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One afternoon, after months of studying, I sat for my state of Illinois/national real estate broker test. I signed-up to take the 140 question multiple choice assessment at a rather inconspicuous H&R Block location in the Chicago suburbs. The good news: I passed the test and am all squared away to meet with my sponsoring managing broker on Monday morning.
The most remarkable aspect of my testing experience, believe it or not, had nothing to do with the test. As I waited in the lobby to check in and be wanded by the test proctor (yes, apparently that is a thing now), I struck up a conversation with a friendly young woman waiting to take a nursing exam.
In only a matter of five minutes, she shared that she was a newer mother and was taking her assessment in an effort to advance her career options. Surprisingly, she didn’t appear to be weary in any sense of the word. In fact, I sensed an uncommon aura of determination and resolve in her voice. Any lingering doubts I may have had about this young woman’s resolve were wiped away when she shared that she had literally stepped in human feces while in the parking lot, of course requiring her to clean off her sandal in the rest room.
In that moment, a thought occurred to me:
$HIT HAPPENS; how you respond is everything.
I’ll never know with certainty whether this young mother passed her test, as I completed my assessment before anyone else did, but I believe I know the answer.
While most people in her situation would have been exhausted, irritated, or downright angry, this woman took everything in stride with a healthy balance of optimism and stoicism. Clearly, she was prepared to fight through any and all adverse circumstances in order to achieve her goals.
In contrast, the average person gives up far too easily. We are conditioned by our culture to seek and accept the path of least resistance. Furthermore, we whine and complain that life is so difficult and trying even in the absence of real difficulty, discomfort, or strife.
I am guilty of it from time to time, and chances are, you are, too.
HOW TO STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND EMBRACE THE GRIND
There are 24 hours in one day and 168 hours in one week. This gives you plenty of time get to work to change your circumstances. Time is the great equalizer. It is an asset everyone possesses equally. However, for a variety of reasons, a quick look at the average person’s life reveals a troubling trend of laziness and wasted time (click the table for an enlarged view).
Highlights from the above table and overall study from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- The average person spent 2.78 hours per day watching television
- For persons who engaged in watching television (nearly 80 percent of those surveyed), that average was higher at 3.48 hours per day
- Only 43.9 percent of those surveyed participated in work and work-related activities on a per day basis
- According to Table 11, the average male spent only .26 and .31 hours per day reading on weekdays and weekends/holiday, respectively; for women, those figures weren’t much better, at .37 and .38 hours, respectively.
Volumes could be written about the above study, but even a cursory glance at the statistics reveals that Americans value their leisure time. To be clear, I am not criticizing leisurely pursuits. I have many hobbies myself and enjoy pursuing them as a means of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Over time, however, it seems that a cultural shift has occurred. Mindless leisure time, such as watching television, has become a replacement for the grind-it-out mentality adopted and embraced by previous generations.
My grandfather’s habits and work ethic provide a stark contrast to today’s average person. While other retirees spent mornings on the golf course and afternoons poolside and sipping an Arnold Palmer, Grandpa worked to keep himself busy, sharp, and boost his income. In his youth, Grandpa built his first home from the ground up; in retirement, he used these skills to build and rehabilitate small and mid-size utility trailers and sell them for large profit. It was not uncommon for Grandpa to unexpectedly come home with a newly-purchased, dilapidated trailer, even when he had two or three other projects in progress. He could not bear the thought of time gone to waste. Grandpa was focused on constant maximization. He embraced the grind!
In order to strike a reasonable balance between grinding out work and enjoying leisure pursuits, I recommend asking yourself the following questions:
What is most important to me?
What do I value most?
What is the purpose of my work?
What is the purpose of leisure activities in my life?
And my personal favorite question – What is it time for now?
With any luck, these questions and the subsequent answers will help you to be a bit more like my new nurse friend. Keep persevering in the face of adversity, care for yourself, and learn to embrace the grind.
How do you balance time spent on work and leisure pursuits? What motivates you to keep grinding on?