Discover more from Act Two
How to be better Part 2 of 5
This is the end of year 2 of 5 and man is this year ending in the most dramatic way it can. Take for instance my message to my team on slack this past Tuesday.
Hey guys, just a small heads up that I took the covid vaccine yesterday and will be feeling very sick today. I am still working my ass off but yea, it’s kicking my ass
It didn’t seem like I would have any ass left after this week. It felt like I couldn’t even take some time to be sick because there was just so much to do.
The end of the year is trying to kill me with the amount of work I have to do. In the email I sent out to a few people yesterday, I led with a note on how we reflect on the year’s achievment when we enter into December.
Doing this final reflection at the beginning of December gives us just enough time to squeeze in one last burst of work. I have been trying to do that personally. I am, of course, also doing the one thing I have always done, I am overestimating my ability to focus and be productive and that’s left me in a situation others might describe as overwhelmed. That notwithstanding, this is the end of my second year.
Roughly two years ago, I made the official personal decision to switch careers. For most of my life, my career interest was in technology. That is, until 2020 when I thought I would try something new and place a bet on this new thing I found myself being consumed by. One of the questions I asked myself before making this decision was where I would put my exit point. At what place would I let myself call it quits. I didn’t want to chase down a bad dream for too long.
Perhaps you are familiar with the suck-cost fallacy. It’s a phenomenon we have all found ourselves in at least once. Say, you have been at the petrol station since 8 am, one of the first in the queue, determined to get fuel. You wait an hour that becomes two hours and doubles to four. At the fourth hour, you have the thought to leave. It’s a pretty reasonable thought considering the situation; the queue has gotten longer, you haven’t made much progress. This would be a good time to count your losses and leave. It was just not your day. Instead of doing that, you decide to stay. You tell yourself ‘I have already been here 4 hours, it would be waste to leave now’. Oh how mistaken you will be. You wait another 5 hours before a tanker eventually shows up. Then you have to fight with everyone to justify your place in line. It’s absolutely treacherous, you get into a short fist fight. At the end of the day, you leave with fuel but at what cost. It is sundown, you have a bloody nose, an entire day has gone by and all you have to show for it is a full tank, one that will be empty within the week.
Sunk cost fallacy is the phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy is the reason some failing companies stay longer than they perhaps should. The sunk cost fallacy is a cautionary tale. It’s a reminder to know when to quit. But there is an alternate tale. The tale of people like JK Rowling. I mean after 10 rejections, it is fair to say it wasn’t meant to be. If we follow by the SCF principle, any further attempts would be equivalent to ignoring what was clearly a bad idea in the deception that too much effort had already been invested in it. “You can’t quit now.” Jk Rowling did not quit and now she’s a billionaire. That’s with a capital B and a lot of zeroes. The word describing the quality of belief it takes to receive 12 rejections and not quit is the topic of today’s essay.
I have found conviction to be such a complex idea. How much conviction should I have? Where does conviction stand in the narrative of SCF? Does having a strong conviction mean I can never quit?
Incase you are new here: My name is Mo Isu. I am an audio producer based in Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently attempting to build a career in audio journalism. I have taught myself everything I know so far. You are reading issue 18 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey. Read the about page for more
On today’s issue, part 2 of my 5-part series on improving myself. We start with the first step.
Step 1: Conviction
Two years ago, I committed to audio production. I quit my job. I accepted the reality that I would not be calling myself a software developer for a while and I embraced the uncertainty of a little-established career path. But I also included a caveat, a deadline if you will. I had 5 years to make a living out of this career. I knew it would take me a while to find my footing. At the time, I was 23. I figured I had my 20s to take risks but at some point, I had to start making safe choices, choices that would help me secure my future. 28 seemed like a good place to put a deadline for that.
It gave me 5 years to figure out how to make a living out of audio production.
At the end of year 2, I can’t tell you that I have it figured out yet but I can tell you that I am not where I started for sure. In issue 8, I wrote about some early hopefully feelings I had about my future.
In a recent text exchange with a friend, I said to them about my year that it felt like I had gained more recognition but hadn’t made as much as I would like to.
For my first year of making audio, I felt a lot like I was trying to prove myself, trying to earn the right to call myself who I wanted to be.
By the second year, that wasn’t there as much because of the context in which I met people. Many people seemed to already know me as a guy that did a certain thing. I did some international work this year as well and doing work like that just sort of validates you aggressively.
