Two people inside my head, productivity and quality of life

There seem to be two dudes living in my head. They are vigorously fighting over the control of my mind.

The first dude - let’s call him Upi - is an eternal optimist. He is very supportive of me. When I have an idea, he always thinks it’s great and I should do it.

Upi: What an awesome idea! Did you come up with that on your own? You must be pretty smart. People will love it and it might actually help someone.

me: Are you sure? It would take a lot of work to make it happen.

Upi: Yeah, I really like it. And what do you have to lose? Even if it fails, at least you will learn something. And you will have fun working on it.

This is where the dude number 2 chimes in. We will call him Dovi.

Dovi: Fun working on it? Don’t you remember the last time? You worked on your little idea for 4 months and when you finally finished, that guy on Twitter said it was stupid. And then posted 5 more tweets explaining why it was stupid.

Yep, Dovi is a downer. He especially doesn’t like it when I try to create something. He believes it’s a waste of time and the only activities I should do are eat, sleep, and watch videos of the guy farting loudly in public places.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to diminish the farting guy’s efforts. He’s brought joy to many lives. It’s just that I don’t want to spend my life watching other people fart. I want to be the farting guy. You know, metaphorically.

The dudes in my head each use different sources of energy to fuel their lives.

Upi lives off of my success. Every time I achieve something, he gets stronger, so he is really motivated to help me succeed. And indeed, that dude puts in a lot of effort to help me. He is like a great buddy for a breakaway in a cycling race. When I attack, he joins in and takes turns on the front - every cyclist who has ever raced knows how much pain that alleviates.

Dovi lives off of my failures. He is like a weight around my neck. When I try to move forward, he suffocates me while whispering insults into my ear.

Dovi: Why should anyone care about anything you do, you schmuck? Let me remind you how you created that “family album” app and not even your mom used it.

Those dudes must hate each other. They know there can be only one controlling my mind at the time. When one of them gets hold of my thoughts, the other one is suffocating.

Surprisingly, they have really short memories. Most of the time they only remember the previous day. If it was a successful day, Upi rules like Holy Roman Emperor.

Upi: That was a great day yesterday. And we can do it again. let’s continue winning!

Dovi: Uh, but…

Upi: Quiet! Don’t you dare disturb us when we work to improve the realm!

Sometimes the reign of Upi can span over weeks. But his dominance is more fragile than it seems. It only takes one of those terrible days when I discover that I’ve been exploring a path that leads nowhere and I can throw weeks of work away - and the king is dethroned and a new one takes over.

It is staggering how much my productivity and quality of life depend on which of them is ruling at the moment.

When Upi is the king, my life feels like smooth sailing. I can work all day and I love it. I feel motivated, focused, inspired, ideas are popping into my head one after the other, problems seem easy and I enjoy solving them.

When Dovi takes the reign, my life turns into a slog through a deep swamp. I am trying to force myself to work but it feels pointless. The mental resistance to working is so strong it’s like trying to walk through a wall.

Sometimes I make myself work but I can’t focus. The code doesn’t make sense. One error after another and by the evening I feel exhausted and yet I’ve achieved nothing.

And sometimes I give in to the temptation. I take a break to watch one video of the farting guy. One! Or maybe two. Suddenly it’s 4 hours later and I am watching “Instant Regret #148”. I am not even enjoying it, I just cannot stop and get back to work.

Obviously, I want Upi to rule for as long as possible. Just like Wenceslas, he is a good king. I can’t always control how successful I am, but there are some tricks I can use to help Upi win over Dovi.

First of all, I need to sleep well. I am like a baby - if I get a good night’s sleep, I am in a wonderful mood and everything feels like a game. On the other hand, when I wake up tired, Dovi gets a huge boost.

Sometimes I suffer from insomnia. Dovi uses those moments in the darkness to the fullest.

Dovi: Do you hear that?

me: What? I can’t hear anything.

Dovi: That is the sound of emptiness and time mercilessly flying towards death.

Sometimes the strengths of Upi and Dovi are in equilibrium. These are the crucial moments when my own actions can decide the fate of the realm. I just have to conjure the faith in Upi, even though the temptation to bend to the iron will of Dovi is overwhelming.

Dovi: The pleasure of funny videos is just one click away. You can have it right now. You don’t have to work weeks or months for something that might never come.

