Here’s a truth that’s hard to swallow:
You have 24 hours.
No matter how many books you’ve written (or haven’t), no matter how big your dreams are (or aren’t), no matter how much “potential” you have (or don’t) — you have 24 hours.
Here’s another hard truth:
Today’s 24 hours will move faster than yesterday’s. Tomorrow’s 24 hours will go faster still. Each year will move faster than the last. This is not hyperbole. It’s math. The longer you live, the broader your sense of time becomes. A year doesn’t seem very long when you’ve only lived 10 of them. After you’ve lived 20 of them, though, they years seem twice as fast because you’ve experienced twice as many. Upon your transition into adulthood, days disappear faster than you would have dreamed possible as a child.
I graduated college, went to sleep, and then woke up the next day to my 6th anniversary with a company I swore I’d only be at for a few months. And in the meantime, the world keeps changing. Nonstop! We are supposed to keep up with all the geniuses, the trends, the news.
You are busy. I know that because you are alive on this planet in the fastest generation of humans ever. But still, you have to stay ahead of the curve. You have to learn. You have to grow. And in the meantime, you have to stay sane.
How can you do it?
Here’s are a few thoughts:
1) STOP BINGING ON PODCASTS
Many people I know are podcast-a-holics.
Podcasts make us feel smart. Especially now, our culture dictates that whoever listens to the most podcasts is smartest.
“I listen on 2x speed,” someone once told me. “So I can get in more information.”
The question I didn’t ask, but should have, was this:
“Okay, so what do you remember from this morning?”
I used to be that guy. I was Podcast Todd, ferocious learner! Then, I realized I hadn’t remembered a single thing I listened to, much less applied any of them.
Podcast Todd still shows up sometimes. But he trades out his shift to Thoughtful Todd, the guy who talks to his steering wheel about what he learned from the podcast that morning.
(A lot of times, the answer was “Uhmmm,” so I cut that podcast)
B) SAY THESE MAGIC WORDS
“I love you, but I can’t give you my focus right now.”
If you aren’t emotionally strong enough to say this to people yet, start by saying them to tasks and projects.
I once said yes to everything I arbitrarily deemed “productive.” Website changes, research, writing, and making graphics for posts logically fell under the same big objective. But biologically, my brain wasted energy fighting off all kinds of attention residue jumping from thing to thing.
Turns out when everything is important, nothing is.
Now when I’m trying to learn something new, I say “I love you, but I can’t give you my focus right now.” I say this to LinkedIn, Quora, my Slack groups, phone calls, and text messages.
Learning is progress, even if it doesn’t feel like a priority. When I’m reading or researching, that’s ALL I do.
C) ASK ONE PERSON ABOUT THEIR JOB EVERY DAY
Here’s a great life hack. Make it a point to be the stupidest person in the room everywhere you go.
When you are stupid, people tell you everything they know. Ask them to repeat it once. Write it down. Then talk to yourself about it on the way home.
People often ignore massive sources of knowledge all around them in the form of co-workers. This is why my 9-to-5 job has become my secret weapon. Most of the time, you’re better off having a deep conversation with a colleague than read the latest bestselling book because:
- They have specialized information
- (That directly applies to your job)
- They aren’t trying to make money off the information they have
- They are around for follow up questions
- They will be grateful for the opportunity to share what they know
I dare you to learn as much from everyone around you as you possibly can first. Then feel free to read more books.
D) BE WILLING TO “THROW AWAY” TIME
This seems unthinkable in the era of agile learning. How could anyone possibly afford to throw away time?
Simple. Because one lesson learned with experience is often more powerful than one hundred concepts learned in theory.
When I first learned animation, I slaved away fro 6 MONTHS at my first big project. Every step took ages since I had to run back and forth to YouTube to remind myself exactly how to do what I planned. It was misery.
At the end of that six months, I wiped the sweat off my brow, and pressed render on my first complete animated short — a brief video on meetings.
Do you know what happened next?
I threw that project directly in the recycling bin. Nobody ever laid eyes on it.
Learning always comes at a cost, whether it’s time or money. This project didn’t cost me any money, but I sacrificed my time, one thing I will never get back.
Please, understand one thing.
If you wish to be more visible in the world, you will have to do a lot of INvisible work.
As a result of that 6 months, I now am able to animate at a decent level. I am able to cut my own videos instead of paying way too much for outsourcing.
Learning sucks. It hurts. It will make you tired.
Do it anyway. Here’s why:
Technology changes, with or without you. Business changes, with or without you. The world moves on, with or without you.
The way I see it, you have two choices:
- Ride the wave.
- Get crushed by the tide.