Not a Memo. A Mission Statement.

The human brain is a weird thing.  Mine so, probably more than most.  I think it is in part due to my preference for bright, shiny things.  Like, for some reason, my brain has no problem watching movies I have already seen.  You’re probably thinking, “Dude, that is everyone.”  Fair enough.  But does your brain constantly search for the exact right movie scene to describe a real life situation?  No?  Well, try not to be jealous of my super power.

The scene I am thinking of is Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire– at the beginning, when he has his epiphany and writes the memo mission statement.  I feel like Jerry McGuire right now.  I am wiped out after a long day at work and not much sleep last night, yet, here I am- furiously pounding away on my computer.  The rest of the house is asleep and I really should be in bed.  But here I am.

Tri-Star Pictures
Jerry McGuire (Tri-Star Pictures)

Here is the thing:  we are at a very special point in time.  In our hands, we have devices that can access all information known to man- SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME.  These devices allow us to save so much time, because we do the things that we need to do in our lives so much faster and more efficiently.  Twenty years ago, if I wanted to deposit a check in a bank, I had to actually go to the bank- today I take a picture of it and upload it to my bank.  If I wanted to talk to my mom on the phone, I had to plan to actually be in my house at a certain time in order to talk with her, on a land line- today I can call her when I am getting off the train on my way to work.

It is not all barfing rainbows and unicorns.  Our technology has become a double edged sword.  While we can shop for groceries from home via an app or pay bills through a bank’s mobile app, we now have the ability to waste unprecedented amounts of time.  Think back twenty years ago, what you might have done if you found yourself with an extra 15 or 20 minutes.  Say some type of schedule or transportation glitch left you with 15 or 20 minutes you might not have accounted for.  How might you have filled that time?

Simple:  you would have read a newspaper, read a book, did a crossword, or some type of handiwork (knitting or crocheting)- if you had your materials with you.  Maybe, if you didn’t have any of these, you might have sat in quiet reflection for 15 minutes.  But now, we have these devices that allow us to piss away an obscene amount of time.  Between social networks and game applications alone, an average person can blow 20 minutes without even thinking about it.  If I am not careful, I can piss 15 minutes away before I EVEN GET OUT OF BED.

Isn’t that amazing scary amazing horrible amazing?

Here is the thing: 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there doesn’t sound like a lot- because it isn’t.  But think about what it might add up to over the course of a day.  15 minutes when I first wake up.  15 minutes at the end of a workout, where I catch up on emails and notifications I missed while I was working out.  20 minutes waiting for dinner to cook.  15 minutes pissed away on social media when I put my son down for bed.

What’s more, is that very little of what we do in this wasted time (scrolling through social media, streaming shows and movies, and texting) actually adds up to anything of substance or value.  At the end of my life am I going to be laying on my deathbed really glad that I finished watching Sons of Anarchy on Netflix?  Probably not.  Am I going to be think back to all the information about reality TV stars that I have somehow collected through social media?  FALSE.

The good news is that this situation isn’t hopeless.  With a plan and the right mindset, it is possible to convert all those “wasted” minutes to productive minutes using deliberate action steps.  We do this in order to help us achieve the things that we want to achieve, whether that is learning to fly fish or running a marathon.

In his book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New RichTim Ferris argues that most of the things that people WANT to do in their life don’t require extreme wealth or even vast chunks of uninterrupted time.  Even the “big” things that people want to do, like “buy a house”, “learn another language” or “take my family on an around the world vacation” aren’t really that big or difficult with the right mindset and a killer plan.  Further, he argues that we get it into our heads that we have to put off doing these things- until we are retired, until we pay off the mortgage, until our kids graduate.  The trick is to change our mindset from thinking of doing these big things as a reward for a long and productive career to engineering our lives in a way that supports the things we want to do.

i-will-not-be-commanded-i-will-not-be-controlled-i-will-not-let-my-future-go-on-without-the-help-of-my-soul-greg-holden-the-lost-boyThat is what we are doing here.  It is why I am here.  I am not a wealthy woman.  I am not entirely in control of my own career at this point.  I have a child and a partner who expect me to be reasonably in the picture (which means, not taking off and hiking the triple crown right now).  But I will be damned if I am going to sit on my ass for the next 40 years, waiting to retire.  There is no way I can live, hoping to “earn” my retirement, destroying my body by sitting in an office chair for 50 years of my life.  I want more.  And I am not willing to wait.

I want this blog (and theoretically the community that it will support) to be a vehicle for getting myself and others working productively on the things we WANT to do.

What about you?  Are you going to wait until you’re at the end of your life before you start living it?  Or are you going to start now?

I guess what I am asking is, are you in?

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying

One of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. I have probably seen it, maybe 20 or 30 times (legitimately).  I was recently discussing with a friend that if we see it on cable, we are canceling all plans for the rest of the day.  Because that is what you do when Shawshank is on.

My favorite scene is with Andy (Timothy Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) sitting in the prison yard.  They are talking about whether or not they could live outside of the prison.

I see a lot of parallels between their situation and the situation that a lot of people find themselves in real life.  For whatever reasons, many of us find ourselves imprisoned in a life that we don’t find fulfilling, doing work we don’t love, existing in situations that don’t make us happy.  We grind on- because at the end of the day, most of us do the things we’re SUPPOSED to do before we do the things we WANT to do.

We put off for years, decades even, the things that we really want to do- the things we think will make us happy because we’re waiting for conditions to be right.  Instead of doing the things, we cultivate a life list or a bucket list, with the hopes it will tide us over till we’re ready.  We’re waiting for our kid to go to kindergarten, for our partners to get those promotions, for retirement.  We spend so much time waiting for our lives to be right, to foster success in the things we want to do, that they are one and the same in our minds.  We’ve somehow convinced ourselves that many of the things we want to do require such large time and resource commitments that they are impossible until our life circumstances change.

zihuatanejo_shawshank_redemption
Columbia

Here is the thing:  most of the things that we want to do in our lives don’t require life-changing, consciousness-altering events.  Often they don’t require us to be suddenly, disgustingly rich.  They don’t always require large chunks of uninterrupted time in the most inaccessible places. In most cases, accomplishing the things you want to in life requires a shift in your philosophy.  For many, living your funnest, most fulfilling, best life simply requires making the time for the things you want to do and committing to them.  In many ways, it is a simple choice: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

As Red would say, “That’s g-damned right!”