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 $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. He’d have retired after cashing in $180 million from 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 ready to do anything to succeed, including working every hour of the day.
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 funeral, a cousin asked me why I wasn’t eating anything.
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 genesis of decadence.”
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 “meet someone”.
So why wasn’t I eating at least one piece of bread?
Because I knew that if you see no difference between 0 and 1, you won’t see any between 1 and 2.
Infinite Chocolate Cakes
Before we go ahead, I need to explain you how I decide if something is good or bad for me.
I don’t understand nuance. I don’t believe in nuance either. Something is good, or bad. Black, or white.
Before I do something, I ask myself the following question: “if I only did this, would it have a positive or a negative impact on my life?”
- The gym: If I only went to the gym, would it be positive, or negative? Positive, I’d have big muscles and would be healthy.
- Eating chocolate cake: if I only ate chocolate cake, would it be positive, or negative? Negative, of course.
- Being nice to people: if I was only nice to people, would it be negative or positive? Positive.
- Waking up late: if I only woke up late, would it be negative, or positive? Negative.
-> what I do is multiply the activity by the concept of “infinity” (∞) to see if the value would be positive or negative in the end.
If it’s positive, I’ll do it. If not, I won’t.
Let’s take the chocolate cake example again.
1. Eating 0 chocolate cake X ∞ = 0 chocolate cake. It’s positive for me as my health doesn’t suffer since I don’t eat any chocolate cakes.
2. Eating 1 chocolate cake X ∞ = an infinity of chocolate cakes. It’s negative for me.
3. Eating 2 chocolate cakes X ∞ = an infinity of chocolate cakes. It’s negative for me.
Do you notice something strange between the answers of 2 and 3?
They’re the same.
This is why moderation is so destructive.
Moderation pretends the difference between 1 and 2 is equal to the difference between 0 and 1.
But it’s not.
In absolute value, the difference between 1 and 2 is the same than between 1 and infinity.
This means that if you eat one piece of cake, you can eat an infinity.
“Just one” becomes “just two”, which quickly become “one last and I promise I stop after that”.
It’s “just a bit”. And “just a bit” always leads to “too much”.
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 becomes a whole lot more than an initial “lot” would have been.
-> moderation sets no limits!!
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.
This is why moderation is vicious, and why I am never moderate in anything.
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 or none, which 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. So she practiced, and practiced, and practiced.
She was always the first and last one on the slope. She became good 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, all while winning trophies.
She was the best, because everything she did, she did it 100%.
Avicii started making music at a young age with his friends. While they wanted to go to sleep after a while, Avicii wanted to finish the song before he went to bed. He’d stay up all night to work on his craft.
Avicii went on to become one of the greatest DJs of all time, popularizing EDM and “making it cool”.
Michael Phelps was a professional swimmer.
For five years, or 1825 days, Phelps trained every day. He never missed any of his training.
He went on to become the most decorated Olympian in history.
There are thousands of other examples like these, from Edison and his light bulb to James Dyson and his bag-free vacuum cleaner.
These people never stopped until they got what they wanted. They threw moderation out of the window.
This is why they succeeded.
The Bottom Line
History teaches us that success is about investing time and effort into the right things. Moderation prevents you from doing that.
Moderation slows you down by breaking momentum and kills discipline by allowing you to do something you shouldn’t.
Moderation is what everyone does. As a result, moderation gets you what everyone gets -> mediocrity.
Mediocrity leads you 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 isn’t.
Moderation condemns you to a life of repeated failure due to a 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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