"How can you just do nothing?" My fiancee asked me after I spent an hour floating around in the pool on a blow-up lounger sipping a cool Heineken and staring at the sky.
"Well, for starters, I'm the human equivalent to a potato," I answered. "Secondly, it's productive."
Yes, believe it or not, I told him doing nothing is productive. In a world where everyone is blabbing about their "hustle" and boasting about their "grind", I am putzing around on the pool lounger of life. Okay, so that's not a great metaphor. I didn't say I was Robert Frost.
In all honesty, if I hear one more person talk about their "hustle", I will rip off my ears and cast them into the Pacific. It's not just that I'm a proponent of the "work smart, not hard" philosophy, it's that people don't know when to stop working and the stress is killing us. Literally, killing us. Did you know that stress is the source of 60% of all human illness and disease? Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity - these are killing us and it's because we simply won't calm the heck down.
Certainly, there are uncontrollable life events than can cause stress. Financial need can also play a role in how much we work, and can leave no other options. However, this isn't the kind of "hustle" I'm talking about. I'm talking about people my age who have become so obsessed with the prospect of success and "making bank" that they are leaving little time for experiences, leisure, and self-discovery. I do not believe that the only path to success is to bust your ass, and I don't believe that success lies in the amount of money you make. Success is about how satisfied you are with your life, not about how satisfied other people think you are. You can be making six figures a year as an investment banker and be miserable. Or, you can spend your whole life as a dog walker and be completely happy.
I'm not the kind of person that ever had a "dream" or a "calling." In fact, I think these things are overrated and overemphasized in American culture. The individualistic nature of capitalism, compounded by the Protestant work ethic that America was founded on, is what spurs on the Western obsession with success. The desire for success becomes so overwhelming that we find ourselves telling children to "find their passion" and "follow their dreams" as early as first grade. Do you know what a child's dream is at that age? To get the new Lego box set, hardly what most adults have in mind when preaching this. If you have a passion, that's fantastic. But what about the people that don't? With this pressure to find a "passion" comes clumsy planning. Students feel pressured to go to college right away (or at all) and frantically try to decide on a major that will determine their entire course of study when they're not even sure what they want for lunch.
All of our lives we're moving, moving, moving toward the objective of financial success. As a result, we've sacrificed every inkling of collective inner peace. We're disciplined enough to write a 20-page dissertation in one night, but not disciplined enough to sit with ourselves for ten minutes and close our eyes while we breathe deeply. We become afraid of being left alone with our thoughts because our thoughts are products of the consistent stress we are surrounded by.
When we detach and spend time with our minds (and only our minds), that is when we work the most. Not the hardest, the most. My best story ideas and biggest realizations have come while I was bobbing around aimlessly in the pool. I mean, think about it, why do your most enlightened and intriguing thoughts/inquiries arise in the shower? Because it's just you, your loofah, and your thoughts, baby! You're not hustling, you're being. And no, I'm not saying stop working toward your goals. Strive, achieve, succeed. Just don't ignore the art of nothingness. And for the love of corn, quit preaching about your "hustle" unless you want me to envision you partaking in the 70's disco dance by the same name.