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Strugglers and Smugglers

This might be the most nonsense article I've ever written.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

The way I see it, there are Strugglers and Smugglers.

I’m not good at a great many things.

I’m terrible at saving money. I’m also terrible at going to the gym regularly, sticking to strict diets, waking up early, writing on the same project every day, compiling time reports. The list goes on and on.

So what, you ask. Lots of people would say the same thing.

Am I just another entitled asshole for not wanting to do the things that I find to be boring?

Or worse—am I just a slacker who lives under the illusion that I’m somehow too special for monotonous work?

During one of my procrastination sessions, I came up with this theory: there are Strugglers and there are Smugglers.

Let me explain:

Table of Contents

    Going Down the Rabbit Hole

    In my mind, a successful person is thriving mainly due to their habits. They have an almost heroic amount of self-discipline, they have their eyes firmly fixed at their targets, and they go after them fiercely yet patiently. One inch at a time.

    “Successful people got their shit together.”

    Well, for 40 years now, I haven’t had my shit together at all.
    Does this make me, like, unsuccessful?

    At 40 years old, I’ve adopted a new way of looking at success.

    Here’s the rabbit hole I decided to go down:

    I’m not actually “unsuccessful.” But I certainly don’t “have my shit together.” How does this work?

    Then, a little bit deeper down the rabbit hole:

    I struggle a lot, but for whatever reason, it’s as if the struggle with the struggle itself isn’t in my wheelhouse.

    Then, a little bit deeper down the rabbit hole:

    It all seems very much like a Pareto principle thing: If I “struggle with the struggle” for 80% of my time, it still only yields 20% of the positive results.

    Then, a little bit deeper down the rabbit hole:

    To get by, I do things to cope with everyday struggles, like writing this blog. I always feel guilty about it, simply because it feels so good.

    Then, a little bit deeper down the rabbit hole:

    However, the things I do seem to yield 80% of the positive results. So, there we go with the Pareto principle again.

    And, at the bottom of the rabbit hole:

    It seems that I should be doing less of what typically makes other people more successful and more of what makes me more successful.

    What’s this all about? Why is everything counter-clockwise down here?

    Strugglers and Smugglers

    Most successful people seem to be great Strugglers, yes. But maybe not all of them?

    Maybe some successful people are successful for other reasons rather than “having their shit together”?

    My hypothesis is this:

    There might be a subset of successful people who can’t help themselves but focus on doing things that no one is asking for right now. They sneak their stuff out in the wild to see what happens.

    Allow me to call them Smugglers:

    To smuggle is to ship a constant stream of novel content, novel ideas, and novel solutions.

    As opposed to the Strugglers:

    To struggle is to do all the things you’re supposed to do even though it’s hard.

    The Pareto Principle of Smuggling

    Since I encountered the Pareto principle down in that rabbit hole, why not go all-in?

    Out of successful people, 80% are Strugglers, and 20% are Smugglers.

    We can’t all struggle all the time, and we can’t all smuggle all the time.

    Since Strugglers will get 80% of their results from 20% of their struggles, they should find a balance of 80% struggling and 20% smuggling.

    Since Smugglers will get 80% of their results from 20% of their smuggles, they should balance 80% smuggling and 20% struggling.

    Of course, this whole line of thought could be 100% nonsense.

    But what if there’s a hint of truth to this?

    I’ve tried to shift from 80% struggle to 20% and do the opposite for smuggling.

    And, I couldn’t be happier about the results.

    The Benefits of Being a Smuggler

    By accepting myself as a Smuggler, I’ve encountered several staggering benefits:

    Since smuggling, at least for me, yields 80% of the positive results, I now get significantly more and better results.

    I get so much energy from 80% smuggling that the remaining 20% of struggling now feels like a soothing breeze on a sunny day in the park.

    I’m now less hard on myself, which makes me happier, which yields even more positive results.

    Pretty cool, right?

    This shift in mindset, however nonsensical, seems to be working well for me.

    How does it work daily?

    How to Smuggle Successfully

    Here are a few practical examples of how smuggling works for me:

    I find to-do lists suffocating, so I keep them to an absolute minimum. Instead, I use “have-done-lists” to document the things I ship during a day. The more I send because I want to, the more energy I get.

    If I feel down somehow, I take a break and create something novel. For instance, a client could suddenly get a whitepaper with a detailed solution to a problem they didn’t even know they had.

    I pair up with talented Strugglers, people who get lots of energy from absolutely crushing their to-do lists but who might get anxious about uncertainties. We can share the load while boosting each other with energy.

    I introduce novelty to otherwise typical struggle-type tasks. For instance, in the gym, I bring a notebook and challenge myself to develop ten exciting ideas during every workout.

    Could this idea apply to your life in any way?
    I honestly don’t know.

    For sure, this could very well be the most nonsensical article I’ve ever written.

    Still, I just had to ship it.

    Update: I did a personality test called the Big Five Aspects Scale. Given my outlandish theory above, the results sure was interesting.

    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.


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