Progress – Life is Not A Rollercoaster

This essay is a reframing of a concept I wrote about now over two years ago. The main idea surrounds the trite analogy – “life is like a rollercoaster.” I have taken this expression quite literally and come to an interesting conclusion. 

I’ll bold my thesis to make my position really clear: You do not want your life to be like a rollercoaster in any short-term capacity. 

Life, much like rollercoasters, is full of ups and downs. There are twists and turns and flips and unexpected bumps. 

But life, very much unlike rollercoasters, should not end where it starts. Motion is not progress. You want to get somewhere. You want to move! Suffering through turbulence, only to end up just as where you started, is what most people call stagnation. 

I think that in a lot of areas of life you find people selling tickets to rollercoasters. You see people selling “cheat codes” that are quite confusing and complicated…they are selling you productivity hacks and fancy diets. 

What I have come to internalize is that most of that fluff is really just marketing material. Most of that fluff is designed to make you purchase…to make you jump through hoops…go up and down and around…only to end up in the same spot as where you started.

This all sounds obvious now…but how often do you benchmark your progress? How often, perhaps after a semester of hard classes or a hard quarter at work, do you take a step back and look at how far you have come? Do you rationalize that “this is all worth it” or do you really know that you are making progress?

And how do you know? How often should you check?

I am not here to say that I know, or even pretend to know, any of these with full confidence. I just want to bring about the conversation because I believe the dialogue is healthy. 

Life is not a rollercoaster. And, in fact, it is important to make sure you did not accidentally buy tickets to or are currently sitting on an infinite loop rollercoaster where you experience turmoil with no progress.

Motion is not progress. Differentiating the two is really challenging, but I find the most high-output people are very keen and purposeful about benchmarking their steps. It is something I certainly hope to get better at in the future!