Upi: This kind of “pleasure” is not that pleasurable. You will feel like shit in the evening. The pleasure of pride after a hard day’s work is real.

Dovi: It is unhealthy to work all the time. You need to recover. Work-life balance!

Upi: You just had a few days off. That trip to the mountains, don’t you remember? You returned yesterday! That dude is trying to trick you into something you’ll regret.

Sometimes Upi wins, sometimes he loses. But even then, there’s still hope. A win can come seemingly out of nowhere.

Like when I am working all day and I have nothing to show for it and I am so frustrated and tired that it doesn’t make sense to continue. I give up. I will go for a bike ride. Not what I planned but still better than watching fart videos.

On the bike, my legs feel heavy at first. But it’s a nice sunny evening. Slowly, a sense of lightness seeps into my soul. I get to a steep hill and suddenly feel tempted to push harder. Endorphins do their magic. When I get back home, the tiredness is gone. I feel energized and I work until midnight. The day was saved. I go to bed happy.

Upi loves movies where people work hard. When I was in elementary school, he made me watch The 36th Chamber of Shaolin at least twenty times - there was something inspiring about the way that guy worked so hard to achieve mastery in the art of killing a man with a headbutt (if you happen to be 12-year-old boy, you need to see this).

Dovi thrives during soul-crushingly long and dark Czech winters. Sometimes weeks go by without seeing the sun. Twilights at 4 pm and freezing winds. That’s when Dovi gets so strong that he gains the ability to just make terror out of nothing.

Dovi: Something terrible is going to happen.

me: Like what?

Dovi: I can’t tell you that exactly but it will be horrifying. Kind of like the ending of The Blair Witch Project.

These are the moments when Upi needs to be reminded that the sun still exists and warm summer days will probably return at some point in the future. If there is no money or time for a vacation in Mallorca, at least writing about summer adventures helps.

I believe productivity is mostly about mood management (at least for me). The problem is that even after living with those two dudes for years, I still don’t know exactly what makes them tick. Often they surprise me.

Sometimes Dovi keeps winning seemingly for no reason. Did I overdo interval training? Is my body fighting off some virus? Is some unresolved relationship issue weighing me down without me realizing it? I don’t know.

There are things that help. Like giving Upi at least a little win every day - I don’t want him to starve to death. And no guilt tripping when I fail - that only feeds Dovi. And no news about crimes, car crashes or celebrities, and YouTube funny compilations.

But there are YouTube videos that give me a boost, and I don’t mean ‘inspirational’ videos; it’s the analytical ones that cheer me up, perhaps because they remind me the world is analyzable and understandable. And when somebody ‘fails’ but turns it into a story with a bit of self-deprecating humor… like this one that I watched probably 100 times - I love it and I appreciate people who can do something like this.

Some things that help other people do not work for me. I’ve tried gratitude practice and meditation and I did not notice any effect. I am probably doing it wrong.

The hardest moments are when I’m not sure whether it is Dovi talking or whether it is the voice of reason.

Dovi: Was it a good idea to quit your job? Your work was so easy, there was no stress. Now you don’t know what’s coming. Not everyone’s cut out to build their own business. Are you sure it’s not just blind ambition that’s driving you?

I used to wonder if Dovi was doing something useful, like warning me of danger. But the longer I watch him, the less I believe it. He is not constructive. He isn’t the one making sure I watch out for cars when I go for a bike ride - my friend Pure Fear does that. Dovi makes me clean up the mess in my apartment before I go for a bike ride so the survivors don’t have to clean it up when I get hit by a truck.

The best times of my life were when I blindly relied on the optimism of Upi and didn’t listen to Dovi. Like the time I decided to spend the summer working in the US. For the first time in my life, I went somewhere alone - and straight across the ocean for 4 months. It was too big a bite, but Upi said it would be fine. Before Dovi knew it, I had filled out the binding documents.

Dovi came up with a bunch of catastrophic scenarios about all that could go wrong and gave me an anxiety attack at the airport. But there was no turning back. So I threw up in the airport bathroom 5 minutes before boarding the plane and went to the US.

And it was the best summer of my life. And it was hard - Dovi got some of those scenarios right. What he got wrong was that none of them was catastrophic. They were all solvable. And I learned a lot. I met new friends and I made some awesome memories that I still cherish after more than 2 decades.

So, this is my New Year’s resolution: to have faith in Upi, do what he says, and hope for the best.

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