It Takes How Long?

I am the quintessential American: I want what I want, immediately. I’m not willing to wait, I demand instantaneous results, and anything worth doing should be able to be completed in one sitting. Recently, reality struck, much like a 2×4 to the head, and said, “Chris, if you want to accomplish something of value in your life, it’s going to take a long time. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, so stop listening to the messages of culture and get to work.”

The Symptom(s)

It’s easy to become prey to an over-eager market that is selling widgets that no one needs. The messages of convenience and life-changing power are often packaged in the guise of oversimplification. Just do this one thing, buy this one product, pop this pill, say these magic words and voila! You will immediately have a shrinking waist, growing “popularity,” success, fortune, fame, more followers on Twitter, less junk mail in your inbox, more business than you’ll know what to do with, favor and a full head of hair. Not to mention that the ladies will find you more attractive.

We have become suckers for a cultural pyramid scheme and we ignorantly thank the Founding Fathers of America because of their foresight and wisdom in framing these very pursuits of convenience in the United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Oh wait, it’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” nothing to do with immediacy or convenience. I digress.

Sadly enough, what we don’t realize is that the very people coming up with these instant-just-add-water products and solutions take a lot of time to research and develop something that will get them rich quick. So, does that mean that they are liars, choosing to perpetuate a cultural attitude of dependency on the drug of convenience and microwaveable life? Or do we finally shift the blame from those that dupe the public to those that allow themselves to be taken advantage of?

The Cure(s)

There are a myriad of ways to fight the infection that is immediacy. Here are my five favorite, at the moment:

  1. Realize that anything worth doing will take twice as long to finish as you think. Probably even three times as long. So, don’t think you’re going to launch your new career in thirty days or get the book you’ve been writing for the past year done tomorrow.
  2. Before you put a TV dinner in the microwave or go through the drive-through at the nearest fast food restaurant, realize that a typical healthy dinner takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes to plan and cook. In the time that it takes to plan and cook dinner, you can have a conversation with your spouse or even get an episode of The Daily Show out of the way.
  3. Before you demand immediate results from others, ask yourself what your response would be if they wanted immediate results from you. You’d change your tune faster than it takes to say the phrase: “Can I have that tomorrow?”
  4. Understand that the only sustainable reality in life is that anything worth doing takes time. Listening to a friend share about a difficult divorce should not be scheduled for 30 minutes in your calendar, it’s going to take a lot more time, especially if you are going to listen. Figuring out who you are and what you want to do is going to take your whole life, so get used to not knowing. It has taken me 32 years to figure out that I want to be a documentary filmmaker, a photographer, a writer and a speaker. It’s taken me six years to finally get that a financially-rewarding business is still a few years out. So, what do you do with this? Well…
  5. Live within your means. Relying on credit and leveraging your future based on the present only gets you deeper into debt. Just look at our country…or your own financial situation.

It’s comforting to have learned this lesson this week, but the honest truth is that while it is fresh in my mind today, I will eventually forget that anything worth doing is going to take a significant portion of time. I’ll probably conveniently forget around the time a new camera is released or I am pressured by client expectations. But until then, I am resolved to give myself a break, breathe and work on getting the next item crossed off my to-do list.

With that, done. One more thing crossed off today. Success!

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