Methodical work leads to success.
Methodical work means being disciplined, working a lot, staying motivated, persevering despite setbacks.
Methodical work brings results, but the work itself often stays invisible to others.
My personal challenge - and in general the key to long term growth of any person - is to stay motivated, disciplined, to do the work on a regular basis. In other words, I wish to work methodically towards my long term goals.
It's hard. Why? Well, I guess we all know the answer. It's tiring. More often than not humans crave rest, fun, relaxation, pleasure, peace, quiet.
Work frequently means indecision, ambiguity, effort, anxiety, stress.
Short term desires are easily satisfied. Instant gratification is easy to get, especially when we have personal freedom, time and money.
Long term goals, even if well understood by an individual, simply lose to what some call "lack of strong will".
I am leaning towards the belief that this thing called "strong will" doesn't exist. It's imaginary. It doesn't have its own brain area. It's not that most people don't have it (but some do). Nobody does.
If someone is called disciplined, motivated and methodical, it simply means that he has a habit of working. This habit is stronger in him than a habit of satisfying other (short term) desires. He works more often and with more ease than he watches soap operas or eats donuts.
Working is a habit. It's a habit to choose work-like tasks and actions over non-work-like tasks.
As most habits in most people, it can be trained. I'm training it right now. Not sure how exactly - haven't found a single book on the topic so far. So I'm looking at what hard working people do and how they think.
I recently read a book about methodical work titled "The War of Art".
Now, "The War of Art" has two aspects. One of them is positive, another not so much.
The positive is that the book contains a great description of what methodical work looks like in the real world. The author calls a person doing methodical work "a professional". The book contains detailed description of the behaviors and mindset of a professional (as opposed to an amateur).
A professional does the work every day. He knows his trade well. He doesn't fall victim to everyday excuses. He understands it's going to be tough to work every day. He knows he'll face fear or anxiety of publishing what he did; he doesn't trick himself into believing he'll never get tired or afraid. He doesn't stop when others criticize his work.
A professional does the work every day.
I want to be a professional in that sense. I don't think I ever was; I was more of an amateur (inspired and agitated, but easily distracted), sometimes guided by fear (especially in school, but also at work, afraid of losing face). I'd rather be a professional though, guided by a habit of hard work.
So that aspect of the book, what a real pro looks like, was nice. A good summary of what methodical work is and what it takes to do it. (It's not free! Workaholics usually sacrifice their personal relationships, good health or other life opportunities!)
The other aspect of the book is spiritual. It's pretty bad.
The spiritual dogma of the book sounds so ridiculous to me that it was really painful to find it in the same book as the no-nonsense description of a pro. The author believes that there are gods, or God, demons, angels, Muse, "other dimension" beings all around us. The book mixes all this together in a "surely you must believe in something like this!" soup. Terrible.
The author believes that all great work comes not from people, but through people. Where does it come from exactly? Why, obviously there must be some ethereal beings that inspire selected artists (the professionals) while not inspiring others (the amateurs). They reward hard work with inspiration.
I do not approve of such nonsense. It's a classic example of a human being replacing what he doesn't know or understand with fantasy that makes sense to him. I think that the usual case is that a person is so uncomfortable with not having all the answers about the foundations of the world that they accept whatever nonsense reaches their ears.
Luckily it is quite easy to skip those "spiritual" parts since the book is divided into a series of extremely short chapters (1-2 pages each). Start a chapter, estimate how many angels show up, skip if more than zero. Worked well for me.
I am now very much focused on how to build a habit of methodical work. Doing some research, but also trying myself. Building that mindset of a pro. Incidentally, I'm a StarCraft player and I watch Korean pro league; it's quite informative as well. These are pros like any other and they also work hard, starting at an early age.
It might be the habit that's extremely hard to build. Once I acquire it though, perhaps I could share the trick with others. Would be really great to be able to help others become methodical in their work -- for a lifetime. Imagine a society that is more methodical at work than other societies around. What an advantage! Or more broadly, what a boost to human civilization if it was typical of people to be hard working citizens?
Also, once I build that habit it should feel great and bring great results quickly. As you may have noticed, I strongly believe that it's learnable and that it's indeed a habit. Could be wrong. That would be sad.
It's going to be hard work to change the motivation to work from "I love doing it so I keep doing it" or "I fear not doing it so I keep doing it" to "I will do it now because I said so, despite really craving something else at the moment". But I believe this is what long term success requires.