We all go through that phase in our lives when we are filled with an insatiable appetite for accomplishments, for the will to do something meaningful, the passion to make an impact. We day dream for hours on end thinking about the things we can do, the change we can bring, through our actions, our choices and through our work. As the world evolves and every single day a new seemingly mediocre talent emerges as an excellent source of earning, we find ourselves wondering if maybe we can make it big using our own brand of mediocrity. We look at YouTube influencers – young people – earning millions of dollars doing what we believe is absolutely nothing. Our age old enemy, envy, creeps up on us when we are least expecting and burns into our minds the question, “How can a young person on YouTube earn so much money while just prancing about in new clothes and testing new makeup?”. Alas, the naivety of what we allow ourselves to believe when faced with the obvious hard work of another never fails to amaze me. Year upon year comes to a close and yet time and again, come January, we find ourselves going through the list of ten books that successful men and women recommend, ten habits that turned normal people into major entrepreneurs; in hopes that we might catch the success flu and fly up the social ladder. Yet year after year of going through such lists and listening to motivational Podcasts, we find ourselves in exactly the same position – overwhelmed and tired beyond words after an uneventful workday consisting of barely 7 hours – wondering how all these successful people fit so much of everything into every single one of their days. We ponder how our list of activities for the whole week becomes part of their one day, every day, day in day out! The day dream ends with the faint smile of surrender where we once again allow ourselves to believe that maybe – just maybe – they have been granted with the proverbial 36-hour day. We allow ourselves the surrender because how can we fit so much into just 24 hours – its unheard off. Content yet again at our own smug naivety that borders on perpetual procrastination, we turn off the lights and call it a day.
Not this time though! I turned the light back on, pulled out a notebook and sat down to account for the 24 hours. How much time did I actually use and how much did I waste?
So I get to work at around 9:30 – 10:00 am and I leave work at around 5:00 pm – ideally. That makes 7.5 hours, inclusive, during which I am at work. Within these 7.5, the time actually spent doing something productive (and not just random office stuff like browsing through the post and signing stuff) is nearly 3.5 hours. The commute to and from work – when I am driving myself and henceforth not capable of doing much – takes roughly 2 hours (its often less and rarely more than that). That makes a total of 9.5 hours. Say I sleep the recommended 8 hours. That brings the total to 17.5 hours out of which productivity still stands at 3.5 hours. After having worked and slept for a healthy amount of time, I am left with 6.5 hours. These 6.5 hours I spend going through social media, other random stuff like selecting which clothes to wear, skincare routine, watching the News on TV, eating dinner with the family, chit chatting on Watsapp and primarily watching Netflix.
Having gone through all these figures I realized that out of the 24 hours that I have – my total hours of actual productivity – hours that are supposed to make the difference – is just a meager 3.5. Let me tell you – it was a shocking revelation because all these years, I thought I just did not have enough time to do all the things I wanted to do. I cannot fit in a fitness regime, I cannot work on extracurricular activities, I do not have the time to give to my social circle, I do not have the time to read, I do not have the time to properly take care of own personal well being. While all this time, I was just utilizing 3.5 hours out of my 24 hour days. That’s barely even mediocre!
There are some messages that must be shared – messages that need to heard and need to be out there – messages that change how we view life. I heard such a message when I heard the speech of a Harvard law student – Pete Davis:
“It is late at night and you start browsing Netflix looking for something to watch. You scroll through different titles and even go through a few reviews, but you just can’t commit to watching any given movie. Suddenly it’s been thirty minutes and you are still stuck in “infinite browsing mode” so you just give up. You are too tired to watch anything now so you cut your losses and fall asleep. I have come to believe that this is the defining characteristic of our generation. Let’s call it “keeping our options open”. It is great to have options when you lose interest in something. But I have learnt here that the more time we do this the less satisfied we are with every given option.
The most radical act we can take is to make a commitment to a particular thing – to a place, to a profession, to a cause, to a community, to a person! To show our love for something by working at it for a long time – and to close doors and to forgo options for its sake. We need not be afraid for we have in our possession the antidote to our dread – our time – free to be dedicated to the slow but necessary work of turning visions into projects, values into practices and strangers into neighbors. We should pick a damn movie and see it all the way through!”
When I heard this message I wondered – Is it true?
Do we really just spend our time going through the options and not really picking one? Do we really justify not utilizing ourselves to our full potential by the mere fact that at least we spend hours looking for ways how to do so? In literal terms – do we really justify spending so much time watching Netflix by stating research that warns of a burn out and how important is it to take time for yourself? Or are we really just not ready to put in the hard work? And as I sit down to watch a video titled “My everyday routine” by an influencer on YouTube – one whose journey to success – ironically – I have personally witnessed throughout the past 5 years on YouTube – these questions continue to burn a hole in my mind. I wonder why we make ourselves believe that it’s not really as demanding as it seems because “look, she is doing it – if it were hard – she wouldn’t be doing it”. But that is the hard reality of what we have to come to terms with. This is no day and age to give things your 20% efforts and 100% smug self assurance – this is no day and age to be mediocre. If we want to make it big – if we want to be the change we wish to see – if we want to create impact – we will have to give it time, we will have to give it our 100% and then some more, and we will absolutely have to do away with mediocrity.