Posts Tagged ‘the game’

Making Plans for the Future – Waste of Time, or Pain in the Ass?

July 24, 2009
Life is a Carnival, not a Game

Life is a Carnival, not a Game

I am a horrible procrastinator. Have been since college. Prior to that I would take care of my responsibilities ahead of time because they were pretty much effortless. I never really had problems in high school, I guess. It was a game and I was good at it. College, on the other hand, required the best of my intellectual efforts and I never really felt like I adapted to the stuffy world of academia. Trying to figure out what a professor wanted instead of following my own muse created the pressure to perform against my will. So I waited it out until inspiration struck.

Usually that would be the night before something was due, and usually it was impossibly too late to try to finish anything. I remember staying up for as long as three days without any sleep just to finish all my papers and finals. In the end, it always magically got done just at the last second, and I survived to fight another day. I always felt that all of this was a waste of time, not realizing that these experiences would prepare me for the waste of time that is the Real World. As does college, the Real World forces you to do things you hate and don’t understand (i.e. work), unless you are fortunate enough to have your dream job, which very few of us will ever have (hence the word ‘dream’). Even then, you may find yourself forced to do things you hate doing. I think the definition of job should be:  “Something you don’t want to do but have to do for the sake of survival.”

Now that I am a participant in the Real World and tackle jobs instead of homework assignments, I find that planning for tomorrow is not a game. There has been a time in my adult life where I have procrastinated on advancing, refusing to get a job, living with my parents, and collecting unemployment (this is known as my Jane Pauley Era). Nowadays I have a job, apartment, and a musical career to look after. My musical career is the most difficult aspect of my life to maintain. Yet it is by far the most rewarding, and without it I would feel out of place in the world. I’ve never been very ambitious when it comes to having financial stability and career goals. My current employment as a part-time office assistant suits me just fine for now. But when it comes to following my passion, which is writing, recording and performing music, there will always be an inherent risk involved.

That’s right, I thought it. Now I’ll say it out loud:  “This might not work out. Ever.” I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into music projects so far, and frankly, none of them have been successful. That doesn’t mean they weren’t good (most weren’t), but finding a way to make money off of music is like trying to squeeze water out of a rock. In the world of music, those who bullshit for long enough to fool the serpent actually make it to the top, while the rest give up or become casualties. Still there are those who persevere on, despite being old and unknown (and terribly pathetic, too). This latter type rarely ever sees any reward for their hard work, but because they do what it for the love of music, there is no actual failure because the act of doing is it’s own reward.

Now I’m finally getting to my point. I spent years in school, learning how to play ‘the game’ first, then learning how not to play that game, and currently I’m in a state of contemplation, wondering if life has to be played by the same rules as ‘the game’. Planning for the future by learning to adapt to a set of rules (i.e. school, work, society) is something that a lot of people do at my age. And every financial adviser will recommend that you look ahead and invest in you future. My mother probably wishes I had a plan, but I don’t. I’ve found that every time I make plans for the future, I end of subterfuging myself and purposely procrastinating, perhaps because my subconscious is guiding me away from making a huge mistake. Or maybe it’s because I know that making plans is a good way to ensure that they will never happen.

How many people do you know, including yourself, have made plans, whether it is taking on a certain career path like being a lawyer or doctor, or getting married to your first sweetheart, only to find out that it wouldn’t work? And what did all that planning lead to in the end? Arguably, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and no experience is not worth having, but I would retort that you could have been enjoying and learning about what you really wanted to do instead of wasting your time on things you secretly know aren’t right for you.

Granted, there are many people out there that don’t know what they want, or find it impossible to even begin to do the things they want. Usually their excuse is based on their plan. For instance, I have a good friend (we’ll call him Joe)who works 80 hours a day running a successful business because he has a ‘plan’ to be the greatest at what he does in his line of work. At the same time, he’s often told me of his dream to leave the country and travel for a long time. When I ask him why he doesn’t just leave now, he explains that there is too much work and the business couldn’t carry on without him. Because he has to adhere to working to make his plan work out, Joe never gets to do what he really wants to do. Consider an alternate reality where he went to Costa Rica and lived on the beach and surfed every day. From this perspective, Joe could conceivably discover what is really important to him in life and have a realization that leads him to a more liveable path in his life. Instead, he sticks to his ‘plan’ because either he’s afraid to do anything else, or doesn’t want his precious work to go unrewarded. What kind of life is that, you ask? Well, it’s the life of many people who are stuck in a mode of thinking.

With this microcosmic example, I ask you to consider the bigger picture now. We currently live in a highly unstable world. Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis has there been such a threat of nuclear war on our planet. Economies all over the world are faltering and the largest superpower, our good ol’ USA, is at a true low-point economically. There is no universal health care coverage and unemployment rates are skyrocketing. Huge companies like GM and Mervyn’s are collapsing without other viable economic powers to take their place. People are losing their life savings and 401K plans in the stock market fallout. Many who planned and saved for years to buy their ‘dream house’ are now forced to foreclose. Meanwhile, China and India’s governments are completely disregarding their environmental responsibilities for the sake of economic growth, consuming oil in quantities that will decimate reserves more rapidly than necessary, and exploit some of the most impoverished humans on the planet. What is going to happen next? I sure don’t know, and as much as people try to speculate, there is no reassurance of anything ever. Period.

What does this mean to us as individuals? We all must continue to dream and have goals. In order to accomplish those dreams and goals we are always told we must have a plan. But if you have learned anything from watching dieting commercials, you know that a plan is just an excuse so you don’t have to think for yourself and adapt based on your intelligence and awareness of what’s going on around you. So if you have created ‘the plan’ for yourself, consider reevaluating your situation and coming up with a strategy instead. A strategy is as good as a plan because it guides you towards your goal, but it doesn’t define any laws or rules which allow you to stop taking personal responsibility for your actions. Be willing to change and adapt at any moment, and quit doing things that don’t benefit you. Always do what you want to do, or at least work towards trying to do the things in life you aspire to as soon as possible before it’s too late. Use your strategy to figure out how to live without harming your financial and emotional stability, and forget about tomorrow. Only dream about tomorrow when you are living your life as you should today. It is only from this perspective that you can gain the knowledge you seek.