Life is built out of a million little decisions. Whether you snooze or not in the morning has an effect on if you will take a shower, if you will eat a healthy breakfast and so on. Every tiny decision is a block and if you don’t stack the blocks one on another properly eventually the thing will crash. Stacking the blocks won’t result in a straight line up, because life isn’t linear. If it was, life would be as simple as building a straight line up, setting goals, making a plan and reaching those goals. All done in perfect time and space.
But, life is not linear, it’s dynamic. The blocks won’t stack up in a nice fashion, so you have to be aware of how you stack them. If the stack of blocks starts tilting to the right, you have to add some on the left. It’s all about balance. Makes sense doesn’t it? Even my toddler understands this concept.
The ingredients to build a solid tower of blocks are; patience, process, and blocks with good dimensions. Blocks with good dimensions are created by going through the process of a decision from A to Z, no matter how small or how big. Both going through the process and building a solid tower take patience.
A decision to start a process can be as small as making a cup of coffee, to building a house or dealing with your childhood trauma. If you don’t go fully through the process the block won’t come out perfectly square. It might have a round edge to it or be a triangle, which makes it harder to stacks one block on another. Sure, you can add a defect block here and there in the stack, but when there are too many, the tower will be unstable, and just a tiny vibration will drop the thing to its feet.
Towers of blocks collapsing is a common thing nowadays because let’s be honest; who still has the time, or better yet the patience, to go through a process from A to Z? There’s just too much going on and we don’t want to miss a thing.
Enter FOMO: The fear of missing out. This is actually a real thing, especially for the younger generations. We want to keep up with everything that’s going on, we want to jump on the hype, don’t want to miss a beat, we want to be where it’s happening, and so patience is non-existent.
The buzzwords nowadays are motivation and passion. And, of course, these are very important parts. But, this is built on the premise that a tower of blocks is built in a straight line up. It’s the hustler’s way, the popular way, the way of burnouts. No matter how passionate and motivated you are, its impossible to keep up with everything that’s going on.
The pieces of the puzzle
We want everything, and we want it now. Not in 5 seconds. Right. Fucking. Now. We want everything now and we get everything now, leading to a new paradigm. We became spoiled kids who get a present just by stomping our feet on the ground.
With everything becoming faster and more instant, the skill for patience become less and less. The skill of going through a process from A to Z with full focus and without disturbance is becoming rare. Focusing is so hard because while you are going through a process FOMO keeps hitting you hard non-stop. FOMO is proof that an infinite source leads to the lowest form of energy available: fear. We used to fear real threats like the mammoth chasing and eating us, now we fear that we’ve missed the next popular post on Facebook.
We want to keep up with everything that’s going on and so we cut corners. And cutting corners is the ultimate price we pay for being impatient. If you are having a date and go out for lunch and you are multitasking you are keeping up with everything at the same time. But, in fact, you are missing out on everything at the same time.
You leave, with half a story that doesn’t make any sense. You leave, with just a piece of the puzzle. You leave, without ever finding out what the story is about. You leave because you just didn’t have the patience to finish what you started. Maybe you read the first and the last paragraph. But the story doesn’t happen at the beginning and the end. It happens in the middle. Better yet, it starts with the first character and ends with the last.
And so you leave, onto the next thing that caught your attention. But something tells me you will leave there as well, again with just a piece of the puzzle. And so you keep collecting just a couple of pieces from a whole lot of puzzles. Every night you come home with pieces of puzzles that don’t make any sense. Maybe some will fit together and create an entirely different made up story, but for the most part, you have a head full of useless pieces. You end up with a fragmented mind.
And just as easy as you close this page, you will skip all the other things in your life, all due to a lack of patience. “I don’t have time for this shit”, and gone you are. Chasing the next shortcut.