For instance, there’s a South African podcast I contributed to where the host introduced me as Mo Isu, the reporter. It just felt so different coming from someone that wasn’t me.
I suppose not feeling that same need to prove myself (at least not on the level I did last year) made me feel like I was much too relaxed this year. I am so much more capable of working so much harder. I just need a reason to.
This is where conviction comes into play.
I ran at the gym yesterday. It was not the wisest of choices (and we will get into that in the next instalment of this series) but I did it.
I ran 5km, and it took me 27 minutes. It’s not my fastest run but it’s not a slow run.
Let me tell you about how I think of my runs on the treadmill. It’s the same way I thought of my runs when I ran on the road (the good old days.) It’s the same philosophy I have used for years and have passed along to some of my friends.
When I start a long run, I don’t think about the entire distance I am about to run, instead, I think of a very small unit.
The beginning of a 20km run is a very difficult place to be when you think of how long 20km is. That’s a very very long road. The human eye can’t see that far away, not even close (the limit is about 2/3 miles) The Earth curves too quickly for you to be able to see the finish line of a 20km road. So I never think of the finish line, I think only of the next km and I think of it with the certainty that I will finish the 1km.
I never think of my long runs as long runs. I think of them as short units. And I tell myself to finish that unit. That’s it. I split my conviction into two. One part is focused on the belief that I can finish my current unit and another is focused on doing it again till I reach my goal. But I am usually convinced that I will reach the goal. It’s helped me in many situations. It helped me finish my first 10km even though I almost quit at about halfway. It helped me finish my first marathon even though I almost passed out at about 27 km. It helped me finish my 5km run yesterday even though I almost didn’t run it.
Conviction is the thing that keeps you from stopping.
This is not to say that having convictions mean you do not stop. I remember one run during my marathon training when I planned to run from Yaba to Surulere and then back to Yaba and from Yaba to Maryland and back. In total, it was supposed to be about 30 kilometres. At the time, the farthest I would have ever run. It started out okay, I made my way to Surulere, roughly 10km, and I was feeling good. Then I made my way back to Yaba to begin the long stretch to Maryland when suddenly I felt really lightheaded. Almost on the verge of passing out. I hadn’t taken any fluid and my run plan didn’t have me taking any fluid for a while. I go to Jibowu and I collapsed on the floor.
Well, I sat down and waited, just waited for my vision to come back. I could have kept running but I had this strong feeling that if I did, I would faint in the middle of Ikorodu road and I did not want that. It wasn’t that I was giving up on my run that day, it was just that I knew I couldn’t do it. And I knew, I would try again in another way, this time more prepared.
Jack Conte says that all artists need to have conviction. You need to believe in yourself and your art and what you want. Having a conviction doesn’t mean you keep doing the same actions over and over again even though they clearly aren’t yielding results. Having a strong conviction simply means that you don’t stop showing up. You don’t give up. You don’t quit. You keep going. You try and you and you try and you never once doubt yourself.
I don’t know that it is possible to reconcile the sunk fallacy with having a strong conviction. And perhaps maybe you shouldn’t even try.
Conviction is so hard to have and sustain.
I feel a strong urge to give up on everything at least once every two months.
I am feeling it today.
As I am writing this issue.
I want to quit. Quit this newsletter, Quit this dream of having a career in audio production. Quit this run.
But I promised 5 years. At least, and I am going to get there.
Like there is no doubt in my mind that I will get there.
I don’t know if, after those 5 years, I will actually call it quits and move on to something else.
But right now, even though, I know, that I am so tired and I so badly want to quit. I will not.
Such a weird thing.
I genuinely believe that for anything to happen, conviction first has to be there. You have to believe in the inevitability of your desired outcome.
So this is the first step to getting better. I believe in the inevitability of my improvement. I believe I will become the person I described in the last issue.
As with my runs, I am dividing the conviction into two. The first part is focused on the long-term goal. The second is focused on this next interval, this next km, and this next day.
It is with this second smaller conviction that I am completing this issue at 12 am on Friday morning.
The next step, and the next instalment in this series, is step 2:consistency.
Thank you for reading.
I have got a new podcast coming out in about a week. I am producing it with Voix Collective and it’s being hosted by my friend, Hauwa Lawal.
The podcast is called “It happened in Nigeria” and you can find it on Spotify, apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. The trailer is out now so please go and check it out and subscribe to the podcast.
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