A Natural State

June 28, 2011 — 10 Comments

Yesterday, I forgot what day of the week it was. Not the standard “hey, man what’s the date?” small talk we say without thinking, but truly and completely mistook one day for another. I’d been engrossed in my writing and in my work and lost track where I was in the week.

It must be Tuesday, I thought, I spent all day working yesterday. In my mind, I’d become so used to the arbitrary distinction between the week and the weekend that it seemed like a natural law. The fact that one meant being in an office and the other usually didn’t was like an subconscious compass. But now, it’s not true anymore.

One day. All days. The same. To wake up, do my work, on myself and by myself, and nevermind the details. It was a feeling I hadn’t had since I was a kid, when breaks from school would run longer than my memory could go in either direction.

Remember, people who love what they do wear themselves out doing it. They forget to even wash and sleep. There is a reason, I think, that I immediately recalled something to my childhood when I realized I’d done this. To be consumed with work–pleasurable work–and curiosity and almost nothing else is to revert back to a natural state.

From this naturalness comes happiness. Because happiness, as the philosophers say, exists solely in the present, results from discipline, and manifests itself in excellence.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

10 responses to A Natural State

  1. Ryan, I was curious about your relationship with caffeine. Do you use a consistent level, if any at all?

    • I like Diet Coke, but don’t do coffee or energy drinks.

      • Interesting. With the harder caffeine sources it becomes necessary to take days off to reset the receptors–a de facto brain weekend. I’m going to try a milder intake, thereby blurring the weekend factor, and perhaps the converse of enjoyment and weekends will hold true; that is the reduction in breaks will increase my love of work.

  2. Amen.

    this is what Seneca must talk about when he says the shortness of time disappears when we live life to our full potential.

    For me being a kid, what made summer vacations seem so long was that I never worried. Not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow kinda puts you in this ever present state that seems to expand the hours. I think to recapture that state as an adult is to throw yourself in work that you love. For me these are the hours that I stop worrying about petty things. Of course, it all comes back when I’m done.

  3. Funny, I was just trying to explain to someone today how I thought the concept of “balance” was so misleading. I find it especially ridiculous when managers attempt to incorporate “work life balance” in to office culture. I was finding it tough to articulate that, on the contrary, you’re trying to find something to do that easily, happily skews the balance.

    This post makes this idea clearer for me. Thanks.

  4. This post, especially the note on weekend blurring, reminded me of something I found in the trash.
    I picked it up and I’ve kept it ever since. I’m not quite sure why. I have yet to live it. I often use it as a bookmark.
    It is about 8″ x 2″, thick, cream-colored paper. It is a quote from a famous novelist.

    “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

  5. Dude, I know this sounds weirdly in line with the kind of stuff that would-be-Ryan-Holiday stalkers would say, but I had this exact experience yesterday. And I don’t have it often. In fact, NEVER. The difference? I am not engaged in anything, I am doing nothing everyday. I guess it cuts both ways. Food for thought.

  6. This is an odd change of opinion given how vehnemently you disagreed with idealizing childhood in that post on “Wisdom.”

    • There’s a big difference between the freedom of a child-like site and giving a shit what a child has to say about anything, let alone serious adult matters.

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