Just before the final semester of my Senior year of college, I sat down with my school counselor to make sure all of my graduation requirements were in order. And that’s when she started doing math. Scary math. She added and then added again. She added a third time just to be sure. And that’s when we realized that somehow, someway we had both missed that I was about 21 credit hours short of graduating. We had probably not been paying attention because I had long since fulfilled all my requirements for both of my majors of Political Science and Philosophy. And I was even thinking about picking up a minor in Econ just because I could. As far as my degrees were concerned, I was all set. No, this was just a matter of putting in time for time’s sake. Paying my dues. In other words, I was 21 fluff credits of just filling up the hours away from realizing the dream of being the first person in my family to graduate college…and I didn’t like it one bit.
My counselor looked me in the eye and laid out two options. She said I could either take on a normal course load in the Spring semester and make up the rest in the Summer course and thereby delay graduation….or I could finish out my very last semester of college- the one that most people just coast through- by taking on the most epic, random, overcrowded course load ever. And when I say random, boy do I mean RANDOM. See, I had to find this very specific combination of classes that was a) stuff I had never taken before, b) that didn’t overlap with one another so that it was actually physically possible for me to be at all of them and c) things that didn’t interfere with either my work or debate schedule, since those were the things that were paying for school.
The end result was a cacophony of ridiculous that you just can’t make up. I took….Statistics, Rocks for Jocks (i.e. a Geology class known for being super easy so a lot of athletes took it to keep their GPA high, in which I sat between two giant football players who insisted on high five-ing over me the entire time), Nonverbal Communication (which I do have to admit came in handy for our new Art of Authentic Posing course!), Italian II …even though I had never taken Italian I, Intro to Dance where I did my end of the year final composition to a Britney Spears medley and ended with a salute to 9/11, and two Independent Studies on Descartes and Rousseau. It was an interesting semester to say the least. But come May, you can bet I graduated on time.
Now I tell you this story for two main reason. One, because it is just that ridiculous and I’m sure we could all use a good laugh mid-week. Plus I’m all about somebody coming from way behind to still finish the race. You’ve got to love the underdog. But the second reason is the more important one. And that is, that this story got me thinking about how a lot of us when we’re trying to build a business or a dream, we start to think that we’re making big things happen just because our days feel really full, because we’re really busy all the time and we confuse busy for building something that matters, because we’re packing it all in. But the truth is….all we’re doing there is just filling up the hours. These aren’t the things that are actually moving us forward. They aren’t teaching us anything about this craft that we’ve been called to or preparing us for the next step. They aren’t the things that are developing our gifts or making us better people. They are simply the things we are doing because somebody else said we were supposed to.
In The Guide, we talk a lot about how we started our business this way. Running around, filling up our days, making ourselves crazy….but still not actually getting anywhere. All because it was what someone else said we were “supposed” to do to build a business. But in the end it was just a lot of fluff and busy work and filling up the hours with things that didn’t ultimately matter or move us forward. We gave far too much of our lives, just chasing busy and waiting for someone else to tell us we had put in enough time, that we had paid enough of our dues. But what we soon realized was that you cannot work that hard for that long for that little return, and not burn out. I think that bears repeating. Read that sentence again. Let every word sink in until you feel it in your bones. When you are working just to stay busy, you are working just to burn out.
These days, we fill our hours with choices we get to make. And now when I’m faced with the prospect of giving my time to something, it had better be one of these four things: something I love, something I believe in, something that helps people, or something that moves us forward. Otherwise we know, we’re just filling up the hours. And running ourselves ragged in the pursuit of fluff.
And I don’t know about you, but I would rather be running toward the dream.
Go rock it out!