Procrastination: The Power Of Now, The Danger Of Later
Procrastination: The Power Of Now, The Danger Of Later
May 28, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
If you savor the present tomorrow becomes a present – W. Wayne Wilson
I love to watch Survivor. In the most recent installment, Caramoan: Fans versus Favorites, one of the players, Malcolm, made a bold memorable move. Malcolm was part of an alliance, “The Three Amigos”, along with Eddie and Reynold. Everyone wanted to get rid of the Three Amigos and planned to do so one by one. The master mind behind that plan was Phillip, who was part of an alliance he called “Stealth R Us”.
The plan at the Tribal Council was to split the votes to get rid of Malcolm or Eddie, since Reyonld had won the immunity challenge and was safe. During the Tribal Council, however, Malcolm saw an opportunity to “carpe diem” and pulled off a blindside and played two hidden immunity idols to save himself and his amigo Eddie. He then took one step further and boldly instigated an overthrow of Phillip. It made for really exciting TV. Even though, in retaliation, Malcolm got voted off the following week, he still wound up winning the Sprint Player Of The Year Award and walked away with $100,000, so his instinctive boldness ultimately paid off.
Survivor reminds me of life. Sometimes, in order to get the universe to respond to us and grant us success, we must first make some bold moves and we must make them now. What we boldly do “now” determines what we experience “later”. In many ways, later is just the “now” for tomorrow. Tomorrow will have its share of things we need to act on so there is no point in cluttering tomorrow with today’s choices. Procrastination is indeed the thief of time. If we do nothing today, come tomorrow we will have lost 24 hours of time to create more success in our lives.
In 1998, inspired by a quote from the German philosopher, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, I made one of my first bold career moves. For the first five years after I made the move, it felt like a dumb, career-limiting, regrettable move. However, the second five years were beyond my wildest career expectations and affirmed the fact that it was really a worthwhile move. Caution: Bold moves don’t always pay off immediately so we must be patient. Here is the quote from Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic to it. Begin it now.”
The word “now” is a very scary word. Most of us are not ready to do anything “now”. Now feels rushed and unplanned. Doing anything “now” feels like we are setting ourselves up for failure. The problem with our aversion to “now” and our hesitancy to act is that opportunity doesn’t always wait on us. When opportunity knocks on our doors it tends to count to three and then rush to the next door. If we say, “I’m busy now so I will answer the door later”, opportunity will have been long gone and someone else will bask in the bliss of the unbridled success that was earmarked for us.
When we have an aversion to “now” we become unaware of its power. There is a saying, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now”. I can think of so many times in my life when, if I did not make a move in that instant, I would have missed an amazing opportunity. Opportunity represents luck. Opportunity knocks on all our doors, which technically means that we all experience the same amount of luck. We may not believe that but it’s true. The only difference is that some people’s ears are trained to hear the knock and optimistically perceive it as an opportunity while other people’s ears are trained to pessimistically think of the knock as an annoyance from some neighbor who ran out of sugar or one of their dumb kids who doesn’t realize it’s not Halloween and is doing trick or treat in the middle of the summer. Our optimistic or pessimistic mindset, about knocks on our doors, determines whether we will answer the door and whether opportunity or luck will grant us success.
One of my favorite authors, Jim Collins, who I had the great pleasure of meeting and introducing at a conference, talks about the fact that we are all exposed to the same amount of luck in his book Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. Jim points out that luck is a credible factor in the role of success and that we can in fact increase our “return on luck”.
We can do this through: (1) Discipline. The harder we work, under good or bad conditions, the luckier we get. Why? Because success breeds success. The hardest parts of success are finding the first key and opening the first door. If we keep working just as hard or harder success will start to pile profusely into our lives. (2) Creativity. With creativity we are able to assess the situation and, like Malcolm, make a big bold move the instant our creative instinct tells us to do so. At other times our creative instinct might tell us to make a small patient move rather than a bold one. The key here is that we have to be aware, in-tune and ready to move flexibly towards success. (3) Productive Paranoia. This is where we assume and plan for the worst case scenario. Like assuming that one day we might lose our jobs because of an unforeseen recession and we do not get another job for two years so we go in overdrive and save like crazy to create a two-year emergency reserve. The lay-off may never occur but if it does we will be prepared. What will others who lose their jobs along with us say? They will say, “Oh well, you guys are lucky that you have two years’ worth of money.” Yes, we are lucky. Lucky that when paranoia hit us two years earlier we instantly acted on the paranoia and made a bold move to sacrifice for two years to create enough financial freedom during a recession.
The challenge with the last example is that most people would not even recognize a moment of paranoia as an opportunity or a lucky moment – but it is. Paranoia out of nowhere can be our creative instinct or the universe warning us about something adverse in the future and giving us an opportunity to protect ourselves. When we act boldly on our creative instinct we are increasing our return on luck. When we brush it off as a stupid thought, we make ourselves less lucky and less successful.
Life gets busy. We just don’t have time to process all these cute philosophical things that I am talking about. I get that. I’ve been there when, distracted by the demands of daily living, we meander in and out of consciousness, like two year olds. I also know first-hand that sometimes life is like getting on YouTube and six hours later we realize that we are seriously wasting time but we just cannot stop because there is too much good stuff there, so we waste six more hours until, hungry and tired, we pass out. The point here is that even though we think we don’t have a lot of time to act “now” we still manage to squander a lot of time doing things that do not enhance our purpose or add to our success in life.
Our jobs, friends, families, kids, fears, sorrows, relationship issues, financial problems – they are all like those bloody distractingly addictive YouTube videos. Yes, we can be addicted to our problems and issues. We love reciting them to people to unearth their sympathy. Too often though, we are not committed to a solution right now. This pattern of procrastination, the aversion for “now” and the affinity for “later” represents the secret to failure. The secret to success is to discern when it is time to act and to prioritize our time so that we can act now.
What lies at the end of the road of bold moves and getting something important done now? Consider this: The only difference between those who get things done and those who don’t is success. Now you know. I want you to think about something bold that you have wanted to do. Get to it. Do something. Anything. Baby steps are much quicker than a man taking no steps at all. Do it now. Just bust a move.
I must warn you: there is a fine line between acting now out of bravery versus acting now out of stupidity. It is OK to bungee jump but please make sure that the chord is not too long and that it is securely fastened. Calculate your risk then go for it….now.