(Insights from a 30-Something College Student) #4: Your Direction Matters More Than Your Speed
Speed is sexy, isn’t it?
Moving fast, doing fast, checking things off your to-do list at rapid speed. What a wonderful rush of endorphins!
If you’re in college, why not cram your schedule full of 4-6 classes every semester, hardly sleeping, never going out with friends, taking additional classes during the Summer, and living in a general haze for the next 4 years (it could be only 3 years if you push yourself REALLY hard).
Carl Honore, in his book, “[easyazon_link identifier=”0060750510″ locale=”US” tag=”vtv00-20″]In Praise of Slowness[/easyazon_link]” highlights our transition from the historical advantages of getting more done in less time to our modern obsessive addiction to speed.
Instead of thinking deeply, or letting an idea simmer in the back of the mind, our instinct now is to reach for the nearest soundbite … the smallest setback, the slightest delay, the merest whiff of slowness, can now provoke vein-popping fury in otherwise ordinary people. – Carl Honore
Does that sound like you?
Until a few years ago, and even a few months ago, that was me too.
Insight / Lesson #4: Your Direction Matters More Than Your Speed
In my first semester back in college (Spring 2018), I was a full-time student. My Japanese class was a 6-credit course, which means I only needed 2 more 3-credit courses to be considered a full-time student. Easy, no? Wait.
Along with all of my classes, I was still running my business here at Behind the Boss Mask. While my blog posting was sporadic, I was working with my 2 online business management clients every weekday.
As a reminder, my college major is Japanese Language and Culture – a topic that I have no formal educational background in, so I’m starting from square one.
Can you imagine learning a new language later in life (which you plan to use professionally), while also sleeping 8 hours a night, cooking 2-3 times a day, exercising 3-4 times a week, working 3+ hours a day on your business, cleaning, blogging, and being generally sane?
Yeah, I imagined it – but it didn’t happen.
I was drowning in the Cult of Speed, and I bet you have a similar story.
While reading Honore’s book, I was reminded of how much my life has changed in the 15 years that I’ve run my own business.
In the past, I would change the focus of my business (how I made money) roughly every 3 years.
I thought it was because of boredom, but it wasn’t. It was because I was obsessed with trying to do things quickly and hoping to have a huge result. When I didn’t get that huge result, I was disappointed and depressed, so I walked away, looking for the next interesting thing.
Being an internet-based entrepreneur, I set up no boundaries and was available almost anytime so I could make more money. All that money wasn’t making me happy, it was making me ill.
One bout of burnout after another, and I thought this was how life was supposed to be. I was an idiot. It’s OK, I know, we can all admit it.
Now, back in college, was I going to live on that rollercoaster again?
Two words: fuck no.
But I almost did get on that rollercoaster again. I hit burnout during my first semester of college. It’s a very familiar feeling: always tired, jumping from one to-do to another, trying to keep yourself busy because you feel like if you slow down, you’ll never start moving again.
Starting with my current semester, I switched to being a part-time student. Colleges love when they can flaunt their 4-year graduation rate. That’s great. Go for it. For me, with my situation, going to college full-time is not healthy or realistic. Trying to be like everyone else has never made me happy or helped me succeed at anything, and it’s time to embrace that.
Instead of focusing on speed (fast food, fast sex, fast work), let’s focus on direction.
What is my goal? To graduate with my Bachelor degree in Japanese Langauge and Culture, move to Japan, and work as a translator for Japanese to English. I’d love to translate for the music, entrepreneur, food, and technology markets.
Am I going to be able to learn Japanese well enough to be a translator after graduation if I try to rush through it? Probably not, and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.
For the first time in my life, other than my love for music and singing, I have the ability to focus on something that I can see myself doing for decades.
What is that for you?
What is it in your life that you would happily pursue, slowly and passionately, for countless years?
There are some things that can’t be done both quickly and well. Learning a language is one of them.
I’m all for a good quickie now and then, but slow sex is mindblowing.
Sometimes I need a quick lunch, but homemade meals (especially ones that you can share with others) are part of what makes life worth living.
Jumping out of bed, ready to tackle the day, is all well and fine, but I prefer meditating every morning for 10-15 minutes so that I can move through my day with a foundation of ease and patience.
While I could fill all of my free time with more stuff to do, I spend most of my free time reading, napping, exercising, and a little bit of nothing at all.
What the world needs, and what the Slow movement offers, is a middle path, a recipe for marrying la dolce vita with the dynamism of the information age. The secret is balance: instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Sometimes somewhere in between. Being Slow means never rushing, never striving to save time just for the sake of it. It means remaining calm and unflustered even when circumstances force you to speed up. – Carl Honore
Is your calendar bulging?
Did you agree to help someone, or try a new hobby, or simply overcommit and you’re regretting it?
Start small. Learn to be comfortable with “No.” If you can’t bring yourself to say “no”, simply say that it’s not a priority for you right now.
Pick something that is important for you. Something that you want to be proud of on your deathbed. Make that your focus.
How does everything else that takes up your time during the day contribute to or support your current deathbed goal?
Use that to make decisions. Every decision.
If your goal changes, revise the rest of your priorities.
Change is inevitable, but slowness is not – not until you run yourself into the ground. And you’re too young for that yet.
Choose slow as often as possible. Savor life instead of speeding to its inevitable conclusion with nothing to show for it.