42 days: a cure for shiny object syndrome

If you had the next 6 weeks to work on whatever you wanted, what would you make?

42 days: a cure for shiny object syndrome

I've got an illness. Shiny object syndrome. Which means I'm continually jumping from one thing to the next with heightened excitement.

But these jumps always require more, more, more. It's like an alcoholic getting drunk. Each time, he needs more alcohol to get the same feeling.

You might have it too. It's no wonder. With all the new things happening, neomania (an obsession with the new) was bound to set in.

Naturally, I decided to create my own cure. Current medicine has a great time adding things to a system in an attempt to improve it. Antibiotics, unnecessary surgeries, treatment plans. I've fallen victim to all of these. For example, I no longer have an appendix. It was removed when I had a stomach ache. After its removal, it turned out my appendix was perfectly healthy.

What's forgotten is most health benefits come from removal, not addition.

Eating less often, not smoking, not drinking as much. These things will improve your health far more than the addition of anything. But it's hard to make money off telling people to do nothing.

I digress. But this forms the basis of my antidote.

I'm calling it 42 days. 6 weeks.

That's it.

For 6 weeks you do nothing except 1 thing.

Why 42 days?

Because it's short enough if it doesn't work out, it's only 42 days. And it's long enough you may be able to achieve something which surprises yourself and thus decide whether to pursue it for another 42 days.

There are many forms of this. Some of my favourites include #100daysofcode, #100daysofwalking, 528 days of blog posts (I just did this). And my favourite, Six Week Cycles from Basecamp.

I know the arguments against this.

"42 days isn't long enough to do anything meaningful!"

You're right. It isn't if your life is clogged.

You see the curse of the modern individual is to do more but feel less.

It took me a while to get this. My default was to fill any white space on the calendar with something. Now an event on the calendar (99% of them) makes me feel like a prisoner.

If you take 42 days to work on 1 thing, you’ll be surprised how much you can actually do.

Or as a worst-case scenario, you’ll know what not to pursue. Which is still a win. Knowledge of what not do is more robust than knowledge of what to do.

"But I have to work, I have to take of my family, I have to..."

You're right. Life happens.

Let me get a little philosophical here.

This is exactly why you must eradicate what does not spark your curiosity.

Notice how I did not say eradicate struggle or suffering or pain. It is another curse of the modern individual to think pleasure can exist without these.

There is nothing more pleasurable than building a skill. Nothing more satisfying than developing self-reliance.

But developing a skill or to building self-reliance takes effort.

You can commit to something for 42 days. Something which triggers your curiosity. Something which contributes to where your ideal self wants to be in 3-5 years.

The beautiful thing is because you've only got 42 days, you're going to need a bias towards removing things which don't matter.

If you want to be a better writer, publish 500 words every day for 42 days and see where you end up.

If you want to be healthier, go for a 42-minute walk every day for 42 days.

If you want to build an application, work on it for 1-hour per day for 42 days and ship it at the end.

Do the opposite of modern education systems. Go practical first.

I leave for Vietnam in 47 days. As skin the game, I'm starting my own 42 days on Monday. I'll be working on upgrading Airbnb's deep learning computer vision pipeline. Stay tuned for more.

Further reading: Six Week Cycles from Shape Up by Basecamp

This post is an excerpt from the latest issue of my newsletter, Eat, Move, Learn, Make: thoughts for hungry, active, curious creators.