Tl;dr: Moderation is the most certain path to decadence. Absolute rules will keep you off such a fate.
Is Moderation Detrimental to Success?
In 2019, Elon Musk broke the news when he talked about his 120-hour workweek. At the time, the guy’s fortune was estimated to be about $12 billion.
Why would someone so rich make his life so miserable while he could just retire?
Because it’s not money he was pursuing.
Had it been money, we would have never heard about Elon Musk as he’d have stopped working after cashing in $180 million from selling Paypal.
But Musk, like pretty much all other billionaires, does not pursue money. He’s after a goal, a purpose, a vision, something to achieve.
And he is one of these few people ready to do anything to make it, including working every hour of the day.
These are extreme people. And this is why they succeed.
Why Moderation Is Dangerous
Before we dive into why moderation is dangerous, we need to understand that moderation negatively acts on two levels: it provides you with an excuse to do something you shouldn’t, sending you on a path of decadence without end; and it provides you with another excuse not to do something you should.
Let’s have a look at the first case.
Doing Something You Shouldn’t
One day, during a family reunion, a cousin I see about once every five years started talking to me.
She didn’t understand why I wasn’t eating anything and I explained to her that I was following a ketogenic diet (I have since moved to a carnivore diet) which forbade me to eat carbs. Since all the food present on the table was carbs (bread, sauce, rice, pasta, fruits, sodas, alcohol), I wasn’t eating anything.
The dialogue must have sounded like this:
“You’re not even going to eat just one piece of bread?
-No, no carbs is no carbs.
-So you won’t eat anything?
-No, I won’t eat anything.
-Ah, you see, I’m all about moderation, I think we should have a bit of everything.
-Moderation is the beginning of decadence.”
I think that last sentence had its effect as she proceeded to answer that being as extreme and rigid as I was wasn’t going to help me “to meet someone”.
So why wasn’t I eating even at least one piece of bread? Because I knew that the difference between 0 and 1 is much, much bigger than the difference between 1 and 2.
Unprotected Sex With Math
For the sake of the example, let’s assume that protected sex protects you 100% of the time and that about 90% of the people you have sex with are infected with something.
So, as we said, having only protected sex will protect you 100% of the time.
You can have protected sex once, a hundred times, or an infinite number of times.
It doesn’t matter as you will NEVER catch anything.
Protected sex X 10 times = zero disease.
Protected sex X 1000 times = zero disease.
Protected sex X infinity = zero disease.
Why is it equal to zero diseases? Because protected sex is 100% protection, hence a 0% chance of catching a disease.
0% of catching a disease while having sex X 10 times = 0.
0% of catching a disease while having sex X 100 times = 0.
0% of catching a disease while having sex X infinity = 0.
Anything X zero will always equal zero.
There is no way around it.
Zero is the strongest, it is stronger than infinity.
Infinity cannot do anything with zero.
No one can do anything with zero.
If there is nothing, there is nothing. No way around it.
However, one day, you go on a date with the hottest person you could ever date and boom, neither of you have condoms.
You decide to go ahead with the sex anyway even though you know your chances are about 9/10 to get infected.
And you get infected.
1 unprotected sex with an infected person X 1 time = 1 disease.
That’s the difference between zero and one. Zero (protected sex) allowed you to have sex an infinite number of times without getting infected, while 1 (unprotected sex) got you infected right away.
As such, the difference between zero and one is enormous.
It is more than infinity.
Zero x infinity = zero.
1 x infinity = infinity.
In fact, 0.1 X infinity = infinity.
0.00000000000000000000000000000…1 X infinity = infinity.
It didn’t matter how “moderate” the unprotected sex was with that person. Once you did have sex, you got infected.
And that’s the difference between zero (protected sex) and one (unprotected sex).
Zero unprotected sex is allowing you to have sex an unlimited number of times.
However, if you have unprotected sex once with someone infected, you’re done.
This is why moderation is so destructive.
Moderation is the principle telling you you can have unprotected sex “just once”, that the consequences won’t be too big.
It’s not true. Mathematically, the consequences are as big as if you were having unprotected sex a thousand times.
