanning articles on the internet.

I am well aware that most people just screen articles on the internet. I know that lists have a much better reader engagement than long guidelines do. I know that every headline should be something along the lines of “33 easy ways to…” But in reality, those articles are mostly a waste of time – you screen them fast and then forget all about them. You get out of it as much as you have invested into it.

That is the opposite of Agile and Lean principles. It’s a waste and there should be no waste in your life. Thus don’t discard articles just because they are long. It’s better to read one long article, think about it and implement changes in your life, than to screen hundreds of “list articles” all with similar advice and no real value. You should not ignore long articles just because you don’t have the time or enough focus to read them and study them intensively. Be smarter.

I know you are better. I know you are prepared to invest more.

The longer and the more eye-opening the articles, the better.

You only get out what you put into it.