3 Time Traps of the Ambitious Mind: Passion, Perfectionism & Productivity


Productivity is not effectiveness. Activity is not accomplishment. Performing lots of tasks very efficiently may be productive, but if those tasks are meaningless to your vision, it’s not an effective use of time. There’s a big difference between doing things right and doing the right things. The Productivity Trap is doing many things very well that are ultimately meaningless.

Solution: Try a low-information diet. Reduce the amount of information your consuming by restricting all types of media except that which is essential. Yes, reading too, especially reading. If it’s not important or urgent, let it slide. Your time should be reserved for your most important goals.


Perfectionism is typically based on fear – fear of negative feedback from doing something wrong or subpar. We try to “perfect” a given task in an effort to outsmart the system and avoid the unwanted criticism. But everything comes at a cost. Time and production are obvious costs of the Perfectionism Trap but so is proficiency due to the lack of consistent feedback.

Solution: Focus on getting started as soon as possible with any project or task that might be sidetracked by perfectionism. Focus on producing ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’ to break the cycle and learn to embrace all types of feedback. It is the breakfast of champions.


Perfectionism is not the only unlikely foe of proficiency; there is also the Passion Trap. In one way or another, we’re all searching for meaningful work – work that doesn’t feel like work. We’re in search for our “passion”, and there’s an entire industry catering to this pursuit. The interesting thing is that those who are actually doing the meaningful work are quite different than those searching for meaningful work.

The doers are reaping the rewards of years spent mastering their craft while the searchers would like to fast-forward through this time and get straight to the “passion”. But trying to identify a specific, unique type of passion tailored for an individual out of an infinite number of possible types of meaningful work can be a paralyzing exercise. It can be like trying to find a specific grain of sand on an endless shore.

Solution: Finding work that is fulfilling is related to the basic human need for significance, which unfortunately, isn’t typically found embedded in some ebook about finding one’s passion; although, significance can be developed gradually over time through proficiency in one’s work. Unfortunately, the proficiency will most likely come before the passion. So find something, anything, and learn to do it really, really well. And after a time, with a little hard work and dedication, you just might find what you’re looking for.

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