Xavier Jared

TwoShay

Two brothers on personal development, philosophy, and being awesome

Scaffolding

Xavier,

Reflecting on my recent change of career, it occurred to me life is a never ending building. It is constantly being built upon or repaired, and even the most well made structure turns to dust without maintenance. We tend to see people—especially successful people—as completed buildings, without seeing the scaffolding that helped construct them.

We often get caught up in the flow of life and accumulate more and more habits that demand a share of our attention. We place a keystone and just try to keep on building, without cleaning up the scaffolding that is no longer required. Now we are no longer maintaining the building, but the scaffolding as well! All the energy we could be channeling into building another floor is wasted keeping redundant scaffolding standing.

I don't know how this stuff stays up
Kudos to Christopher for the photo

Recognizing Your Scaffolding

There are two types of scaffolding: active and passive. Active scaffolding is the easiest to recognize, since it’s simply an activity you deliberately adopt to support a goal. You want to buy a car, so you take an extra job on the side. It’s hectic, but after the car is purchased you quit (take down the scaffolding) and return to how you were before (plus a car).

Passive scaffolding is an activity that was once useful or enjoyable (not scaffolding), but has transmuted and become a chore. This type of scaffolding is easy to miss because the change can happen very slowly, sometimes over years, and can sap a lot of your energy that could be used to further your primary pursuits.

This happened to me with my dancing. At one point I was taking lessons up to four times a week, attending full weekend workshops at every opportunity, and social dancing to fill in the gaps. I had a ferocious appetite, and it paid off—I improved very quickly. When I first started my goal was to be able to dance with anyone to any song. Long after I achieved this and the thrill of learning started to wane I was still attending classes and workshops because that’s what I was stuck in the habit of doing. The lessons had become passive scaffolding, and once I realised this I was able to stop taking them. I was able to focus on what I really enjoyed about dancing—live music and hanging out with cool people—and free up a large portion of my time and attention for other activities. I didn’t need the scaffolding anymore.

Every Building Is Different

What is and isn’t scaffolding is different depending on your situation and personality. For some people, their job isn’t scaffolding. It’s what they live for. They wake up excited to go to work, and they’d probably do it for free. For them, quitting their job would be like knocking out the bottom floor. In my position, I started out trying to make my job part of the building, but over time it became a means to an end.

Scaffolding isn’t a bad thing, it only becomes a problem when kept around past its use by date. Clean up as you go, and spend your energy for the future, not the past.

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