The Paradox of Effort and Reward: Finding Success in Letting Go


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 29, 2023

4 min read


The Paradox of Effort and Reward: Finding Success in Letting Go


In life, we often find that the best things come to us when we least expect them. It seems counterintuitive, but sometimes, the more we struggle and strive for something, the further away it seems. This paradox can be seen in various aspects of life, from drown-proofing techniques to the complexities of productivity and personal growth. By understanding and embracing this paradox, we can learn to navigate the challenges and find success in unexpected ways.

Drown-Proofing and Letting Go:

Drown-proofing, a technique used to teach individuals how to survive in water, provides valuable lessons on the power of letting go. The first lesson is counterintuitive - the more you struggle to keep your head above water, the more likely you are to sink. By allowing yourself to sink to the bottom of the pool and using momentum to propel yourself back to the surface, you overcome the instinct to panic and find a way to stay afloat. This lesson highlights the importance of emotional self-control and the ability to let go of control when it is most needed.

The Inverted Curve of Effort and Reward:

In many aspects of life, the relationship between effort and reward is not linear. Most activities are complex, mentally and emotionally taxing, and require adaptation. The inverted curve, also known as the "Twilight Zone" curve, illustrates this phenomenon. The more effort you put into something, the more likely you are to fail at it. This concept becomes especially apparent in psychological activities, where the desire for a particular state of mind can create the opposite state of mind. Aldous Huxley's quote on the paradoxical art of doing and not doing captures the essence of this concept - proficiency and results come to those who can relax and let go.

Finding Meaning and Freedom:

In our pursuit of meaning, freedom, and happiness, we often find that the more we chase after them, the further they slip away. This paradoxical nature of our desires is deeply ingrained in our psychology. The act of consciously trying to create a state of mind creates a different and often opposite state of mind. To truly reach the surface, to find what we desire, we must let go and embrace the paradox. Instead of chasing meaning and happiness, we must teach ourselves to achieve them by giving up our attachment to them. It is in leaning into fear and uncertainty, and just when we think we're going to drown, that we find our salvation.

The Power of Annotation:

The concept of annotation can also be seen as an example of embracing the paradox of effort and reward. Rap Genius, an online community of rap aficionados, sought to create a platform where users could annotate any page on the internet with commentary and additional information. However, the implementation of this feature required a server that the company lacked the resources to build at the time. Despite this setback, the vision of annotating the internet and creating the "Internet Talmud" remains ambitious and passionate.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the paradox: Recognize that sometimes, the more we struggle and strive for something, the further away it seems. Instead of fighting against the current, learn to let go and trust the process.
  • 2. Cultivate emotional self-control: Practice letting go of control when you want it most. This skill is crucial in navigating challenging situations and finding success in unexpected ways.
  • 3. Focus on the process, not just the outcome: Instead of solely fixating on the end goal, learn to enjoy and appreciate the journey. The true rewards often come from the lessons and experiences gained along the way.


In a world that often emphasizes the need for constant effort and striving, it is essential to recognize the power of letting go. The paradox of effort and reward teaches us that sometimes, the best things in life come when we release our attachment to control and expectations. By embracing this paradox, cultivating emotional self-control, and focusing on the process rather than just the outcome, we can navigate the complexities of life and find success in unexpected ways.

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