Published on:17 May, 2019
Pathbreaking work has at its core very hard work, often done in the midst of a well-defined schedule and usually done in solitude. Research shows that the greatest minds of the past three hundred years have used a surprisingly similar template to grind their way to success.
“I must have liked the long hours, for in later life, I never took the attitude of “I’ve worked hard all my childhood and youth and now I’m going to take it easy and sleep till noon.” Quite the contrary…I wake up at five in the morning. I get to work as early as I can. I work as long as I can. I do this every day in the week, including holidays. I don’t take vacations voluntarily and I try to do my work even when I’m on vacation.” ― Isaac Asimov quoted in “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey (2013)
[Marcellus is hiring Quant Data Analysts on an internship-basis. See http://marcellus.in/jobs/]
Habits drive 40% of our decision making
In this piece we focus on how some of greatest minds of the post-Renaissance world constructed their working day so that their habits – by themselves – would become one of the foundations of their success. At the outset, we have to say that for those looking for short cut should not read this piece because as VS Pritchett said in 1941, “Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.”
So other than working non-stop, what exactly do the legends do habitually which entrenches their greatness? In 2013 American journalist, Mason Currey, summarised the working habits of habits of nearly 200 great minds in an interesting an entertaining book called “Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration and Get to Work”. Currey’s book (which itself draws from over 400 sources) and our reading of the biographies of other great minds give us a pretty good idea of the life one would has to lead to have a high probability of doing original, path-breaking work:
In Ernest Hemingway’s words, “When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and you always stop when you know what is going to happen next…You write until you come to a place when you still have your juice and you know what will happen next…You have started at six in the morning and you may go on until noon. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time, never empty but filling…”
Essentially, what the legends are doing is by forcing the majority of the quotidian decisions taken in a typical day (when to rise, when to eat, what to eat, etc) into a rigid template, they are freeing up mental processing power for higher value tasks.
Redesigning the way we work
Even though we are less than a year old, we are trying to ensure that our staff don’t burn their brains & bodies out in the typical start-up rush to grow big, fast. It is all very well to move fast and break things in Silicon Valley but when you have to undergo long commutes to & from work through Mumbai’s pulverised roads, we have seen that people physically and mentally breakdown if you push them hard week after week.
As we grow, we are seeking to understand how to create a better working environment for our colleagues. If you have ideas, suggestions or if you have found interesting reading material on this subject, we would be grateful if you could share it with us.
To read our other published material, please visit http://marcellus.in/resources/
Saurabh Mukherjea is the author of “The Unusual Billionaires” and “Coffee Can Investing: the Low Risk Route to Stupendous Wealth”.
Note: the above material is neither investment research, nor investment advice. Marcellus Investment Managers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a provider of Portfolio Management Services and as an Investment Advisor.
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