How to destroy joy. And why we love to do it.

When was the last time you did something just, because?

No rhyme. No reason. No objective or goal.

You did it because it just made you happy.

You want to read more as you enjoy it.

You want to work out as you love that feeling of earned muscle pain the next day. The endorphins and other joyful stuff skating around your brain like a packed roller disco in the 70’s.

You enjoy the space a quick meditation gives you.

You start a company for the joy of scratching your own itch. Or for building something where once there was nothing.

But then something weird happens.

A stirring begins. Deep inside your stomach. This angst.

“Why am I doing this?”.

The solution?

Set goals. Plan. Make a purpose for the joy. Get better joy. Harder joy. More high quality joy.

That place of fun, excitement and curiosity turns into mission driven, goal setting, must do more fuckwittery.

You plan. You scheme.

You learn to speed read. You read about how to do better workouts in less time. How to meditate harder. How to scale faster.

You set goals. Targets. Objectives. You measure… everything.

You start to listen to podcasts on your favourite athletes, business people and authors. At 2X speed as no one has time for actually listening.

What once was fun, something you did as you enjoyed it becomes an anvil hanging around your neck.

But too late now… you’re not a quitter. Right?

The cult of busyness. Hobbies into hustles.

Sucking joy out of things like Dyson hoover on steroids isn’t uncommon. It’s a societal issue that I think is linked to:

  1. The cult of busyness
  2. The social expectation of turning hobbies into hustles

The cult of busyness

Busyness is a personal pet hate. More specifically, the hatred is reserved for the person who tells you how busy they are. How much they have going on. How stretched they are right now.

“If you’re really that busy, maybe you should get back to work rather than standing here telling me about how busy you are, Douglas” is generally what my mind says and social conditioning stops me from saying out-loud (most of the time).

Busyness is a badge of honour. And in my experience, one worn by people who generally do the least amount of productive work.

But attainment of this busy badge requires no dead time. It’s even sparked the counter movement of the Joy of No. In part JONO is designed to combat the accepted idea that any dead time can be defined as "any time spent where there isn’t a larger goal or purpose than the work or activity in and of itself".

Hobbies into hustles

Creativity now demands cash. The person making dresses on the side for their own pleasure quizzed as to when they’re setting up on Etsy.

The irony here of course is that the more pressure that’s applied. The more things going on. The less creative space there is to actually create.

Adam J Kurtz has rewritten the famous quote of “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” for creatives. Adapting it to the truth of a lot of modern creative workers:

As someone who’s married to a creative, I see this a lot. As someone who is a creative person, I feel it a lot.

Our societal expectation is based on a market driven economy. This isn’t a piece promoting communism. It’s just shining a light that with market driven expectation, every activity is expected to have an external value. Which means that we’re programmed to turn things that started from a place of “just because” into a place of “why” and “how much”. Orange isn’t the new black. Market value is.

Sports is an obvious area where even if people don’t turn it into a money hustle, competition becomes the driver. The weeknight runner becomes the iron man. The weekend cyclist becomes the triathlete.

Progress isn’t bad

You might think that this is a tirade against progress. Against striving for more.

It’s not.

It’s a tirade against making more the objective. Against crowding out the initial joy and curiosity for externally valued metrics.

You can get better at things you enjoy. You can read more about copywriting to try and improve your skills. Or start a newsletter to make time to write.

But that’s different to changing the purpose. And without conscious thought, the desire to improve can sometimes lead to structures that serve to change the initial intention.

How to keep the joy

Of the feedback I got last week, the main points were:

  • Have more pictures (solved)
  • It’s a bit long (so I’ve tried to keep it to one main piece this week, still long though)
  • What’s this for?

What’s this for? Well... it started as I wanted to do it. It started as I enjoy it.

But then it happened.

Last week I read incessantly, whenever I could.

My Pocket app is overflowing with more articles than a professional academic probably reads in a week (if they work at a less reputable institution).


What is this for? How many subscribers should I get? What’s my promotional strategy? Should I write ideal customer profiles so I can better tailor the content? Maybe make a survey? Analyse the market to see where a gap is in content?


This weeks piece is all about doing none of that.

It’s about remembering why something started.

And holding onto that not only is that good enough, it's more than enough, all on its own.

So, what's this for?


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