Here is what I’ve noticed about being an adult so far:
Everyone wants my attention.
Everyone wants my time.
Everyone wants my money.
So vast is the wave of consumerism that I have taken to plugging my ears and running out of the room whenever a commercial comes on TV. I wish I were joking. I’m easily influenced.
I am a coward sometimes. I hide away from the stuff which scares me. I know that is not a very mature thing to do.
But I realized along the way if I didn’t stop ignoring things, I would hate my life. I’d wander around, selling my time to the loudest bidder.
When I read, I don’t learn much from generic platitudes which could have been copied and pasted from anywhere. Besides, who am I to tell you what you should do?
All I can tell you is what I did:
1) I never answer the phone ever
I answer the phone for 4 people. This one has gotten me into a little trouble, especially when the collectors started coming after me.
If it is important, someone will call back. If it is really important, someone will leave a voicemail. If it is really REALLY important, they will call Kate.
Now that we have the luxury of asynchronous communication, you may as well exploit it.
2) I let emails die in the inbox
Let me say it like this:
The prefix “re-” literally means “back” or “again.” So whenever you REspond, REply, or REact, you are going backwards.
Yet first thing in the morning, I would do all those things — REspond to Twitter fans, REply to emails, REact to a negative comment.
Backwards, backwards, backwards.
I still do all those things, but they rarely take place before noon. They never take place before I have created something new.
You can try this. It worked for me. I ignore nearly every email I get for at least 12 hours. Your boss probably won’t like this at first. Try this line:
“I’m sorry [BOSS], I just have trouble focusing on [THE WORK YOU GAVE ME] whenever I check email first thing in the morning.”
That exact script worked for me. The obvious part 2 to this bullet is deliver on the work.
There is a name for people who demand but don’t deliver. It’s not a good one.
3) I quit looking at statistics
I actually figured this one out by mistake. When I first started writing on Medium I obsessed over my stats.
“Look!” I would say, ignoring the half-finished post open in another window. “Another person has read my article! That makes 200 today!”
After a while, I was getting depressed that my numbers weren’t growing, so I abandoned them. I almost quit. Instead, I wrote more.
I have to write 4 to 5 posts a week. When I slow down, my insecurities swallow me.
Less stats. More art.
Creation beats affirmation.
4) I stopped doing things I can’t do
Okay, so where do I sign up for something to be named after me?
- Hanlon’s Razor
- Hobson’s Choice
- Pareto’s Law
I’m not sure who any of these people are, but who cares? They are immortal in their principles.
I’m going to try one out for myself:
Struggle not with a weight which could easily be lifted by another.
Sounds good, right? Will you do me a favor and pretend I wrote it 200 years ago? It’ll be our little secret.
If I am trying to reach a high shelf, and Shaq is standing right next to me, I’m not going to climb anything. I’m going to ask him to lift his tree trunk of an arm and pluck it from a mile above my head.
Try this — Make a list of three things you don’t like to do. Then, make a list of three things you LOVE to do. For the rest of your life, look for people whose list is opposite yours and become their best friend.
Humans are not made to mimic each other. We are made to complement each other.
5) I started saying no
Ugh, this is the worst. I hate saying no to people. I hate the disappointment in their eyes. I hate letting them down.
Do you know what I hate worse, though?
Letting my wife down. Letting my family down. Letting myself down.
Every time I say “yes” to replying to a Snap during dinner, I am saying “no” to the people at the table with me. Every time I say “yes” to stuffing down yet another podcast on my drive, I say “no” to calling my mom.
Repeat after me: The answer is no. Say it as many times as it takes to get comfortable.
6) I allow things to go wrong
You may have noticed that everything in this post can lead to less-than-desirable results.
And that’s okay.
To get the parts of your life you want to get right right, let the things you don’t care about going wrong go wrong.
I intentionally ignore details because I am not good at them. Couple that with the “don’t respond to emails” tactic, and you’ve got a writer on the phone with Amazon customer service wondering why he’s received so many Nastygrams. Next time I want to collect preorders, I’ll have to wait until July of 2017. I probably wouldn’t have even delivered the book on time had I not followed Brison’s Proverb.
Timely response to messages matters a lot to some people. It does not matter to me.
Analyzing statistics matters a lot to some people. It does not matter to me.
Checking a post 17 times for grammar matters a lot to some people. It does not matter to me. There is professionalism, and then there is obsession.
The results of your life, both what goes right and what goes wrong, will give you an exact reflection of who you are.
Luckily, you get to decide what that reflection looks like.