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The Cost of Achievement for Kids

I’m almost finished Never Enough, and the big thing that continues to strike me in this book is the high cost of parents pushing children to achieve…something. In fact the anxiety is so high that despite the monetary wealth and lack of scarcity of these kids, the often have higher anxiety levels than children whose families are struggling to put food on the table1.

At the same time as parents push kids to high achievement so they can get into “good” colleges, there is little evidence that the education received at these elite schools is of any benefit at all. It’s not so much that the right school matters, but that you went to college/university at all which benefits you because it’s something few can afford2.

Parents even see this, and want to stop but fear that if they stop pushing their kids even for a second some other parent will not take their foot off the gas and thus a child will fall behind. Then of course that life will spiral out of control and the fridge box will become a viable shelter because it’s the only thing that can be afforded by the kid that fell behind.

On a personal front, this is a fine line that we walk. My oldest daughter has expressed interest in going to the competitive track in her sport of choice, figure skating. She’s spent the last year working very hard to earn her spot on the competitive circuit. As parents we walk the line between encouraging her and holding her to account on the goals she set, and just letting her be a kid. With my wife as a coach, I have to fall much further towards the line of letting my daughter be a kid and have fun without pressure.

I’ve got a few chapters left, but if you’re raising kids and starting to feel achievement pressure, this has been a good book to bring you back down to earth.

You Shouldn’t be Productive Every Day

Sticking with achievement culture another note that came up this week was my notes on I Didn’t Do The Thing Today. In this book Madeline Dore questions the productivity culture that surrounds us and how we are counted valuable based on how productive we are3. This isn’t just at work, where the value you bring to the company in theory factors into your compensation, this is everywhere.

We endlessly search for the next best morning routine, or the best task manager, or the next best note tool. None of these things are likely to change much, but they will create a bunch of extra work that isn’t doing the stuff you really want to do.

The ideas from Dore relate to the Never Enough specifically because the best thing for kids seems to be, spending time with them. The best thing for adults to be resilient when life gets hard, is strong relationships and if we can opt-out of productivity culture then we have time to make friends and build strong relationships that can be there when we need support.

I Continue to Love the Forcing Function of Paper

Earlier this week I challenged the idea that forgetting to do a task is bad. If you write a task down in a notebook and then it doesn’t get done, it can’t be that important. The same idea holds with notes on books, I almost always use a paper notebook to take notes as I read because if something feels like too much work to write down, I’m voting that it’s not important enough to me to put the effort in.

I think that many people feel task guilt, not because they feel a task is important but because they want to be the type of person that gets everything done. It’s like the people I’ve coached that want to be author’s almost without exception they want to have written. They don’t want to spend the hours sitting in front of a keyboard typing, they want the accolades at the end not the work in the middle.

While I didn’t like Scott Scheper’s book Antinet Zettelkasten, this is one point I agree with him on. Digital tools make it far too easy to capture shit you never should have bothered with in the first place. I’m coming around to the idea that I need to zero out my read-later queue every week. Put links in a project, or delete them if I’m not going to read them. None of these zombie articles that sit around forever but never get read.

I often want to be the type of person that reads everything, but I’m never going to be that person.

  1. Never Enough Pg 6 ↩︎
  2. Never Enough Pg 40, 41 ↩︎
  3. I Didn’t Do The Thing Today Pg 3 ↩︎

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