The Most Uncomfortable Chair in the Room: Productivity Hack from the Iron Throne
You often see pictures of entrepreneurs working leisurely. Or, at least, working in a position that gives the appearance of leisure.
You know the pose: seated on a couch, legs outstretched and perched upon the table, laptop sitting on their lap as they type and work and create, smiling the smug smiles of those who think they’ve got it figured out.
I am not one of those entrepreneurs.
Apart from being painfully aware that I have almost nothing truly figured out, I detest the idea of working comfortably. I cannot imagine how comfort could allow for productivity.
The myth of the laptop lifestyle does not appeal to me. Nor does working in comfort.
Comfort is for successful people, it’s the reward for accomplishing things you set out to do.
I like comfort, and I appreciate. Whenever I am relaxing, I prefer to do it comfortably. Only when relaxing.
When I work, I am not relaxing. And I do not seek comfort. Because when I first sit down to work, I have achieved precisely nothing that day. Not one word written, not one task accomplished. The score is at zero.
If the task is to write, the measure of success is not effort, but productivity. My job is not writing, but having written.
By that metric, I will have only succeeded once I finish. Until the work is done, I have not been successful.
And because I have not yet been successful, I have not earned comfort.
When I write, I tend to stand. Postural and health benefits aside, it’s simply more productive.
When I do sit, I choose the most uncomfortable chair in the room.
I do not lounge while working. I do not cross my legs. I do not recline on a beach.
My work requires productivity. Productivity requires purpose. And so I sit with purpose: back straight, shoulders pinched, head forward.
If you’re looking for a poetic analog, look no further than Game of Thrones.
I do not sit a chair as I would a chaise; I sit a chair as I would Iron Throne in question.
Forged by the breath of Balerion the Black Dread from the swords of those Aegon the Conqueror defeated in battle, the much-contested seat of Westerosi power and authority was not designed with comfort in mind.
The Iron Throne is not just hard and unyeilding––it’s dangerous. The still-sharp edges of the thousand swords of Aegon’s foes can cut the unwary.
There is a moral lesson Aegon intended for his heirs: no ruler should ever sit the throne carelessly, just as they must not rule carelessly.
Here’s how this relates: firstly and most obviously, when I work, I am hungry and eager. I try to manifest the mindset of a hungry conqueror, not a well-fed king.
But, more deeply, there’s something I take very seriously: responsibility.
I’m not over here ruling the Seven Kingdoms, but I have carved out my own little empire. The knowledge that my writing touches, inspires, and influences thousands of people is something for which I am grateful beyond measure, and I do not take it lightly; I have a responsibility to my readers to create the best content I can. And to always strive for improvement. To make good art.
So too is there a responsibility to myself: to keep pushing and growing, to make the business better, my writing better, leave a greater legacy.
Pain is the universal teacher, and it’s taught me there’s no faster way to stagnation than to get comfortable. Comfort is the brother of complacency. And complacency is the enemy of productivity.
In any industry, no matter how successful you are, you’re never, ever, ever, ever safe. There’s always going to be someone nipping at your heels–those who want what you have. They might be younger or smarter or faster. But those things don’t matter. What matters is they’re hungrier.
You can be at the top of your game, and the proverbial mountain, but if you simply stop at the summit instead of getting to the next mountain, that’s it. Game over.
To go back to GoT: it’s clear anyone who gets too cozy on the Iron Throne is in trouble.
In a similar vein, another great fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, features an item called the Crown of Swords: a metal crown forged in the likeness of laurel leaves twining around a number of swords.
These blades are small but sharp; lest you be cut, wearing the crown requires both constant awareness and the willingness to accept discomfort.
The message is clear, in either case: one should never get too comfortable with power.
The same is true for success.
Don’t get too comfortable. Ever.
Those entrepreneurs who talk about how cushy their lives are, and show you pictures of them working from a beach? Good for them. I hope it works for them–but they’d better keep an eye over their shoulder.
Nothing truly great was ever created without a little pain.
So: I prefer to avoid comfort when I work. Because it’s work.
This chair I’m sitting in fucking sucks. But goddamn, do I love it.