I’ve been quiet recently. Not in person, mind – I still make all kinds of strange noises when in the presence of another life form, but internetically speaking (that should definitely be a word) – I’ve been absent.
Two steps forward, three steps back.
During this absence, I’ve been thinking a lot about time, or more specifically, the relationship between what I want to do and when I want to do it. I’ve looked back over the missed opportunities, the amazing plans that fell by the wayside, and the many excuses I came up with to reassure my fragile ego in times of sheer bone idleness.
One thing was painfully clear. For a guy who supposedly loves learning – I was a bit shit at it. I mean, I’m a lot better now than in the past, but the main reason for my frustration, perceived lack of success and overall argghhhh at life over the last year or so could be summed up by a stark realisation…
And I’m willing to bet this is the case for you too…
You’ve already wasted more time than it takes to master the skills you crave
In November 2009, I started learning German. Why I chose this language is not something I can answer with any degree of certainty.
‘Why on earth are you learning German? It’s such an ugly language.’
I’ve heard it many times – quite often from native speakers.
‘You already know English; what the hell are you thinking?’
(The ironic words of many foreign language students)
Fast forward to 2015 and my German is not as good as it was in 2011. My language skills have devolved to such an extent I could travel to Berlin zoo and embarrass myself in the chimp enclosure.
Do you know how long it takes to learn a language? It takes months. Not years. Not a lifetime of fumbling around with a pocket dictionary and manic hand gestures designed to render you a rambling moron.
No – it only takes a few months of total immersion for your brain to suss out what’s happening, and only a few more than that for your tongue to get in on the action.
So, in the five and a bit years since I proudly proclaimed ‘Ich bin Jamie’, I could have learnt German, Spanish, Russian and probably Klingon too.
So to reiterate my point;
Oh yes, the guitar.
I started learning this ferociously difficult lump of wood almost 17 years ago. My musical brain is almost old enough to drink. My cat took her first breath, crapped herself and passed on since the day I first struggled with barre chords.
Yet I’m not 17 years’ worth of a guitarist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bad. I can fiddle around a bit and move my fingers fast enough to excite a nun – but there are players out there who are way better than me – players with only 5-7 years of axe wielding tomfoolery to their name.
I only have myself to blame.
By now I should be shit hot – but I’m not. I am playing catch up because I was too lazy in my twenties. I have been playing guitar for exactly half of my life and it’s only now the penny has finally dropped.
How about one more example?
Last summer I started intermittent fasting. I only ate between 6pm and 10pm (sometimes just one big meal) and I lost over 2 inches from my waist in a matter of weeks. All I had to do was keep it up for another couple of months and I would have been ripped.
No, don’t be silly. I stopped.
Regardless of what you may read in various magazines, fat loss is not difficult. You take in fewer calories than your body needs, and that’s it. Add in weight training and a bit of cardio here and there and magical stuff happens to your physique.
No carbs after 6? Don’t eat any junk food? Join weight watchers?
Seriously; eat a bit less and train a bit more. But I gave up that idea and now, several months later… urgh.
Why didn’t I just keep going?
The following sentence will answer everything. Are you ready for it?
Time will keep moving forward, with or without you.
It can be daunting when you look into the future and survey the amount of time standing between where you currently are and where you want to be. Sometimes, it seems so far away it all feels a bit hopeless.
- Degrees can take 4 or 5 years to complete.
- It can take several years before proficiency is gained on a musical instrument.
- Quitting your job may involve a 3 or even a 6 month notice period.
To be honest, the time frame doesn’t matter. Whether it is years, months, or even a few days – anything worth doing is not going to give you instant gratification.
If you don’t enrol on that degree – those 4 or 5 years will fly by, but you’ll still be at your current level of education.
If you don’t start learning how to play the guitar – you’ll still be useless in a few years.
If you don’t quit your job – after those 3 to 6 months, you’ll still have to clock in tomorrow as usual instead of leaving the office for the final time.
Time doesn’t stand still. It doesn’t give a shit about you.
There is a piece of Java programming code which increments a number. It goes like this…
Public void theFuture()
this.presentDay = this.presentDay + 1;
This is how time works. The future is always the present day – except it is one more present day than it was today.
Here’s another bit of code…
I don’t think you need to be a software developer to be able to understand what I’m getting at.
Whatever you spend most of your time thinking about is what you should be doing.
If you want that degree – enroll today.
If you want to learn an instrument – start today.
If you want to quit your job – for crying out loud, hand in you notice TODAY!
Today is the most important day of your life – and it always will be.
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