You WISH You Were A Honda Motor

It’s become a major ambition in the personal dev world to relentlessly optimize every aspect of your life. It’s not enough to optimize your business, your finances, your exercise regime, but you should also optimize your meals, your recreation, and your sleep.

Man is not a Honda Engine

I know it goes against the entire culture of success, but a person is not really at their best when they’re operating at peak capacity. It’s just unsustainable.

But we tend to think for maximum effectiveness, we need to fully exploit every moment of our day. That’s complete bullshit. (I should do a list post on all the things that are bullshit. What do you think?)

You’re Not Even THAT Efficient

Since we like to compare ourselves to machines, let’s take one we’re all familiar with: a car motor. On your dashboard it shows you the RPM gauge. On the one side, usually about five thousand RPM and up, you’ve got a red band. You know, of course, that if you run the motor up there, it’s not going to last very long.

But based on the logic by which we run our bodies, you’d think the motor would run about 4,000 rpm. You know, not redlining it, but pushing it about as far as you can without causing permanent damage.

But that’s not how an engine works. In fact, if you pay attention, it rarely hits four thousand, and when it does, it’s only for a short burst before it chooses a better gear and it’s back down at the sensible, efficient 2,500 rpm. Even at 70mph.

Over-optimizing Leads to Burn-Out

I’ve lived the optimized life. I was a paragon of efficiency; no wasted motion, no excess energy spent. I ate, slept, and breathed efficiency. It’s no way to live. And even worse, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. You work so damn hard that you need a break, so you work even harder to get ahead – but when you work even harder, you start redlining– and you know what happens next.

It’s a hell of a struggle to build white space into your life and I can’t give you any specific guidance how.

All I can tell you is, you’re not a Honda motor.

And even Honda motors don’t work as hard as you do.


Your Turn

How do you over-optimize? How did you (or do you plan to) stop?


11 thoughts on “You WISH You Were A Honda Motor”

  1. I do not even am sure of what you are saying. Over-optimising has in it the prefix “over”, which is about excess. Excess is undesirable and in my opinion goes agaisnt optimization.
    That said, I learned and still learn about not over-optimizing by observing more normal(sane?) people who have impact. My over-optimization came from not attaching myself to how things make me feel. It was no good. But now I know better and love fully what I can and must love. 

    1.  @Kanchax Over-optimization is an oxymoron, I’ll admit. Generally what happens is you optimize for a certain aspect, and that actually decreases the efficiency on a bunch of other fronts, to the over-all detriment. Thus, a process can be legitimately said to be over-optimized if excessive focus on optimizing one aspect is to the detriment of the process as a whole. 
      As a simple example, since school funding is often tied to grades, schools have begun “teaching for grades”. Almost every aspect education: the methods, the material covered, etc, are optimized to make sure that if at all possible, kids score well on standardized tests. However, this is a detriment to actually understanding the material (as opposed to parroting the expected answer) to critical thinking, to creative thinking, and to physical activities. Thus, the modern school system is overoptimized. 
      Thus, the only way to have a truly efficient process is to try as far as possible to stay in a range where all aspects of the process interact efficiently *with each other*. Plus, a dynamic system is inherently flexible and able to absorb fluctuations in speed/load/stress making it far more effictive than and “optimized” system, but difficult to design. That’s where kaizen comes in. Incremental improvements are the best way to tweak a dynamic system.

      1.  @Shanna Mann I understood what you meant by over-optimizing what puzzled me was the use of that word in this circonstance. I guess that it was more meaningful for others than I but it still seems absurd to me to use that word for anything positive.
        Like that commercial with Kobe Bryant : Love it though.
        I say this because I still think that the best thing to do is to only think about what you desire and this seems out of range to betterment. It goes with what you wrote in your last post now that I think of it. Purposeful white space. 

        1.  @Kanchax I think the thing is that people equate “being productive” or “producing value” with “how many hours of work you can squeeze into a day”, and that’s a false equivalency.  The number of hours you work versus productivity is a rough bell curve, and I personally find that it peaks at about 5 hours. 
          Plus, when people make that false equivalency, they run into a hard limit: the red line. But if they were trained to think of it in terms of “working smarter, not harder” and the idea that if their revs start to go too high the should pick a better gear in order to maintain effectiveness— then I think that success, however you define it, is more sustainably achieved if you refuse to allow the pursuit of it to take over every waking hour.
          I do love that image of Richard Branson: “You own space!” “I do.”

  2. This is actually what I don’t like about the personal dev world and life coaches in general.  I do love personal development, and I am all for life coaches, but I had (as in past tense) a friend that is a life coach, and it was CONSTANTLY about what you’re talking about.. the over-optimizing, and analyzing everyone’s behavior and how it could be better.  It’s exhausting to be around someone like that.  Self-improvement is awesome, but sometimes you gotta step back from that, and be grateful for where you are and who you are right now, flaws and all, and regardless of what level of performance you’re running on.

    1.  @denisesmedley You’re awesome, ‘flaws’ and all, regardless of what level of performance you’re running on 🙂
      Hopefully I bring a fresh look at life-coaching, because I used to be one of the type you describe. Always trying to “fix” everyone.
      Until you realize everyone’s fine as they are, and you’re on earth to co-operate, collaborate and help others succeed. And you’re here to smoothly attract people who are on the same page with that, not bully everyone in your life towards it.
      I see life-coaching more like “performance art.”
      It’s beautiful to see someone inspired raving about how they love money, or calling humanity to something greater, or cheering you on, complimenting you and appreciating your skills — and there’s no pressure involved.
      I feel it’s only exhausting when a coach gives unsolicited advice.  Food for thought 🙂

    2.  @denisesmedley I’ll bet she was a newly minted life coach? New life coaches can be like new psychologists, always wanting to show off their knowledge and skills and alienating people left, right and centre. Unfortunately, people sometimes use coaching as their own therapy, and that’s quite disturbing. 
      Even when it’s well-meaning, it’s hard to keep your boundaries in place, and I’m happy to hear you didn’t let her make you her ‘project’. 🙂
      I honestly don’t understand how people think there’s a paradox between thinking you’re wonderful and still wanting to be better. 

      1.  @Shanna Mann  
        Ummm: “Guilty as noted!”(shuffles feet, and hangs head – but only briefly) –
        When I get newly-enthusiastic about an AHah!, I tend to want *everybody* to recognize how it can make a difference in their life, too!

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