One will never reach any significant amount of fulfillment without a significant investment of time and energy.
Fulfill- bring to completion or reality; achieve or realize (something desired, promised, or predicted.)
We are nickel and diming our lives away through tiny donations of our time and energy, never truly satisfied, never truly fulfilled.
I’ve been told over the years that things take on more meaning when you have to work hard for them. As a boy, my father tried to teach me this lesson through various projects around the house. I was always searching for the faster, easier way. I just wanted to get things done and was constantly re-evaluating the processes that I was being told to use looking for the shortcut. If what I was doing was fairly difficult, my train of thought was that there had to be a better way to accomplish the task.
I would say throughout my entire adolescence I tried to avoid helping out as much as possible because I wanted to be with my friends and when I was cornered into a task around the house, I looked for the fastest, easiest way to get it done.
Until one project, I distinctly remember changing the way I viewed work. My father had me digging a hole for a concrete pad that he wanted to be poured which was roughly thirty feet across the back of the house, extending from our patio to ten feet past the side of the house and approximately twelve feet off of the back of the home. He had me do this with a shovel and a plow attached to our four wheeler. The hole was say two feet deep on one end and tapered to about six inches at the other. It was a chilly spring day and I was doing this alone in the backyard thinking to myself, why the fuck didn’t he rent a backhoe or something. I was very frustrated with the amount of time and energy it was taking to move all of the earth within the perimeter we had set into piles outside of it. I was overwhelmed with the task and would stop every so often and ponder how I could make this job faster and easier. All I knew was that it was the assignment I was given and that it had to get done.
I was very frustrated with the amount of time and energy it was taking to move all of the earth within the perimeter we had set into piles outside of it. I was overwhelmed with the task and would stop every so often and ponder how I could make this job faster and easier. All I knew was that it was the assignment I was given and that it had to get done.
So I kept digging. It began to rain and the dirt became mud. I had developed a process of digging up the dirt and then using the plow to push the loose dirt out of the hole, but at a certain point it became too deep and I couldn’t get it over the outside. The depth of the hole paired with the rain made everything slick and muddy, preventing the four-wheeler from having enough traction to push the sludge. I had to give up the machine and resort to just heaving large piles of wet dirt and clay out of the hole with a shovel that everything seemed to stick to. But I had to finish the job. I was no longer looking for a better way to do this. I had gained acceptance over my lack of resources and decided to do the best I could with what I had. One heavy ass shovel full at a time, I finished the hole just as my father got home from work. Standing there in the rain, completely soaked, covered from head to toe in mud, I had done it. What seemed impossible at the start was complete.
This was the very first time I can recall realizing that sometimes there are no shortcuts, there is no easier way, and hard work is all that remains. Some situations just can’t be escaped and the only way out is through. I shared these revelations with my father in the yard that day. It was a lesson he had learned much younger than myself growing up doing manual labor in West Virginia. For a brief moment in my rebellious teen years, we saw eye to eye. I had an immense amount of pride. I had finished what I started, learned a valuable life lesson, and bonded with my dad. It wouldn’t be until roughly ten years later that I would internalize this concept, but I’ll never forget where it all began.
Now even to this day I’m like, fuck that hole, but I still remember the feelings of pride and accomplishment tied to the experience. And just like all my greatest achievements, I had to invest my time and my energy to complete the task at hand. As I said, this was my first recollection of the concept, but today it has become a way of life on a larger, more long-term scale.
See we currently live in a society hyper-focused on technology and innovation, and with that comes an increasing amount of tools to make our lives easier and allow us access to the things we want quicker than ever before. Amazon allows us to purchase pretty much anything we want including groceries with our fingertips, and have it delivered directly to our doors. All of the different streaming services allow us to have our entertainment at the touch of a button, on our schedule, whenever we want. We no longer have to wait until next week for an episode to come out and clear our schedule at eight p.m. on Wednesday night because we can wait until the season is over and binge it for three days.
We don’t even have to leave the house to meet new people, we can just get on Facebook or Tinder and text away. Text. Away. We’ve all looked down at our phone when it’s ringing and silenced it only to text back immediately, what’s up. Even worse, I’ll approach someone out in public and they’ll look at me like, why the fuck are you using words from your mouth, strange person I don’t know. Actual in person communication has become almost foreign outside of our circles. The food we eat is more often than not from a drive-thru, or if you’re feeling really health conscious, a restaurant that you actually have to walk inside of.
