Distracted is what they call us. If we game, surf the web, and watch TV then we’re distracted. What are we distracted from though? We’re part of a privileged generation. Some of the most intense, provocative, magical stories are being written and played out during the years of our lives. Should we ignore them in favor of more TPS reports? Should we “cold shoulder” this amazing world before us? And how will it progress if we ignore it in favor of being “productive”? I think our view of what is and isn’t productive is wrong. I think longer hours at work, yard work, or going to the gym are distractions keeping people from truly finding their calling.
Before our feet is a new, flashing technological world waiting to be explored and built upon. Amateur content is flooding the web and it is being generated by individuals who are embracing their “distractions.” There are thousands of successful dot com sites created by amateurs. There are bloggers, app makers, YouTube sensations, and amateur craftsmen and women on sites like Etsy. I think, maybe, the distraction is the extra 20 hours a week spent in a cube. I think, maybe, focused means cutting out at 5:01, ignoring the yard work, and rushing somewhere, someplace, to do something you love.
In 1990 gaming was a distraction, in 2010 it’s a market worth billions and billions of dollars. The creators aren’t just getting rich, they are also introducing a modern art. The high resolution landscapes in modern games are so intricate and full of brilliant color and detail that it’d be difficult not to call them art.
This is what I’m being asked to ignore, art. It is full of life, adventure, and discovery. In games we explore a virtual world and experience inhuman powers. We fly, we command armies, teleport, cast spells, and fight in ancient worlds and in far off ones.
On YouTube I watch artists like Noah Gundersen, totally undiscovered, and absolutely amazing. I watch Mackelmore’s “Same Love” and “Otherside” and feel glad to be part of this musical generation. I watch TED talks on reforming education and feel enlightened. I key up Netflix and watch documentary after documentary on space and feel miniscule. How many amazing lines, speeches, and dialogues have been in Hollywood movies? I do not regret the hours spent watching Band of Brothers, BSG, Inception, and Avatar. I do not regret being amazed by Jonathan Antoine. I do not regret being amazed, intrigued, or moved.
Are you ready to redefine distraction yet? We don’t look at long hours at work as a distraction but after years of pulling late nights do most of us look back and feel that those were great experiences? Working to invent, innovate, solve, and create, that is worthwhile. How many overtime hours are spent doing those things though? Working late because work is busy is work stealing your life away. That’s a company stealing your life. When I pull a sixty hour workweek, nobody says “Dave, you’re distracted.” I am though. I could be inventing, laughing, exploring, experiencing.
This isn’t about greed or money. I’m not against working or making money, but work for good reason. If you can, do something you love and if you can’t do something you love, do something you love using the money you make. Money is to give you control of your own life. Real freedom is largely having financial freedom. When you use money to get a loan and make payments on a $50,000 BMW, that’s not financial freedom. A $200,000 loan for a house is not financial freedom. Buy a surf board and paddle into head high waves. Buy a pack and head off into the wilderness. No kids? Save, then quit your job and go see what the world looks like.
Distracted? Absolutely. By crappy TV and late hours doing arbitrary work. Not by funny or amazing YouTube videos and not by amazing theater or games. Not by hobbies we love. We cut ourselves short by not being more passionate about our hobbies. Stay up late and do the thing you love. Go into work tired; drink a coffee, you’ll be fine. People working long hours should set out to do something substantial; be a game changer or don’t bother staying past five.
Stay up late reading books, maybe you’ll start the next Amazon or write the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games. Or maybe one book will change the way you view the world, or introduce you to a marvelous and exciting new one. Watch great movies. Maybe you could make your own short film, movie review blog, or write a script. Maybe you’ll invent the next Netflix. Give acting a shot.
All these old foaggies keep saying we’re distracted. They think we ought to take that corporate job and put in twelve hour days until we become a manager. That’s the distraction though. We need to pay closer attention to the things we love and embrace them.
Ivon Chouinard was a rock climber decades back. He loved nature and didn’t like drilling holes into rocks as he climbed so he designed more rock-friendly bolts. That was the start of Patagonia. Phillip DeFranco didn’t like how the news was being reported so he started his YouTube channel. He gets over a million views a week.
Do we need fewer things going on in our lives? Definitely. Simplify your life and boil it down to what matters and what doesn’t. What do you love? If we have more people with a single goal or dream then we’ll see more innovation and more people finding happiness in pursuing their passion. The kid who doesn’t finish his homework because he’s distracted by his guitar may be the next John Mayer or Bon Iver. We need more of those types, by the hundreds. We need more Olympians chasing that one dream. Swimming in the pool is a distraction until you go after it will all your heart. Then suddenly you’re wearing your nation’s flag and the entire world is watching you swim.