How to Waste Your Life (Part 1)

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Never mistake motion for action.
– Hemmingway

Have you ever suddenly realised that you are wasting your life?

I found a funny write-up on Rajiv Satyal’s blog that talks about how a whole day can seem very busy, but achieve nothing in the end. Take a look:

I decide to water my garden. As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide my car needs washing.

As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mail box earlier. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and notice that the can is full. So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first.

But then I think, since I’m going to be near the mailbox when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first. I take my check book off the table, and see that there is only one check left.

My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Pepsi that I had been drinking.

I’m going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Pepsi aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over. I see that the Pepsi is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye–they need to be watered.

I set the Pepsi down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:

the car isn’t washed,

the bills aren’t paid,

there is a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the counter,

the flowers don’t have enough water,

there is still only one check in my check book,

I can’t find the remote,

I can’t find my glasses, and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.

Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I’m really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail.

Yeah, you can laugh. I thought this was funny at first.

Until I sat in a dark room for a few minutes and thought about it. Then I realised that many of us live our lives exactly like this.

Social Media

When left to ourselves without some form of self-control, the natural impulse of human behaviour is to go after every attractive distraction. It’s the same thing that happens when you’re working on your computer and you receive a notification on your phone.

At this point you have two options:

(1) Pick up your phone and check the notification

(2) Forget about the notification, and move your phone to a place where it cannot distract you

What do you do?

If you pick option (1), you check the notification and see “SHOCKING: Lagos Pastor Kills Wife”.

The headline is too powerful to resist, so you open it and read the story. You’re just about putting your phone down when you notice that you have 5 notifications on Facebook.

You open Facebook to check them, but just before you do that, you decide to look over your timeline for a few seconds. On your timeline, you see a link, “MUST READ: 11-Year Old Girl Marries 40-Year Old Man”.

Once again, you decide to check it out. As you read through, you shake your head in pity for the girl and feel angry at a country that lets this happen. You decide to share it on Facebook.

As you scroll to the bottom of the post to share it, you see a “You May Like This” heading. Underneath it, you see a link, “VIDEO: Crocodile Eats 50-Year Old Man Alive”.

You decide you want to watch the video. At this point, something in your head tries to remind you that you have something to finish. You decide to quickly check those Facebook notifications before getting back to work.

But before you do that, an Instagram notification pops up. And for some reason, you love Instagram, so you briefly but joyfully check out the picture. The first few comments are funny and you want to see the rest.

A sense of shock comes over you when you look at your watch and thirty minutes have just disappeared!

But…….

What if you had picked option (2)?

You would have probably finished the task already.

This is classic human behaviour. We usually pick the path of least resistance when faced with many choices. Any serious marketing strategist or mobile app developer knows this. They make their products easy to get and easy to use, so it can easily take up your time and you can easily talk to your friends about it. And their product spreads and they make money off your vulnerabilities.

ATM Cards

An ATM card also makes things easy. With such a card, you don’t need to get to the bank to withdraw cash. This makes it very easy to spend money, which in turn makes you buy things you don’t really need.

One of my brothers was complaining to me that if he had no ATM card, he would easily have a lot of money in his account. He makes some money off a service business he does, and clients pay directly into his account.

But because he has his ATM card in his pocket everytime he’s out, he spends unnecessarily. When he sees something he would like to have (eg. a nice shirt while out with a friend @ Mr. Price), almost without thinking he gets his ATM card and pays for it.

He ends up feeling bad when he gets home, because he has enough nice shirts already and could have saved that money.

How Does This Affect Us in The Long Term?

Living in the world today is not as easy as it used to be, economically speaking. It’s very easy to join our friends and complain about the situation (which never solves anything).

In the ’70s and ’80s, a young man would graduate from university and have a place of employment waiting for him in the Federal Civil Service. He had immediate access to a car loan to get a car. He also had a housing allowance, which he could trade in for a home in the Federal Staff Quarters.

But all that has ended.

Graduates are everywhere, competition is tough and jobs are difficult to get. It is easy for us to throw up our hands in despair.

And most people do that.

But even though a job is difficult to get, an internship is a good option.
It is better for a graduate who has completed NYSC to apply for an internship and begin working in his field immediately, than spend months or years waiting for paid employment.

Why?

To gain Valuable Experience

A person who has done 2-3 internships in 2 years, instead of endlessly waiting for a job can apply for an experienced position and get it. A graduate who has only been applying for jobs in that time cannot. He can only apply for Graduate Trainee positions. Besides that, when you’re actually inside your industry, you can see opportunities that outsiders won’t see. And you can more easily land the job you want.

Why Don’t We Choose To Do This?

Many people already know these things. The knowledge is not the issue. The issue is actually taking action.

It is very easy to join everybody else and complain about the country and the job market. This never changes anything. Even in very developed countries (eg. USA, France), people face the same situation.

People in general like to spend time doing things that don’t involve the chance of being judged or rejected—at the expense of the result they really want.

For example, I want to start a small business and I spend 1 week trying to decide what colour to make the font of my business card or what type of logo to use. Evidently, this gets me nowhere, and I pile unnecessary bills on my budget.

