Workaholic Goethe wished he'd been better at carving out time for quiet reflection

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Those of us who are better at carving out time for quiet reflection don’t get famous.


I dunno… what about the Buddha?


Nah, he was always on the run from papparazzi.


The poor Buddha… he figured out how it all works, and now the National Enquirer won’t leave him be!


Thanks for mentioning Goethe. He’s still a big thing in Germany, even if a lot of his prose makes it hard to forget he did a lot of serious geology. He was the driving force behind the movie Go Trabi Go, which is about an East German family taking their Trabi on a drive from their home in newly unified Germany down to Naples. It mashes together a bit of the Love Bug, Goethe, those awful family comedies from the early 1960s and a touching story about freedom.

You can find it with subtitles on Youtube and elsewhere.


Imagine what Goethe would have made of a $5 Raspberry Pi…


And he hated stupidit. .

Y…God bless him.

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I like this article, and I think about this a lot too.

I think its interesting to contrast this view with that og George R.R. Martin. Yes, if he spent more time working he’d get more done. That’s a truism. The question is if you didn’t spend as much time engaging with the public, would anyone have wanted your work? Saying “I’ve got book deals! No time for the public!” Kind of forgets the point that you might not enjoy that work if you weren’t doing those other things.

Well played, sir. I disagree with just about 99% of everything else you say, but THIS… is brilliance.

I have had talks with older people, more experienced and accomplished mentors about how their careers have gone. The one question I keep coming back to is essentially, “How efficient are you every day?” The answers I get back from doctors, lawyers, professionals of all kinds is on average 60% efficient.

That means that 40% of the working day, in their perception, is outright wasted. These are people who live by the clock and have published more and done more than I will probably ever do. None have seemed happy about it, but none complain too vociferously about it and seem to accept that this is the normal ratio of usable to unusable time each day.

After a 25 year career, I concur. On really good days, I am about 75% efficient from 9 to 5. On good days, around 50 to 60% efficient and get my list of stuff done. About 1 day a week, I seem to fuck around more than I need to and end up 30 to 49% efficient.

About once a month, my brain takes a holiday and I just can’t get a single goddamn thing done that day even though I know I need to. Equally, about once a month, I have this killer kick-ass day where I am on-task and fully IN THE ZONE engaged, ALL DAY, and sometimes for 12 to 18 hours straight. I am ON THE HUNT! That happens about once a month, too.

Interspersed with this, and back to the OP, are my habits. I know that I am the most efficient in the morning hours, when I am not fully awake. When I get back from dropping off my daughter at school, I am totally in the zone and open to that efficient state of mind. So I try to put all my most difficult work as early in the day as I can.

Then, at 3pm, every day: suckitude. In my 20’s, I had to have chocolate or something sugary every day at 3pm. In my youth, I’d get home from school and eat TWO peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a huge glass of milk every day at 3 after school. In my 30’s, I’d go out to the parking lot from work, roll the windows down and take a quick 20 minute snooze, then stumble back to the office a little groggy. 3pm is my biorhythmically low point. Always has been. Now, I might drink coffee or eat something, or even take a nap at 3 if I can, and then pick up again at 4 and try to do “just one more little thing” as I say to myself.

60% efficient every day? I try to keep it realistic and strive for that, as those who’ve gone before me have advised.

This idea of personal time, to me, is more like personal moments. I have a family. My wife, 3 kids and a dog. I have constant demands. I have side projects and people calling me, and emails to answer and all kinds of shit piling up ALL THE TIME. The only way I’m ever going to grab some time to lower my blood pressure and reflect and not stare at a screen is if I TAKE it. Like, actively push away everything else, and go to a quiet room and sit there. Or go outside and sit next to the pool. I have to actively partition that time, preferably in advance. But I’m happy to do it on an emergent basis if need be. But mark my words, I will. I need down-time to feel sane or I will splode.

So, that’s my method. I am definitely curious to hear how other people do it.


This syndrome seem common among older-and-wiser famous over-achievers.

That’s blatantly crap. If anything people who reach retirement and rue their overdedication to their job and company instead of their family and personal pursuits are more likely to be poor and unsuccessful. It just looks like it’s a successful-and-influential-person thing because nobody gives a shit about the retrospection of a pauper. Sample bias.

I’ll be interested to see if anyone makes a “yes but it’s different when influential people say it because…” argument. Because what, they had a choice? Boo the fuck hoo.

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…I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and want nothing from you than to find fulfillment, happiness, and gratitude for the ones you love!!

Now get on it! :slight_smile:

I don’t think it is. Burnout: you work too hard, you get less done. Martin strikes me as a case in point. I bet he spent a long time at his keyboard getting nothing done before he realised the only way to make progress was an extended holiday.

I just came here to point out how much Goethe looks like John de Lancie.

Thank you for your attention. Please return to whatever task previously occupied your time.


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