How Some People Do More, Better, Faster

Mika Yeap

Two weeks ago, I embarked on an audacious journey. It was time to build the next big release of my trading bot. Complicated code. Uncertain scope—meaning it’s difficult to determine the size and cost of each problem beforehand. And last but not least, lots of new learning to do.

Initially, I thought it’d take a while. I’ve never done programming for someone else, so I didn’t know how long it should take. But I had a rough idea. Big projects like these are usually measured in months.

So when I wrapped things up one week after I started, I was pleasantly surprised. That’s right: In seven days, I got this done. Looking back, I think it should’ve taken at least a fortnight. But somehow, I slashed that down to a week. And what you’re here to find out is, how.

First of all, let’s dispel a myth: I’m not much smarter than the average person. Intellect isn’t responsible for my speed. What creates speed, in my opinion, is persistence. I’m more of an athlete than a visionary. Michael Jordan, not Steve Jobs. Mike Tyson, not Elon Musk. Determination, not skill, is my strong suit. Am I more skilled than average in some areas? Sure, but only marginally. I just show up 3x more often than everyone else. And that’s how I win.

That week when I started this project? That was my first ever 100-hour work week. I thought, “Why not try that 100-hour thing? I keep hearing about it.” So I did. That’s 14.2 hours of work, every single day for a week. Believe me, it hurt. For the first four days, I felt like a prisoner of war by 8.30PM. Soul crushed. Mind ravaged. Spirit suffocated. But you know what? I got used to it, eventually. And once I did, it worked.

But what’s the secret to this persistence? How do you summon such determination? Where do you find such a strong drive? The answer is so simple you won’t even believe me: Mission. You need to have an overarching reason for every action and decision you make. Some people call this “purpose”. Mission isn’t just a goal. Goals change and fade with time. You can drop a goal. But you can’t drop a mission. Your mission should be the only reason you exist. That’s the kind of commitment you need.

Ask yourself, “Why am I here? What am I here to do? What makes me worth the space and resources required to keep me alive?” The answer to those questions will determine your mission. And your mission allows you to be relentless.

For instance, my mission is to solve the biggest problems in the world, specifically in the field of artificial intelligence, nutrition, clean water, and sustainable energy, among others. While doing that, I want to devote myself to my family. Because there’s something poetic about juggling so many plates yet taking a few hours off every Sunday to bake cookies with my daughters. This is my mission. I work on it every single day. And I’ll never abandon it. This is why I’m so driven.

You need something like that. You need a mission. Don’t just come up with an abstract concept, like “curiosity” or “growth”. Those are dumb missions because they don’t exist. They’re too broad. They aren’t solid targets you can aim for. Pick something as narrow as possible. Something specific. Something you truly believe in and want to change. Something you’ll do anything to accomplish. Once you have that, you’ll do more, better, faster.

~ February 24, 2021