Yet, I do it because the real task of getting in front of potential customers to market my service is hard, but preparing to print my business cards makes me feel like I am moving towards something.

It is hard for us to think outside the box to get a different solution, because all our friends are doing the same thing. And we feel safe in the crowd.

Conclusion

Motion is not action.

Motion is when a graduate applies endlessly for every job and doesn’t get any. Action is when the graduate is already interning at a company, and his boss tells him to apply for an in-house position before it is advertised.

Motion is when a student buys textbooks and handouts to read. Action is when the student uses the books to answer one year of past questions.

Motion is when a person who wants to start a business starts by spending money printing business cards and getting on social media. Action is when he gets the first two clients to pay.

Motion is when I say I want to read an ebook on PHP this afternoon, and I open my browser window and keep Facebook & Twitter open, attempting to multitask. Action is when I open Facebook & Twitter after I have finished reading the ebook.

Motion makes you feel like you’re on your way to achieveing something. Action actually achieves something.

What Can You Do Today?

1. Leave a comment in this format: “I’ve been doing ___________ for too long, but this article has taught me ______________, so I’ll start doing ___________.” (Note: You can copy, paste and edit this)

2. Think about a friend who really needs this. Copy the link from the address bar and send it directly to him or her or just scroll down and share it on Facebook/Twitter.

3. On the top right corner of this page (using your computer) or below the comments (using your phone), type in your email address to get more valuable articles like this in your mail.

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Photo courtesy joyreactor.com

Comments

  1. Jak says

    A very good and pretty expository read. I’ll be sure to share. I know one or two people who’ll value this piece of info. Keep the articles coming.

  2. Lolade says

    Quite revealing Uche…motion can also be renamed as activity. I guess it just makes many of us feel that we are at least doing something, but will definitely take note of your point.

  3. Ewuzie Sampson says

    Uche,this article is Very inspirational! The tendency to do what others are doing(i.e to criticise instead of taking action to effect change) also known as jumping the band wagon is part of the reason for the level of poverty, and the bane of most social ills in the society today. Reading this post,I’ve learnt to take positive action instead of simply, overcoming my body’s inertia!

  4. says

    Another self inspiring and motivating article from Mr Uchendu. I’m a victim of spending much time on facebbook and twitter. Not only that but also other apps on my phone.

  5. says

    Its not like i’m wasting time doing facebook and all the rest. I’m gathering a lot of info. that is needed to improve one’s life. Let you know about your environment and all. The real problem is doing it at the right time. If i should use my morning to explore employment opportunities, i can come back in the afternoon, relax on my cozy bed and surf the web as much as i want. Not the other way round. Surfing the web 1st thing in the morning and then exploring employment opportunities in the afternoon.

  6. says

    Lovely..lovely…lovely piece you have here Uchendu. Very beautifully enunciated points, thanks a great deal for sharing these insightful thoughts of yours.

  7. says

    Bro this is the best article I have read in a very long time,am happy and glad I read something that is worth reading today.the next challange will be to take actions,but I believe with this exposition,I now know what to do.this is my email:amazingemy7@gmail.com pls kindly add me 2 ur newletter list.

    • says

      I’m happy to know you found it helpful Darlington. I’ve added you to the newsletter. You’ll receive an email shortly.

      Like you said, the challenge is to take action. Do something today about it. All the best

  8. Chester says

    Nice one! Best article ever! “I’ve been
    doing a lot of procrastination for too long, but this article
    has taught me that action is quite necessary to succeed in life , so I’ll start doing by Looking for a company to start my internship..asap.”

  9. MEDUPIN Olusegun says

    Wow!!!
    Pls keep up this great job.
    Very insightful and thought provoking. I will deliberately allow this to settle inside of me and form a new thought pattern.
    I’m sure this would do it for all those that give me those close marking for non existent job opportunities.

  10. says

    What I’ve been struggling with? Concentrating on one thing at a time.
    I liked to think my mind was a multitasking machine..and maybe it is. But I do know that not concentrating on getting one job done before jumping into another just leaves you with two incomplete jobs at the end of the day. It pays to plan.

    This brings the 80-20 management rule(think that was Pareto) to mind—achieving 80% more with less effort, and less with more effort(erratic working I mean).

    I’ve enjoyed sniffing your blog, Uchendu. I hope we can have a nice blogging friendship :)

  11. salaudeen ibrahim says

    It is what I have been looking for all today….I mean your article. I have bought a lot of motivational books but i really appreciate your work and post I will need to work on it right now………..

  12. udemba azubuike says

    Uche is a very close friend,i then not to take his articles seriously,but now I hv read this,i realize am going to old doing irrelevant thing…social media and not doing enough action to set my life in motion.

  13. says

    This is a typical definition of my daily routine. I would always want to publish and read some articles on WordPress every night but rather would I just stick to Outlook.com and keep sorting and checking my mails. Thanks, Uchendu. I believe this will be a real turn up for me.

  14. says

    I’m in awe of the fact that ‘how to waste your life’ series is working out. Kudos to your efforts in producing this. the series has spured me to get to work with my life. I will always remember this as a crossroad in my approach to things. God bless you more and more Uche.

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