Ever get so caught up in the day to day crap-you-have-to-do that you lose sight of what you actually need to do… or what might actually enrich your life?
Of course you do! If you don’t, you’re probably kidding yourself. That, or you need to immediately publish a book enlightening us on your secret – probably make a million dollars while you’re at it.
Today I was trying to distract my mind from the typical stress at work (and procrastinate from doing the crap-I-had-to-do items detailed on the to-do list sitting on my desk) so I started cleaning and organizing my office.
After reaching the bottom of a formerly bottomless desk drawer, I found a note from my predecessor. It was a to-do list filled with 5 mundane tasks that were not unlike the ones I was myself putting off that moment.
The note was unremarkable in every way but one – the date; it was dated from just before he went out for the last time. You see, his cancer had returned, and this time it would not be beat. He passed away in the months that followed.
It made me think about what I was doing in that moment – just going about the motions of the day, looking at the clock, wishing it was over. What if this was it? What if I was running out of time and I didn’t even know it?
How many of you are doing the same thing? How many of you are wishing for the hours to slip by so you can do something that’s actually meaningful to you? What is actually important to you? Challenge yourself to make a list of what you actually need to do.
I scribbled off the list sitting on my desk and made a new one:
5 Things I Actually Need To-Do:
#1 – Help My Kids Find Their Passion.
There is one really important word in that goal – “their”. I want to help them find their passion, not mine.
I love football. I’d love to have my kid in the NFL. But I have two daughters that probably aren’t going to share that goal. Also I don’t see many women in the NFL in 2018.
This was something I think I missed as a child; I never found something that I was really into that I could also do for a living. It wasn’t until after college that I really started developing true passions other than drinking beer and spending money. What a waste!
Also, I think it’s really important that kids have at least something they know they’re interested in before school’s over. Otherwise how the hell are they supposed to decide what they’re going to do after high school?
Here’s what the decision making process looked like for me:
Dad: Alright, here’s a book of college majors, you need to pick one.
Me: Wait, what?
Dad: Yep. You’re 18, and it’s time for you to decide what you want to do for the next 40-50 years.
Me: Can I just play X-Box?
Me: Ok, let me see that book then…
Me: [Flips through book of alphabetized majors, loses interest at the letter ‘C’]
Me: Chemistry sounds good!
Me: [Wastes next 10 years of life stumbling down misery-path]
I really, really want to avoid that, which I know can be difficult. I know my parents tried to get me into things and it was me that resisted. I know you can’t make your kids do anything once they get to a certain age, but I hope I’ll be able to help them see how what they are interested in can become a career.
Here’s an example that would have worked for me. I’m really into video games. That’s one of the only things I was consistently into growing up. That sounds like a horrible waste of time, right?
Cut to 10 years later and I discover a passion for computer programming. Now I program video games in my spare time for fun. Imagine if I had the creativity and vision to see this as a possibility when I was 18? I could be doing this for a living right now, and I would have loved it! Sometimes you need to be creative.
#2 – Pay for Kid’s College.
My wife’s parents paid for her to go to school, a generosity for which I am extremely grateful. We bought our first home when I was 24, and she was 23, because of the financial boost her parents were able to give us after we graduated. We had an incredible head-start.
I graduated with $25,000 in debt, which is probably pretty low since I went to a public school. $300 dollars a month to student loan debt payments really sucks when you’re 22 – A huge percentage of your paycheck simply disappears.
Thankfully, I actually have a pretty decent head-start plan on this. It’s called the Stop-Obsessively-Buying-Ridiculously-Irresponsible-amounts-of-Ethanol (that’s alcohol for you – remember, chemistry major)-This-Year also known as SOBRIETY.
The math looks something like this:
$20 dollars per week for margaritas on date night.
$35 dollars per week for beer.
+ $45 dollars for Woodford Reserve because I’m one of those classy alcoholics.
$100 dollars per week
× 52 weeks in a year
$5200 per year on alcohol.
× 18 years
$93,600 saved over 18 year period.
That’s a decent head start!
#3 – Finish One of Those Damn Mania-Projects!
If you suffer from bipolar disorder you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re manic, or hypomanic, and you’ve fallen in love with… something. You have all this energy and you’ve decided to direct it towards writing a book, or starting a blog, or making movies, or learning an instrument, or learning to paint, or going back to school… or all of those things at once!
The problem is that bipolar disorder is a cruel mistress, and now two weeks later your depression is back and you have absolutely no interest in doing any of those things anymore. So what was just days ago an all-consuming passion project is left abandoned and incomplete.
I’ve spoken at some length about how mania or hypomania may be thought of by some as a blessing, but I’ve started to view it as a curse. In my days or weeks of depression immediately following a hypomanic period I find myself surrounded by husks of beautiful, useful, and creative things that I was only able to take halfway to completion. The sense of failure does nothing to help the depression.
Just once, I’d like to finish something. Write a book, learn a skill, finish programming that video game – anything!
I can say I have found one way to scratch this itch; break it down into small, bite size pieces! When you get the bug to start writing, instead of only working on that 100,000 word manuscript, why don’t you write a blog post! I finish those all the time!
#4 – Travel Abroad With Family
I’ve been to two countries in my entire life. The United States, since I happen to have been born here, and Canada, since I happen to have grown up about 30 minutes from the border.
I never had a strong desire to travel (or really, to do anything) when I had the (relatively) easy opportunity to do so in college. Many of my friends did however, and it always seemed like a great adventure that enriched their lives.
I’d love to do this with my family, or if we can’t all go, I’d like to send the kids when they’re young, in college, and life is still (relatively) simple.
#5 – Start a Business
Is this every manic person’s dream, or is it just mine?
Imagine taking your energy, and your sudden, intense focus on something, and getting so good at it that you can actually start a business around that thing. Then you can screw the man and ride off into the sunset!
Ok, so I understand in reality that starting a business isn’t actually easy, and the whole riding off into the sunset thing is not likely to happen, but can’t a guy dream?
So that’s it! That’s my What-I-Actually-Want-To-Do list – my 5 Meaningful Things. I challenge you all to do the same thing!
Unfortunately, reality always seems to get in the way. Speaking of which, these expense reports aren’t going to approve themselves. Back to it…