The relative value of garbage thoughts

First, some definitions: by ‘garbage thoughts’ I’m referring to stressing about hassle items, more as a background mental process than specifically focusing on it. For me, that currently means thinking about a rent increase negotiation in a few months, thinking about pharmacy/doctor issues (auto-refill, insurance issues, billing mixups), hoping that some people email me back to I reached out to, wondering how much I should put up with in dealing with a mailing address mixup. And probably a bunch of other things that I can’t think of right now.

Anyways, I know that engaging with these thoughts has an absolutely terrible financial expected ROI (return on investment) from a financial perspective. The hassle-item dollar amounts in question are small relative to my professional projects, and yet these little daggers in my side are just eating up boatloads of energy.

Terrible Financial ROI

Ok so I know it’s a terrible mental investment to dwell on these stress/hassle items, and yet I still do (I mention this in my podcast). So what else can I do?

I was thinking about this, and I’m realizing that the terrible ROI part is just a small aspect of the equation. Yes I know I would probably make more money by spending energy on things that could probably make me money (side projects, work) vs trying to just avoid/minimize a loss (hassle/stress). However, it’s even worse than that.

It feels terrible

For one, I feel terrible when I allow myself to lowkey ruminate about future stress/hassle items. It’s naturally easy for me to just try to ignore this cost, but it’s cumulatively huge. On the other hand, when I’m focusing on professional items (where I can actually win and make progress and learn cool new things), I usually feel great. It’s the game I want to be playing.

Trying to build momentum

For another, I can’t build momentum by becoming an expert at ruminating about garbage hassle/stress items. That’s just not that works. On the other hand…I can build momentum by focusing on developing myself and learning more about things that professionally interest me. As in, the more I focus on developing myself (researching frontiers in the economy, digging into the intricacies of the newest machine learning algorithms, checking out the business models of new seed-stage startups), the easier it should become for me.

I’m trying to get to a point where I achieve a sort of ‘escape velocity,’ where I enjoy what I’m working on so much that it doesn’t feel like work anymore. That would be a positive feedback loop and I think would jack my effective energy levels – while making me feel great, let alone the long-term health benefits of that type of life perspective.

So wrapping it up, by allowing myself to tolerate garbage rumination: it’s a terrible financial ROI, it feels terrible, and I can’t build momentum towards being the person I want to be. Now we’ll see if I can be vigilant in maintaining this mindset.

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