The Automatic Motivational Fill-Up Machine

I had just woken up 5 minutes before my scheduled lunch with a friend named Emil. Like 99.3141592% of freshmen who wake up right before their schedule lecture or meeting, I sprinted out the door realizing I was late, yet again, for another planned lunch.

Now Emil and I had been on the rowing team this last season, but he had decided to move back to Sweden to continue his studies. He was a very quiet and conserved person, but we got along very well the few times we had spoken. And so I thought, “hey, maybe it would be nice to swipe him into a dining hall and have a chat; kind of like a thank you gift”.

So as planned, I met him outside the hall, panting after sprinting up the god-forsaken steps of UCLA’s hillside. We got food, sat down, and the conversation flowed. We chatted on the highlights and low points of the rowing season, how our social lives have been, and most recently, the stress of projects and finals week.

He told me he had also rushed back from Anderson and was busy working on a huge management project with his friends and was laughing about how little he cared about it anymore. He explained that he imagined his motivation as a gas tank inside of him, which drained slowly as he tackled school work, interviews, and most recently, his management project; it was only the little instances of playing video games, reading a good book, or grabbing food with friends that his motivational-gas-tank slowly refilled.

After lunch, I said my goodbyes, he wished me well, and we parted ways. (For me of course, I went back to bed, where I had perfected the skills of mid-day napping). But this idea of the gas tank stayed with me.

I adopted this mentality through finals week, and realized that just by giving myself a proper sit-down meal with a friend rather than a quick bite at the to-go sandwich shop, or a brief skate down Bruin Walk made me more inclined to continue studying. Admittedly, Emil’s advice wasn’t very original, but actually attempting to adopt this mindset really paid off for me.

Fast forward 16 days, I am sitting at home, with a summer class to study for, emails to send out to interviewers, and just a ton of crap I really didn’t want to do. The last week had been slow, still recovering from my sleep-deprived finals week schedule, waking up at noon, and doing nothing until 4pm. And I realized yet again, it was the fact that I have been adopting such a strict mindset of “work-work-work” and no play that I actually had no motivation to do anything productive; my gas-tank had been on empty and just waiting for the next refill this entire time.

So I called my old middle-school friends up, went out to see the free Khalid concert at Santa Monica, and even made the impulsive midnight stop at McDonald’s before returning home. That night, I worked until 3am, just thinking back on what Emil had told me. Sure I put my schedule behind a bit, but at least I could actually get stuff done now.

And it’s really as simple as that: work hard, play mediocrely hard, and repeat. A quick pit stop never hurt anyone.

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