Hacking Yourself

If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a man of fads. Example: once upon a time, I decided it would appear intellectual to read The Times, and for a period of a few weeks, I carried a copy of The Times with me wherever I went. I then decided to go one step further, and carried both The Times and The Guardian with me, wherever I went. There was the time I’d only drink Costa coffee. The time I’d only buy clothes from certain stores. The time I’d wear suits to college.

Or there was the time when I got into fitness training. Every morning I would do skipping and running, and bought all the equipment I needed including a stop watch. Suffice to say, that all now lives in a sports bag in the closet!

What I have come to know about myself is that I’m obsessive. When I get into something, I immerse myself in it and become as close to an expert as I can over a very short period of time. The trouble is I often do this to the neglecting of other priorities in my life, and it is because of this that my wife Faye is so wonderful because she completes me and brings balance to my obsessions. The benefit, however, is I have acquired a spectrum of in-depth knowledge in random things, which is really useful when I meet new people because I have a wealth of experience in different things to connect to them with.

It was at the beginning of 2009, when Faye and I needed to get our finances in check, that I had the revelation that I can control this obsession to my advantage. In other words, I hacked myself. I put immense focus for a month into budgeting and being very strict – but the result now is that we are beating our budget – something we’ve rarely done before.

I’ve written about how GTD saved my future. The way I did this was to obsess about getting things done, sticking to a system, and forcing everyone to email tasks to me, rather than text or by voice. I hacked what has been a weakness, and made it a strength.

How do I control my obsession? Firstly it is through my obsession, that I obsess about controlling my obsession – if that makes sense! Secondly I have multiple obsessions at once – that way I don’t over balance on one over the other. For areas in my life, like work or running a particular project over a long period of time, I inject new obsessions into it in order to stimulate my creativity and motivation. I also have time everyday where I disconnect and just relax.

I am an obsessive person, so my question is, how can other people hack themselves who aren’t like me? What traits, personalities, feelings, obsessions can you manipulate in order to gain results where you previously had failure?


4 responses to “Hacking Yourself”

  1. Robin Dickinson says:

    Interesting idea, Scott.

    Just building on your post, I tend to think of my physical self as a separate entity from my ‘inner’ self. This means I get to work ON myself rather than stuck ON my self.

    It’s just shift in perceptions but it allows me to demand or expect much more out of my brain/body. I guess it’s like a mechanic working on a racing car.

    Consequently, I’m constantly hacking myself for better performance – squeezing more out today than yesterday.

    Cheers, Robin

  2. Chloe says:

    yet again…loving your work..

  3. Jamie Lee says:

    Scott – Really enjoying your blog and the unique ideas you’re sharing with us.
    I love the idea of “hacking yourself” and am so glad to have the insights into how you’ve leveraged your typical Type-A personality (right there with you, brother) to your benefit. Glad to hear you have a patient spouse who sees you through your temporary obsessions. My beau has the same disposition … “riding the waves,” as he calls it, of my myriad passions.

    I think anyone can hack themselves by taking the time to – on a regular basis – observe themselves. We’re so quick to create a preconceived notion of ourselves. It can be incredibly enlightening to step back and take your words and actions at face value.

    Once you’ve come to terms with the true nature of your personality traits, THEN you can start figuring out how to apply them successfully in your life. I think you’re very smart to step back from fighting against your nature. Trying to fit yourself into someone else’s way of being is doomed to failure from the start. MUCH better to learn how to tailor your life to your intrinsic qualities.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about this morning.

    • Scott Gould says:

      Ha! Well i’ve learnt today about Type-A and -B personalities which I didn’t know before!

      Jamie I’m glad to hear there are others like me. Your point that “I think you’re very smart to step back from fighting against your nature” encourages me. To use a sermon title I once heard, you need to ‘turn your favour on your famine’.

      My way of looking at this, which I feel you are also saying, is to maximize your strengths, and minimize your weaknesses. I’ve done this by focussing on what I do best, and finding and training other people and surrounding myself with people who balance me and fill in the gaps.

      Thanks again Jamie, love chatting with you

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