April 25, 2014

5 Important Lessons I Learned When I Stopped Being Lazy

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As I write this, there’s a hot, slightly overcooked English muffin sitting in the toaster just begging to be smothered in a sea of honey pecan cream cheese. But that’s not going to happen until I finish this entry.

Here’s why…

For much of my life, especially my teenage years and early 20s, I allowed myself to be lazy. I rarely challenged myself. Life as I knew it was little more than recklessly and haphazardly pursuing whatever bit of low-minded narcissism I could conjure up, coupled with endlessly reliving a glamorized past that existed only in my mind and occasionally (heavy emphasis on “occasionally”) doing whatever it was I was “supposed” to do.

I was miserable. I lived a life fueled almost entirely by Mountain Dew, video games and excuses. Despite being intelligent and fully capable, I was so lazy that I nearly dropped out of high school and barely got into college.

I created nothing. I contributed nothing.

Today, roughly a decade removed from my “years of sloth,” I struggle to recognize that person as me. The me of 10 years ago would have never been able to write this, much less finish it. The me of today, however, can not only write this, but can also resist the urge to use breakfast as an excuse to not finish this—temporarily anyway.

I owe a lot of that ability to Benjamin Franklin, a guy who died nearly 200 years before I was born but who will live on long after I’m gone because of all that he created and contributed to humanity.

You see, somewhere around 2006, I stumbled across Walter Isaacson’s biography of Franklin. I devoured it like I want to devour that English muffin right now… and it changed my life. I became obsessed with absorbing as much wisdom as possible from Franklin’s life as an Enlightenment-era Renaissance man.

And from that experience I unearthed a few very important lessons. I learned to…

1. Open my mind, embrace change and strive to do better.

2. Learn from the experiences of others rather than trying to figure everything out myself.

3. Read. Never stop reading.

4. Surround myself with great people and great ideas.

5. Be positive and get excited about new opportunities and obstacles.

Franklin inspired me in so many ways. This quote, in particular, has since grown to be my mantra: “To cease to think creatively is to cease to live.”

Note two very important things here. First, creativity is an essential part of human life—your life, my life, the collective life of civilization, all life. Second, Franklin uses the word cease, not the word begin. In other words, you don’t have to start creating, you just have to not stop yourself from creating.

Creativity is a natural action that takes places organically unless you choose to stop it or allow it to be stopped.

You could call it the “Law of Creativity”—and it’s no different than Newton’s First Law of Motion: “An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.”

A mind either remains at rest or continues to constantly create, unless acted upon by an external force.

Creating something doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it isn’t when you think about this way. Because you’re already doing it, it’s truly easier and more beneficial to you to just go with it instead of wasting energy shutting it down.

And that’s how I slowly learned to create.

I learned that I already was creating. I learned to focus on that creativity when it was taking place. I learned to nurture that creativity by exploring new things. By challenging everything. By doing interesting and exciting things. And most importantly, by taking action.

I learned the key to creating is to act on my inspirations rather than allow an external force, or more often an internal force, to turn motion into rest.

So when I’m partially through making breakfast and a spark of creativity is ignited in my mind, I move on it. Immediately. I don’t make excuses. I don’t say “I’ll get to it as soon as I finish making breakfast, and then after I eat, and rinse the plates, and start the dishwasher” and then forget about it entirely.

I do my best to live the Law of Creativity in everything I do (strong emphasis on “do my best” because I’m not perfect—there are countless times each day I fail at this, but that’s okay).

The bottom line: You can create whatever it is you want to create simply by not ceasing creativity.

So stay in motion. Don’t put off that piece of writing that’s been rolling around in your head for anything, not even a delicious English muffin. Don’t get overwhelmed and ignore working on that idea that’s been gnawing at your soul. Don’t skip going for a walk or meditating or hitting the gym or whatever it is you do that helps you find encouragement and clarity.

As Nike boldly declares, “Just Do It.”

And now, finally, to go enjoy a room temperature, slightly overcooked English muffin. TC Mark

Adam Fogle

Adam Fogle is a communications consultant in South Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter.