Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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Nothing Scales Like You Think It Will

Shit doesn’t scale like you think it will.

I first experienced this when I made 20K in my first summer in the oilpatch. If I could make that much in one summer, I could triple that if I worked a whole year!

Ah, yeah. Not so much. In the first place, taxes. In the second place, the oil patch has two peak seasons, summer and winter, and two off-seasons.

I thought it would scale geometrically, that is, in a straight line, and it doesn’t. Things almost never scale geometrically. Bastards.

How this applies to your life

Remember when you took quadratic equations in school, and you whined at the teacher, “This is bullshit. What the hell am I going to need high-level math for?” Mr. Deobald, you were right.

This is why: So you don’t default to assuming things scale in straight lines.

How about time? How often have you fallen into the trap of figuring that if you got x work done in a 4 hour time period, you’ll get identical productivity in subsequent 4-hour blocks. Sounds good, right?

And yet if you actually tried to put it into practice you would quickly discover that even on your best day, your second 4 hour block would be worth 70% of your first, and your third would be worth less than half.


To make matters worse, over a period of weeks, months, or years, productivity will degrade even further (you know, in case you were going to argue, “Well, if it takes me twelve hours to reach my daily goals, so be it.” First it will take you 12 hours, then 15, then 18. And then it really craters.)

Nope, you’re not going to scale productivity by simply multiplying time.

You know what else doesn’t scale? Happiness.

You don’t scale happiness geometrically by multiplying money, or possessions, either by size or frequency. Actually, the happier you think you will be when you get such and such a thing, like, say, a Mini-Cooper, the less likely it is to make you happy, because you’re still focussed on the things you still don’t have, and will now put your efforts towards working for.

In the second place, your baseline happiness adjusts quickly, the way one adjusts to caffeine after a few days. Earlier this spring I started frequenting the plethora of local coffeeshops, simply because I love all the varying personalities of them. But I quickly found a few favorites, and my visits there, along with the treat of their coffee, became routine. And routine is not joyful, unless you make it that way.

The scalable factor of happiness is mindfulness.

Your Turn

What have you discovered doesn’t scale? Or, how have you figured out how to scale the things you want more of?