In the movie 12 O'Clock High Gregory Peck takes over an underperforming bomber group during WWII to get them up to snuff. It not only entails the standard horrors the 8th Air Force endured during WWII, but focuses on what they call "Maximum Effort" as all war is economics and one can only win by putting forth the maximum effort. But what is "maximum effort?" How much can an already embattled bomber group take? And not so much in terms of physical causalities and injuries, but psychological limits as well.
Well they find out.
The bomber group is whipped up into shaped. They have improved success. With better tactics their casualties go down. There's even the dividend of improved morale, increasing the "maximum effort" the group can put forth. But General Savage (Gregory Peck) himself finds out what the limits are as he succumbs to his own limitations. On the eve of the final bombing run he finally breaks down mentally, trying to recall the bombers that have already raced down the runway, forcing his adjutants to restrain him on a jeep. Thus learning the lesson that the only way to find out what a maximum effort is, is to push your point to failure and collapse, rendering you useless thereafter.
But whereas this fictional WWII piece focuses on what is a (relatively) short period of time, "Maximum Effort" is something any young man of any worth is going to face over the course of his lifetime. And the way you're most likely going to face "Maximum Effort" is the prospect that if you hustle now, you burn your engines at 125%, 150%, even 200%, you'll be able to achieve a lot more, earlier on, making the remainder of your life all that much easier.
You can see this in many instances of younger people. War for example is essentially younger men putting in 200% "Maximum Effort" for months, tours, even years at a time all in an effort to bring about the earliest end to the war as possible. Accountants who work for the Big Four in public accounting regularly put in 80-100 hour work weeks, not only to get experience, but to also put "Big Four" on their resumes. Junior analysts at investment banks sacrifice their 20 something selves as well for Wall Street, jockeying to inevitably become an investment banker. And med school is the epitomal example of "Maximum Effort." Even simply attending college while also working to support yourself can be considered "Maximum Effort" as you are simply working two fulltime jobs at the same time.
But, like General Savage found out, there is one problem with "maximum effort." You cannot push the throttles all the way forward...and then some... for too long a time. Because if you do, you will crack. And that's precisely what will happen to you young men if you run at "maximum effort" for too long.
The problem with being young is that you get old. And not only do you get old, you'll get older faster if you're constantly at "maximum effort." This will accelerate the time at which you will "crack," "break down," or in some extreme cases, suffer a heart attack and drop dead. The Ole Captain is unfortunately finding this out as his body is starting to poop out after decades-long "maximum effort," but he's seen buddies his age under extreme stress suffer heart attacks and strokes when their hair just began turning grey. And for whatever long term benefits there might be to running your engines at 150%, you won't get to enjoy them if you're disabled, crippled, or dead.
This puts young men in a paradox, especially if they want to be successful in life, and even DOUBLY so if you come from a disadvantaged background. If you're poor, from a broken home, have no support, and can really only rely on yourself, "total maximum effort" is your only way out of that hole. Even if you're not disadvantaged, but merely want to be successful in life, out-hustling others is again your path to said success. And who said anything about putting for the "maximum effort" for only a fixed amount of time in your life? Can't you in theory continue putting forth the maximum effort over the course of your entire career and become very wealthy in the process? And all of this is true. If you put forth your total maximum effort, it's very, very likely you will succeed in life. If you ALWAYS put forth your maximum effort you will certainly outperform your peers, even become rich. But only for a time. Because the time is coming where your mind (but more likely your body) will no longer be able to sustain the engines being ran at 200% and you will crack.
Therefore, it's important to have some rules to make sure you don't work so hard only to blow your engines out and suffer a stroke, cancer, a heart attack, or a simple mental break down. This is not "work-life-balance" because only inferior people use such a thing, but to know when to "retire" from total maximum effort and simply put forth a normal effort that you can sustain for a longer life expectancy.
