Never mistake motion for action.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
For speaking enquiries, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your details.
Photo courtesy joyreactor.com