Accomplish More By Wasting Some Time

Some useless activities might save our lives


Slow, non-productive deeds can change your life

The world is flat.

Information is immediate. Competition is global. Technology levels the playing field. Where you once had an advantage, someone has caught up with you. Where you once had to compete with 10, now you compete with mill — billions.

There’s only one way to success.

Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you. -Mark Cuban

I know these guys on social media posting pictures writing emails at midnight with a hashtag cloud that looks like…

#businesslife #workhardplayhard #holidaysarentdaysoff #labordaylaboryay! #noslacking

…and I’m just trying to see a few shots of a good burger or a funny meme or a nostalgic 15 second baseball video; not feel guilty for only working 8 hours that day.

The question is not whether or not we work hard. The question is this.

What activities to we qualify as necessary to our success?

We fail Steven Covey’s advice to have production as well as production capability. We run the engine without the alternator and rob Peter to pay Paul. The exec is brow beating his employees, and while revenue is going up, morale is going down. The minister never studies or mediates because he has to produce, find another person, increase social media footprints, improve the splash page. The dad needs to prove himself, pay off that debt, make sure his family feels safe and secure, compete with all the other men so his wife is proud. All the while, his wife is falling out of love and his kids are scared of him.

Credit: Netflix

Season 3 of House of Cards gave Frank and Claire Underwood — two people that don’t pour a cup of coffee with a devious purpose — an opportunity to reflect on what is valuable in life.

Tibetan monks visit the White House to construct a Mandala, an intricately designed picture made from colored sands poured through small funnels painstakingly for endless hours, sometimes for days or even weeks. Frank and Claire are certainly impressed by the beauty, but they procrastinate enjoying the art, assuming they can take it all in when the work is finished. They themselves have too much work to do right now. Frank then comes down from the residence surprised to see the creation missing. He is informed that the art is not only gone from the White House, but also gone from the world. The monks, after completing their work, sweep all the sand together into a gray mess and dump it into a river.

This befuddles them. The work was hard and tedious, like their work was. The work created something beautiful, impressive and impossible to replicate, just like Frank and Claire had been able to do. This time, though, there was no legacy, no permanent monument for people to remember. In fact, this river sand would never influence another person. This is a language unknown to the Underwoods.

We live in a world where we so often tear down the walls of our homes in order to build up the walls of our city. What’s really left standing to be walled in?

The truth to be learned is this. They were wrong. The sand did leave a legacy. It did leave something permanent, and it was extremely valuable. The sand didn’t set up a floor vote, no. But that’s our problem. We mistake what’s considered valuable. If it doesn’t bring cash, it’s not productive in our minds. There’s no such thing as a rest day in working out because you have to constantly be lifting. The sand taught us about ourselves and that our lives are a vapor. It still influences me today. But Frank would never understand that.

We’re stressed. We feel we haven’t taught our kids enough. Planned for the future enough. Created enough wealth. Lost enough weight. Accomplished, travelled, cleaned, earned, saved, built…

Last night I sat with four people. Three of them mentioned which nervous disorder drugs they were on and how two of their kids were on them, too. Xanax and Aderall is the rule and not the exception. I have a friend that won’t read fiction because it’s not as valuable as a biography or financial education book.

But we are wrong. The rest day is valuable. Very. It’s valuable to the system. No, it’s not the same value as the day you curl the dumbbells, but it’s a different kind of value.

The monks had the same values as the Underwoods. Beauty, labor, building, structure, design, influence. But they found value in the indirect. We ought to build our production capability as much as we try to produce. Emails at midnight are valuable, surely, but so is a two hour walk in the woods.


Last week I drove my car around a massive strip mall where my gym is. The design is interesting. How they decided which units would be double doors vs single door entries, how they designed the facade, which areas would be anchor stores and which would be filler stores — all these things intrigued me. I just let the stress of the day go away, and looked at something interesting for a while. Last weekend I spent a day with a few guys doing work at someone else’s house that doesn’t affect any of my life goals or daily necessities.

Rake the leaves, take a walk, rabbit trail down Wikipedia, look for interesting things on Google Earth, play Star Wars Battlefront, color, stare out into space, read an old book, watch a new show on Amazon Prime, study how Li-Fi works, learn the rules for Field Hockey, watch a Tennis match.

Breath. Do the thing you used to think was wasting time.

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