If you don’t bite into moderation and remain strict, you will do zero time the things you’re not supposed to do and will have zero problems.
However, if you do once what you are not supposed to do, it is opening the door to many more times, because the difference between 1 and 2 is much smaller than between 0 and 1. And if you step from 0 to 1…you’ll easily jump from 1 to 2.
After all, if you did it once, you can do it just one more time.
And then one time more.
There is not much difference.
It’s “just a bit”. And this usually leads to catastrophe.
The Evil Behind Moderation
If you think I’m exaggerating, I am not. There is no difference between “a bit” and “a lot”. A bit plus a bit plus a bit quickly becomes a lot, probably a whole lot more than an initial lot would have been.
As such, moderation sets no limit.
For example, a bit of heroin, a bit of cyanide, or a bit of unprotected sex is likely to render you a drug addict, dead, or seropositive.
You think I’m using extreme examples, but I’m not. The thing that moderate people don’t understand is that actions have purposes. The purpose of eating ice cream is to feel good. The purpose of work is to earn money. The purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind. These are the results of your actions.
Don’t you want to maximize them? I do.
This is why I am not moderate in my approach. When I do something, I do it fully, or none at all. Since my diet aims at reducing carbs…I reduce the carbs as much as I can. It means I don’t eat them at all.
How Moderation Prevents You from Doing What You Should
Did you hear about Lindsey Vonn? She is one of the greatest ski racers of all time.
When she was a kid, she sucked at skiing, but that’s what she wanted to do, so she practiced, and practiced and practiced.
She was always the first and last one on the slope and so she became quite good, quite quickly.
When her dad saw her determination and skill, he moved the whole family into a tiny condo located in a town with one of the best ski coaches so Lindsey could have a shot at a professional career.
She went on to win 82 victories in her career which spanned over 20 years.
During these years, she got married, stopped talking to her dad, then got divorced, talked to her dad again, broke multiple bones while keeping on winning trophies.
She may have been rich, hot, and famous, but her life was not an easy one.
Another good example is Avicii, who requires no introduction.
Avicii started making music at a young age. His friends explained that as they were looking for melodies together, midnight would come fast and they were tired and wanted to go home.
Avicii, on the other hand, insisted to finish the song that same night and would go to sleep much later.
He went on to become one of the greatest DJs of all time, popularizing EDM and “making it cool”.
There are thousands of other examples like these, from Edison and his light bulb to James Dyson and his bag-free vacuum-cleaner.
People that never stopped, never gave up, and made it. People that worked until they got what they wanted.
People like Elon Musk.
People that succeed.
Had They Followed Moderation, Had They Been “Moderate”, Do You Think They Would Have Made It?
Had Musk said “ok, this is the third and last shot we have at launching this rocket, but you know, let’s be moderate, let’s not work too much and go home early today so we can enjoy the evening”, do you think Space X would have succeeded?
Had Avicii told his friends “yeah, let’s go to sleep, working too much is not good, we’ll finish the song tomorrow”, do you think “Levels” would have been so good?
Had Lindsey Vonn said as a kid “I’m tired, I want to hang out with my friends, I’ll practice tomorrow”, do you think she would have been the world’s best ski racer for 20 years?
These people were extreme in the sense that they weren’t moderate, they had a purpose, a vision, and were willing to invest it all to make it.
They went all the way in. They didn’t stop, no matter what.
No need to explain how moderation would have killed all of these people’s momentum.
Their success came from the fact that precisely, they kept their momentum going and stopped at nothing.
It wasn’t about slowing down or doing less.
It was about speeding up and doing more.
The Bottom Line
History teaches us that success is about investing (a) time and efforts (b) into the right things. Moderation prevents you from doing that.
It (1) unhinges your investments into positive long-term capabilities by breaking your momentum and (2) allows low or high consumption of products with long-term negative consequences.
As such, moderation ultimately leads to decadence by making you believe that in the realm of bad decision-making, the difference between zero and one is equal to one while it is, in fact, equal to more than infinity; and condemns you to a life of repeated failure due to lack of sufficient work.
So next time someone is telling you to be moderate, simply answer them that moderation is the genesis of decadence.
Then get back to work.
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