Hard Work is Bad Management

The first week of rowing camp was atrocious. I hurt everywhere. The second week was much easier. Looking back at the stats, we did twice as much in the second week as the first. So, why did twice the work feel half as hard?

The Short Answer is:


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. - Leonardo da Vinci

There is a huge difference between pain and suffering. But we blur the line when we lose trust. Pain we can all handle in varying degrees depending on how much we've adapted to pain tolerance. Ultimately pain tolerance is the purpose of spirituality. This is an important insight in itself but we will not be dwelling on this today.

Suffering on the other hand is pain that has no known end. If you hold a red hot iron against my testicles for 10 seconds and I can watch the time tick down then I will experience the same exact pain that I would experience if you did the same thing but didn't tell me how long it would be held there and removed the iron after 10 seconds, the experience would be vastly different.  

In the second example, I don't know when it will stop so my tolerance is way less, fear, anger, uncertainty, insecurity, and so much more would be added to the mix of pain. So the reason the rowing camp was easier the second week is that we knew the coach, his expectations were honest and clear, we trusted that if he said "3 hours of 90% rowing pace" - the blisters and vomit from exertion would be over eventually. He never cheated. (except on me with my wife and eventually became her husband) but that's another story of suffering versus pain. Let's stick to the story here!


What do you often hear business people say "I'm doing the hard grind now but just for the next few months and then I'll make up for lost time with my health and family." What are business people saying? They are doing the exact thing we did in rowing, giving pain and time limit. Watching the clock for that hot iron on my testicles. They are turning suffering into pain so they can manage it. This is definitely not the secret to success. Actually, it's the opposite.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. - Leonardo da Vinci

In buddhist teachings the foundation principle is "All of life is suffering" and all suffering is caused by desire. Cleverly business people have worked out that this is perfectly true and to deal with it put suffering into windows of time, five or four days a week, 40 weeks a year, twelve hours a day etc. Then, with strong pain tolerance, the suffering is converted to pain by self assigning windows of time to it. Desire stays strong, suffering is eliminated, pain tolerance goes up and everyone is on track. Except for .........

Long term vision, communication, DNA, cellular health, mental health, family, emotional wellbeing, heart health, community engagement, children's wellbeing, spousal intimacy, self-respect, love, kindness, good decision making and leadership. But apart from that, it's a good plan...

Hard Work is Bad Management

When you work for a consulting firm or a corporation, or even an entrepreneurial business you are going to meet experts in compartmentalisation of suffering to cause it to be pain. They will be the leader or manager who drives you like a Bangalore taxi driver: just two speeds, fast and stop. They will work long hours, have massive relief day escapes, tell you it's just until the end of the month and then the pressure will come off, but it never does.

Compartmentalisation for an F1 racing driver is the perfect solution to the intensity of their driving experience. They must shut out distraction for 60-120 minutes. But if you try the same techniques for the Le-Mans 24 hour race, there will be an accident of lost concentration. What we can compartmentalise for a short period of intensity isn't necessarily good management, it's just a matter of life and death.

As soon as you hear yourself saying "It's just until ... " or "I need a break..." or "I'll just do this for a few more years ... " know that you have just signed your own death certificate. You've committed to a slow motion car accident, slow suicide and what's worse, you're taking others with you. Compartmentalising suffering into pain may defeat the Buddha and keep the desire without the suffering, but the pain remains, and that's absolute incompetence.


A Master in the art of Living

Draws no sharp distinction

Between their work and their play

Their labour and their leisure

Their minds and their bodies

Their education or their recreation.

They hardly know which is which.

They simply pursue their vision

Of excellence (read here enjoyment)

Through whatever

They are doing and leave

Others to determine

Whether they are working or playing.

To themselves, it always seems

As if they are doing both.

Christopher Walker

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