Everything we want is at our fingertips, fast and easy, minimal time and minimal effort. It seems great. But what happens when you want to save money to travel abroad but can’t stop ordering shit that you don’t need from the internet, or you want to learn to paint but keep getting distracted with Netflix? What do you do when you want to live a healthier lifestyle but can’t get away from pizza and Wendy’s, or decide you want to build a meaningful relationship with someone but can’t stop swiping on Tinder?
There are things we truly desire such as love, health, security, and success. And they all seem to be unattainable because we’re always posting about how there’s no good men left or how we can’t seem to lose weight. And then there are all of the distractions keeping us from having those things. The difference is that all of the things we want require significant investments of time and energy but all of the distractions are fast and easy.
Instant gratification. That little hit of dopamine you get when you have a match on Tinder or a text back from Johnny-fuckboy. That spike of joy when you hit your bed at night and turn on Shameless. But all of these things eventually leave us unfulfilled, asking ourselves, what the fuck am I doing with my life. Like when Johnny-fuckboy stops responding because you’ve already hooked up. He’s playing the same game you’re playing, but on different terms. You’re both looking for instant gratification but he’s looking for sex and you’re looking for love. Or vice versa. Either way, someone isn’t getting what they want. And yet no one seems to want to invest time into the person who’s a fucking blast to hang out with because isn’t new and exciting anymore. When the dopamine spikes fade out so do the relationships. And it’s on to the next match.
Or when you’ve told yourself for months that you want to take up water colors but consistently end up in your bed crushing seasons of whatever’s on Netflix. We’re not fulfilled, we’re distracted. We have this illusion of control over our lives. We can now control how people view us based on our filters and social media personas. We can control whether or not we get hurt by anyone by never getting close enough to build relationships that have any real meaning. We control how the world views us and who we let in but can’t control our spending or eating habits. We lose control over what we choose to do with our time because when before you go to bed and you tell yourself tomorrow’s going to be different, tomorrow I’m going to get (insert random goal) accomplished and you wake up and end up in the same cycle of instant gratification, distracted on your phone, on the television, on dating apps, or some random bar and don’t follow through, you don’t actually have control over your life at all.
We’ve become so far distracted from the things that truly matter to us that we don’t even know how to make the necessary investments of time and energy into anything that doesn’t immediately have some form of payoff. So we end up chasing one hit after the next like an addict with a never ending hunger for more. A bottomless hole we’re trying to fill with all of the wrong things, simultaneously keeping us from all of the meaningful ones.
Now this isn’t to say that we can’t enjoy bad food or Netflix on occasion, but when deep down we want to be healthy and paint we have to be able to develop some sort of boundaries. Some sort of self-discipline. We have to develop the drive to succeed and commit to the things we want and to understand that the only way out is through. We need to come back to the understanding that sometimes there is no way around hard work. That the happiness and fulfillment we’ve been seeking all along won’t be found in the bar, it won’t be found in the shows, but in the dreams we all have inside us: The dreams of a healthier, stronger body, the dreams of a vacation in Europe bouncing from Paris to Rome and all that’s in between, or the desire for a significant other that understands us, that we can fully be ourselves around. Someone we are willing to spend the rest of our lives with, through sickness and in health. These are some of the things we seek, and all of them require lots of work, time, and preparation but the payoff is ten-fold. And if we keep trickling time and energy into all of the wrong things we’ll never have enough left for all of the right ones.
Time is a non-renewable resource. If a year ago we had cut out all of these distractions and really focused our efforts on the things that truly mattered to us what, would our lives look like today? Probably a hell of a lot different than they look right now. A lot can be done in a year and I’ve realized the older I get, and the larger my goals get, so does the amount of time it takes to reach them. Maybe it’s because as I mature the things I want have become quite different. Learning to kick flip on a skateboard can be done in a matter of weeks. Growing an empire that allows someone to help people through their experiences takes decades. Although my first kick flip will always have a place in my heart, I feel as if I’m here to give back in a meaningful and powerful way, and I think that it will be well worth the time and energy that I’ve invested, and will continue to invest, when my journey comes to an end.
I urge you to find that thing that lights you up and gives your life meaning, that person who supports whatever that thing may be, and the discipline to see it through. Give them the time and energy they deserve, along with all other areas of your life, and you will be astonished at the changes that will take place right before your eyes.
I’ve lived it.