I was talking with Levi about an article we both came across describing how extreme athletes and entrepreneurs share a brain chemistry that gets a bigger high off of overcoming risky challenges. The basic idea is that both types of people need that ever ratcheting risk or they become depressed. This is why entrepreneurs who get a big payday almost always end up launching another venture instead of retiring on an island. We discussed how plausible this seemed, and in the process hatched the hunt-to-meat ratio.
Hunting is hard and unpredictable. It requires some practice and training, you may come up empty, or your prey or another predator could turn on you and end it all. It’s physically and mentally trying, involves lots of patience punctuated by quick bursts of adrenaline-fueled activity, and pre and post hunt analysis. The assumption is that we hunt because we value the meat. This is only partially true. We also hunt because we value the meaning and fulfillment we derive from the hunting experience itself – because of, not despite, the risk.
The thrill-seeker or serial entrepreneur might have a very skewed ratio wherein a much larger percent of their fulfillment comes from the hunt than from the meat that results. This is all of course arbitrary and from the hip, but I’d say I’m somewhere around 85% hunt, 15% meat, meaning the vast majority of my fulfillment comes from the activity and not so much from the reward at the end. Levi and some other entrepreneurs I’ve met are probably more like 95-5.
A great many people genuinely believe that they hate work and they’d be happy if they just had wealth without effort. They believe that their satisfaction ratio is something like 10-90 or 5-95. They focus only on the meat and hate the hunt. They end up depressed, and many wrongly conclude that it’s because they need even more meat and less hunt. They think the ideal life would be 0-100. This is a tragic misnomer. Though everyone’s level of fulfillment from leisure and wealth vs. the thrill of a challenge will differ, I suspect it’s hard to be really happy with a percentage of fulfillment that comes from the hunt lower than 50. A 50-50 hunt-to-meat ratio means you enjoy the challenge of the work in equal proportion to the rewards. With no struggle at all, we wilt. Welfare recipients and trust-fund kids alike.
I’m not sure to what extent we have to discover our inherent hunt-to-meat ratio and to what extent we can create it. Can you learn to get more fulfillment out of work with a different mindset, or does lack of fulfillment simply indicate you still haven’t found the right hunt? Rather than wishing you didn’t have to hunt at all, I suspect finding your optimal mix and the optimal hunting style that gets you going is more effective.