I read a book a long time ago called 212°: The Extra Degree. You might have read it, especially if you work in a cubicle, since the book seems to be the number one “gifted” item in corporate America. The number two gifted item in corporate America? Set of steak knives. Third place is you’re fired.
I’ll sum it up for you:
At 211°, water is hot. But at 212°, water boils and creates steam. Steam is capable of powering machinery. One extra degree, according to the book, exponentially increases the potential productivity of otherwise merely hot water. The analogy is pretty simple: if you just put in that tiny bit of extra work, you’ll be able to become a locomotive and pull 100x your weight.
Now, there are a few problems with this analogy that probably don’t really warrant examination, but I’m going to do it anyway. Otherwise this post would be like 100 words, and that would harm my rigged Google results. Now, onto the poorly-SEO-optimized filler!
Water doesn’t just show up to the ol’ cube farm at 211°. It shows up at room temperature, and then externalities expend energy to elevate water’s temperature. Unless your room is already 211°, in which case, you might be a demon. Assuming you’re not a demon and your room is not 211°, the water will return to normal room temperature rapidly if the heat source is removed. Water is a shitty, unmotivated employee in that regard.
Also, water at 211° is really freaking hot. It’ll burn the snot out of you, and it’ll evaporate until there’s nothing left. And if you crank it to 212°, it’ll evaporate much faster. You can’t blame water for burning out…it just heard you call it a shitty employee one paragraph ago.
Another important factor: it takes much more energy to move water past 212° and onward to steam than it does to bring water to 212°. Five times as much, actually (970 BTU’s vs. 180 BTU’s, to be precise…and please know that I just pushed my glasses up on my nose, and that I did so extra nerdily). It’s true, it’s “just one degree more,” but that degree is not a measurement of the energy expended to get it there.
There aren’t a lot of instances in life where, to be mathy, X=X but X+1=∞. For those of you who don’t understand that, it means the status quo is just the status quo, but the status quo plus one is infinite. Of course, if you are mathy, you know that solving that set of equations looks promising, but it shows that X has to be ∞, too. So if you don’t show up already amazing, no amount of extra work is going to help you become amazing.
And one more thing: being a locomotive is cool and all (source: Thomas The Tank Engine), but (a) who the hell wants to pull everyone else’s weight, and (b) who the hell wants to be limited to forward motion by rails, which were put there to dictate your direction and destination?
You know who wants you to pull everyone’s weight and go only toward a predestined destination? I’ll give you a hint: he drives a brand new Mercedes, takes six weeks of vacation every year, and flies first class, but he is adamant that giving you a $1/hour raise would sentence us all to a gray, cold existence where we spend our fleeting days standing in line for bread and toilet paper, averting our sad eyes when Der Kommissar’s in town (whoa-oh-oh).
And he tells you that while drinking from a bottle of champagne that costs more than annual tuition to the best colleges.
Okay, I lied, there’s one more thing: I’ve now written more words than appear in the entire book about which I’m bitching, yet I’ve seen ZERO royalties. ZERO. My extra one degree of work has not resulted in any steam-powered machinery hoisting any cash into my wallet. I hereby declare this book’s lesson steaming horseshit.
Alright, that’s not fair. It’s not “steaming horseshit.” It’s just limited in its applicability.
There is something to be said for putting in the extra work to get more out of life. As NFL legend and the only respectable person to ever play for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach once said, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” It’s true. It’s easy to stand out in a crowd when you outwork your peers. It’s even easier when your peers are an assortment of degenerates with blue stars on their helmets. #gotexans #goniners
To be fair, it certainly helps if you apply that extra work while being gifted at your chosen profession. But just about anyone—Hall of Fame quarterback or not—can benefit from throwing an extra hour or two in the pursuit of getting better results.
For me, the whole concept of “working harder” loses some of its appeal when I apply it to the pursuit of making money. That is partly because I’m a lazy sack of shit. But beyond that, it’s because the real benefit comes when you apply it to more important endeavors.
I’m guessing all of you could think of some aspect of your lives that would benefit greatly from an extra bit of effort.
Maybe it’s your physical fitness.
Maybe it’s your relationship.
Maybe it’s the life-size papier-mâché Donald Trump effigy you’ve started but can’t bring yourself to finish so you can burn it while livestreaming the fiesta on Facebook. Or maybe that’s just me.
Here’s the reality: it’s hard to expect great results when you put in average effort. That’s true of professional success, as the 212° folks will attest.
But it’s even truer in arenas where the playing field is more even.
I am pretty happy, in general. Still, I’m not satisfied with a few things in my life. As I take an inventory of my own efforts, I can see that I’m putting in average effort (at best) in those arenas. I could make excuses, but those aren’t likely to help the matter. I’m humble enough to admit when I can do better.
I doubt that my extra effort in love, health, or effigy-crafting is going to result in exponential gainz.
I just know that my current level of effort isn’t producing the results I want, so I’m going to do what I do best: self-reflect, bastardize someone else’s work, and use it for my own purposes.
I’ll keep you posted.
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