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How to “love the journey” when it’s so goddamn hard
Egg sushi, shit sandwiches, and the 5 step guide to loving the journey
Egg sushi, shit sandwiches, and the 5 step guide to loving the journey
Famous sushi chef, Jiro, looked at the egg sushi and said, “Not good enough.”
The apprentice thought he would be good at making egg sushi. But Jiro was never satisfied. Every time the apprentice made egg sushi, he thought it was great. He would wait expectantly for Jiro to say “Great!”, only to hear, “Not good enough.” He toiled everyday for 3 or 4 months making up to four a day, in addition to his other duties. And everyday he would hear the dreaded phrase, “Not good enough.”
And then one day, after making more than 200 egg sushi, he made an egg sushi that Jiro looked at and said, “Now, this is how it should be done.”
The apprentice was so happy, he started to cry.
This is a scene from one of my favorite documentaries, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. After the scene, I had so many questions.
How did the apprentice delay his gratification for long enough to make that perfect egg sushi? How was he able to sustain his motivation and drive? Why didn’t he give up?
I obsessively started reading books and articles trying to find answer to these questions. But despite months of months of research and experimentation, I couldn’t find answers.
Sure people say smugly you have to love the journey. But how? Loving the journey is difficult because it’s so goddamn hard.
As I try to learn how to write better or release my podcast I am faced with this agony of loving the journey every single day. Self doubt, fear, and resistance find a way of insidiously creeping into everything I do. I ask myself is this good? Is this worth it? I come home tired from work lurching between feelings of extreme self-doubt and exhaustion. All this would lead to procrastination, anger, and guilt. I would set a deadline and then just blatantly disregard it.
Then I asked myself a question that changed how I thought about the journey.
I asked myself: if the journey was so goddamn hard why was I compelled to take the journey over and over again? That’s the question that stuck to me. It’s a question that bounced around in my head a lot.
I found an answer to the question by remembering how much I used to hate my Boy scout backpacking trips. Something, that now, I cherish as some of my fondest high school memories.
As I remember it…On the trips, we would hike 10–14 miles a day with a 35 pound back having only a lunch of crackers and cheese with a dinner of soup to look forward to. But before we could sleep, we had to set up tents, change into warm clothes, dig holes (to well… you know), and then clean. After all this, we got into our tents exhausted hoping our sleeping bags were warm enough. And we remembered to put our food in bear cans right? And shit there is a mosquito in my tent. We would finally fall asleep and wake up early with the sun beaming through the tent preparing ourselves to do it again. I would wake up thinking backpacking sucks.
And all the adults around me would tell me its all about the peak, the exhilaration of reaching that top. Granted, I did get some satisfaction at arriving at the peak, but it wasn’t the whole answer. If I despised the 7 days it took to get there did it matter?
So, why did I keep making the journey again and again?
When I think about it more now, I know why I was compelled to do so.
It was those little hits of dopamine.
Despite the parts that sucked, there were moments that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. I became best friends with every one of the people who went on backpacks with me. We came up with ridiculous inside jokes, played cards, and screwed around till the early morning. The last day of the backpack we would run laughing down the last couple miles of the mountain to get closer to the hot showers, In n Out, and wifi awaiting us.
Every journey I take will have times that suck. But those hits of dopamine are why I am going to continue to take the journey again and again.
My whole blog is about the fact that we should not try to delay gratification for some time in the future. Instead of dreaming of becoming a podcaster, you have to interview people and create episodes now. Instead of dreaming of being a successful writer, write day in day out. To reach our goals, we have to bake ‘hits of dopamine’ (HOD) into our journeys. And we have to learn to appreciate the fact that the destination doesn’t matter as much as the HOD.
HOD boils down to the fact that we have to take our huge journeys and goals and break them down into little tasks that give us rewards right now.
Instead of releasing a huge podcast, with 16 episodes, a logo, music, etc. Tell people you love about how giddy you are that you even learned to set up all the technical stuff or about that first interview you did. When writing a huge book, do small pieces at a time and feel proud of yourself for accomplishing one story. Get feedback there and now. To truly love the journey we have to shorten the feedback loop.
And look, sometimes your egg sushi is going to be a little messed up. You are going to fold it incorrectly, or the egg isn’t going to be cooked right. But you should be proud, most people only dream of making egg sushi this perfect and every day you are inching towards your goal. And someday you will look at what you are making and says elated with a smile, “This is how it should be made.”
One of my favorite blog posts is called 7 strange questions that help you find your life purpose by Mark Manson. One of the questions he asks is, “What flavor of shit sandwich are you willing to eat?”
What he is saying is: what unpleasant experiences are you able to handle to get what you want in life? Because everything sucks, some of the time.
I am starting to realize that now. I am starting to realize why I take the journey over and over again. It sucks, it’s hard, and it’s scary. But, it’s the flavor of shit sandwich I’ve chosen to eat. I do it because for me those little hits of dopamine outweigh all the shittiness.
I do it because although getting to the peak and making the perfect egg sushi is important, it’s those little moments on the journey that I will cherish forever.
5 step guide to HOD:
You can find how to give yourself HOD by asking these 5 questions:
1. Identify your inner why (ask yourself why 5 times till you reach your inner why). What will make this venture/goal successful in your mind?
My Example: Podcasting — I want to learn the laziest, easiest ways to find my purpose and be able to start all the things I’ve dreamed of doing. It’s a success if I learn lazy tactics and interesting tidbits from guests that will help inch towards my perfect self. It is also a success if I am able to help impart some of the things I have learned from experimentation and introspection.
2. How will I get that first one or two hits of dopamine? Or what is that laziest easiest ways I can reach that success?
My Example: Podcasting — Asking a smart friend questions on how they achieve their goals is the first hit. Trying to see the hidden benefits in the answers my friend gives and applying that to my own life is the second hit. I also get HOD from helping other people with what I’ve learned. So instead of waiting till the final creation, I can get my first HOD by sharing a small snippet of conversation, an outline for what i want to explore, etc. I can share the pieces of the puzzle I intend to make.
3. How can I make this a lazy habit? If interested, I got a whole article about this one.
Lazy habits are about doing something small every day and using lazy strategies to make sure that the action becomes an unconscious habit.
My example: Podcasting — I will work on my podcast every day after exercising for at least 10 minutes before dinner with reminders/materials ready. If I can’t think what to work on, I will write a sentence for an upcoming speech to be aired on the podcast.
4. How can I make sure even when I fail I win?
My example: Podcasting — There are many successes to podcasting. If I fail at everything else, I learn the technical aspects of podcasting, I learn how to tell great stories (and what audiences like), I get to ask my friends questions I’ve always wanted to ask, I learn how to listen, etc. Even if the podcast is a dismal failure, I will always have some successes because I learned something valuable. I can get a HOD from that.
5. How can I make sure to incorporate childlike giddiness to everything that I do?
My example: Podcasting — Everything I do is just building on this dream. Wanted to do this for a long time and I am finally executing. Everything else is frosting. Every successful question, interview, or speech I am going to act as if all my dreams are coming true (because they are).
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Inspired By/Special Thanks to:
Austin Kleon, Scott Adams, Tim Ferris, Chase Jarvis, Simon Sinek, Mark Manson, Alain de Botton, Jiro Ono, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Bojack Horseman, Arrested Development, Bill Watterson, My grandmother (Mangala Rao), Shree Dhamija, Aniket Mutatkar, Brittany Levers