First, realize maximum effort is a young man's game. I would also say maximum effort is mandatory for any 20 something who wants to get ahead in this world. Go to college, work in the oil fields, join the military, run a side hustle, whatever it is you have to do, do it while you have the energy and you're young. I would even go so far as to say that you can continue to hustle into your mid 30's to further capitalize on the trajectory and infrastructure you laid down in your 20's. But once you're in your mid 30's, you need to start scaling it back. Not only to preempt any medical issues you might have, but you need to have some fun in life while you physically still can. And your 30's are that time where you *should* have the money and the youth to enjoy it.
Second, "working hard and playing hard."
One of the douchiest quotes business majors will say is "we work hard, but we play hard." That's great, Skippy. Good for you. But "playing hard" is still taxing your body and mind, and I should know. The Ole Captain's "vacations" include motorcycling to Alaska, hiking mountains, weekend binges, month's long motorcycle trips, leaving home for months at a time, all to make up for lost time I was putting forth "maximum effort" in my youth. These epic adventures and vacations are perfectly fine, and I would even say mandatory for a real life. But people who put forth "maximum effort" tend to do it in all aspects of their lives, NEVER giving their bodies or minds the time they need to rest. I just recently came back from a 5 day TRUE vacation where I did nothing but sleep, eat, and sleep some more with the Masculine Geeks at an Atlantic beach house. The last time I had a vacation like that was 7 years ago at a wedding in Jamaica where there was no cell phone reception or internet. The body needs to sit and rest for at least a week a year. And by "rest" I mean "do absolutely nothing."
Third, screen your health.
You may think you're young, and you might actually be young, but if your family or genetics has a predisposition to a particular illness you'll merely accelerate its metastasization if you overextend your maximum effort. The technology exists today that you have have genetic screenings, but have a chat with your parents as well as a doctor to find out what diseases or disorders might flow through your veins. And then do what you can health wise to prevent it, INCLUDING REGULAR CHECK UPS (which is how Cappy found out he has high cholesterol).
Fourth, cut the bad people out of your life.
I could go on about this one, but dating that bi-polar girl for 18 months did nothing to extend my life. Working for genuinely mentally ill and abusive bosses also did nothing to extend my life. I said it on the latest podcast and I'll say it again, "go on welfare if you have to. Sadistic bosses are not worth it."
Kick any non-supporting, toxic asshole out of your life whether it's your girlfriend, your wife, your spouse, your boss, even your family. Life is already set on difficult mode for people who wish to do more than vote democrat and collect a government check. You needn't be further burdened by the many mental-and-financial parasites you a GUARANTEED to run into in life.
Fifth, eliminate/lessen your commute.
I'd like to say "work from home" but that comes with it's own disadvantages, but there is no reason for you to be mentally tortured and stressed 90 minutes a day sitting in traffic, dealing with the weapon's grade dipshits that now clog American roads. Be they soccer moms, teenagers on their phones, immigrants who don't know what 55 MPH means, or dude bros racing their leased vehicle, commutes are the slow-moving cesspool of idiots who are only going to slow down your maximum effort, thus causing you incredible amounts of anger, rage, and stress. For every minute you cut from your commute, you add a minute to your life.
Sixth, know when to quit.
I can give you age estimates at when you should scale it back and revert to a normal life. I can say at "33 you should be normal" and "at 43 you should be looking at part time work." But the problem is everybody is different, as well as the track and speed of each individual's career. But the objective way to know when you should turn off the afterburners is when you can't.
What I mean by this is if you take some actual time off, to actually sit down and do nothing, is all you think about work? Is work and what needs to be done constantly at the back of your mind when you're supposed to be hiking Zion, laying on a beach, or simply chilling out and watching the game? This is the tell tale sign that you've been running at maximum effort too long because it's like winning WWII but still wanting to get up into the B17 and go on a bombing run. It's become such an engrained and integral part of your psychology, you don't know anything else to do. Worse, you've likely lost your taste for fun, relaxation, and simply enjoying life. Matter of fact, you likely CAN'T enjoy life because you've forgotten what it was like. It's going to take you a significant amount of time, even years, to unplug and relearn what it's like to be normal, and even then you will never fully revert back to your youthful ability to enjoy leisure time. The "maximum effort" will always haunt you.
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