Image credit: WikiMedia Commons (1918 Faust)
Instant gratification leads to mediocrity
Society has increasingly become reliant on the concept of “instant”. No wait, no pain, everything is available now.
In some ways, this can accurately be termed as a progressive concept. It is no longer necessary to wait for the massive tubes and other inner workings of an old television set or radio to warm up before a favorite program can be enjoyed. Name it: microwave ovens turned hours of cooking into a matter of minutes. Digital photography enables instant viewing of a picture, whereas it was once necessary to wait several days for film to be processed.
Of course all this is good. It’s called progress. Trouble is, people now demand instant gratification. As much as these advances have eased the stresses of life, it is entirely possible they have also contributed to an unreasonable expectation of instant gratification within today’s society.
This has misled many to believe that if an activity does not yield immediate results, it is not worth pursuing and those people tend to quickly give up the effort. But there’s something that progress can’t speed up the same way it fast forwards simple and repetitive tasks: learning.
Learning takes time
The truth of the matter is that, when a particular goal is desired, time and persistent effort toward that goal will almost always yield the desired effect of attaining the goal.
This is not a new concept. In his book, “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell stresses this very point. The investment of time and persistence into any activity, in sufficient amounts, will lead to success, proficiency, and even expert level of the activity.
In fact, the amount of time and practice devoted toward a goal is a much greater factor as to the successful achievement of the goal than that of innate ability.
In order to implement this concept, it is important to “unlearn” some of today’s philosophies, and revert to a mode of thinking that does not measure success on the basis of the small amount of time necessary to achieve it. Time and practice, with large quantities of both, are absolutely crucial.
How Does One Begin This Process?
The best place to begin the journey to success is to visualize the goal. This does not mean that a person says, for instance, “I want to win an Academy Award™ and be celebrated for the greatest visual effects ever made.”
As already told, that’s planning to fail. And fail hard. The path is the goal. Enjoying the voyage is much, much more important than reaching any destination.
It takes hard work and perseverance to reach a goal, so it’s better if all this hard work is enjoyable. All this means that the person can actually close his eyes and see himself or herself spending days, weeks, months… doing the most humble and repetitive tasks. Polishing his or her skills. Improving, learning, acquiring knowledge.
Learning never ends. This does not mean that life should be as constrictive as a calvinist’s one. Nor that everybody should sacrifice everything to their own vision.
Most visions are not that correct, you know? (Think about Dustin Hoffman repeating the line “a sword in a field” in Luc Besson’s Joan D’Arc and you’ll get the idea).
Yet it’s important to understand that this visualization, this acknowledgment is the first step towards converting a possibility into the realm of reality.
This not only helps to portray the goal for what it is — attainable — it also helps to soothe the spirit and ease learning.
The path to success is focusing
Focusing is key: put your focus away from instant gratification (also known as passing the Marshmallow Test).
After accepting this, the following steps, if implemented faithfully and persistently, will guarantee success:
- Seek out positive people. One of the basic rules of math is that a negative, multiplied by a positive, will yield a negative result. Negative people are toxic and should be avoided by one who is seeking to achieve a goal.
- Avoid distractions. Set aside a specific time and place for concentrating on the goal and adhere to it closely. This is not an area in which multitasking should be attempted.
- Establish a timeline for achievement of the goal. If no definite time is established for the goal, it is easy to forestall pursuing it.
- Once the timeline has been established, calculate the amount of time that will need to be devoted on a regular basis in order to achieve the goal by the deadline.
- Persistence, persistence, persistence! As grueling as it may be, persistence must become the mantra. For the aspiring piano player (for example), it means deliberate practice of a difficult piece until it is mastered. And, make no mistake – with the application of time and deliberate practice, it will be mastered.
Proof of the Rewards of Persistence
History is full of great examples of the payoff that comes from investing time, patience, and persistence into a goal:
- Thomas Edison, who failed 10,000 times in his efforts to invent a storage battery, said this of his experience: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, and failed twice in business. The rest is history.
- Walt Disney had numerous business failures, and his projects were rejected by many banks, but he never lost sight of his vision. The company carrying his name, today, is larger and more profitable than most of the banks that rejected his pitches.
- Did you know that Goethe wrote “Faust” several times? The first play, known as the urfaust dates back to 1772, then was rewritten over the course of 36 years and became “The Faust” as it’s known today in 1808. After this, he began writing part II and kept working on it for another twenty years. “The Faust” is among humanity’s greatest literary masterpieces, because Goethe was a genius, sure, but also because he applied his talent writing and perfecting the play for approximately fifty-five years!
Summing It Up
Goethe’s story revolves around the devil and as the old adage says “the devil is in the details”. This tells it all, if there’s an attribute of geniuses, it’s perseverance: the willingness to improve, to learn, to keep working on the details, forever.
Life can be a series of successful ventures, with time, patience, deliberate practice, and persistence. Once this theme has been mastered, it will be easy to set goals, achieve them, and set new goals.