The 2-mile marathon
We love instant, the shortcut, the cheat code, the get rich quick and get ripped fast methods. All of these things undermine one of the most important parts of life; the process. A process consists of every single step you have to take to get from A to Z. Not just the physical steps, also the conscious and unconscious steps. Going through the journey, experiencing it and processing it, until it’s a part of your being.
The longcut isn’t attractive. A big part of the longcut is the boring middle part. The place where the hard work happens and the wins are small, sometimes even non-existent. The process is undermined because of shortcuts that are wildly available. A shortcut is a get out of jail free card. It’s a free ride. It’s getting the rewards without putting in the work. It’s picking the fruit without nurturing the tree. A shortcut is for the spoiled kids.
The shortcut is accepted because we don’t have the time. But, everyone gets the same 24 hours a day. Day in and day out. So we all have time, but what most people don’t have is priorities. The shortcut Is sexy. It takes you from the fun first part, straight to the rewards at the end. But, who really wants that? Who wants to accept a medal for a marathon when you’ve only ran the first and last mile?
Even if you are ethically capable of accepting the medal for the marathon, one thing is certain. You are not able to run a marathon. Since you haven’t put in the long and hard work you haven’t leveled up. You entered the process at the beginning and didn’t come out any better at the end. All you have is instant gratification and some attention for reaching the end.
Enter a world of fake biceps, fake musicians, and fake gurus. At the surface, it all looks great, but if you dig just a little deeper, even an inch under the surface, it gets exposed.
A fake bicep isn’t capable of curling a dumbbell, a fake musician isn’t capable of hitting a note or writing an original melody, and a fake guru isn’t capable of giving you anything else than the linear method he has, because he just hasn’t got the skills, insight, and experience.
If you cheat your way through world 1 to 7 in Super Mario, you won’t be able to play level 8. You simply don’t have the skills. Sure, you can cheat your way through world 8 as well all the way to the end credits, but the fun of the game isn’t in the credits. The fun of the game is experiencing it from A all the way through Z. The fun is going through the full process, experiencing every step and every fail and getting better.
The reward for the marathon isn’t the medal and attention at the end. The reward is the experience and the realization that you have what it takes to get from A to Z. The reward is the new man you became in the process. The medal simply functions as a trigger for the memory of the experience. If you look at someone else’s medal, nothing in you gets triggered, nothing happens. It’s just a piece of metal. This is the reason participation medals are such a weird phenomenon, but I’d like to leave that for another article.
A process is a fierce thing. If you bail out today, the process will be there again tomorrow. What happens when you interrupt the process? You kill the cycle. You disturb the journey, you abort the mission. We want the pill to bypass the process. But the cure is in the process and not the pill. The pill is just a bandage that says “not now”. It’s the dam that holds back the water, but the water keeps pushing relentlessly until ‘not now’ isn’t acceptable anymore. The dam breaks and the process drops on you. Now it’s time to sink or swim.
But, you can’t swim. You don’t have the stamina, you’ve got baby soft hands, no callus. Your mind is fragile, weak because you’ve never trained it for hardship and pain. And as a result, you will sink in the toddler pool.
Every time the process gets hard you bail out. You say “not now”. “Not now” is your get out of jail free card, your three heel clicks to get out of Oz. You can pull the plug whenever the process gives you the creeps.
The process is patient, unlike you. If you say “not now” to the process, it will just say “I’ll be right here”. It will always be present in your mind like a failure, like unfinished business. It can be something insignificant like the two records you’ve never finished, or the wet laundry in the washing machine. You’ll know you haven’t gone through the process, but you’ll live.
But some processes are a bit harder to face and every time you say “not now” the process says “I’ll be right here, on your shoulder, and I’m not going anywhere. I will raise my voice just a tiny bit every day until you are ready to experience me”. Sure, you can act like it isn’t there, you can toughen up. But, it will stay there every step of the way.
Not going through a process is settling for less. It’s being a glimpse of your full potential. It’s staying in the same place, although you are running everywhere like a madman. Not going through a process is never experiencing how enlightening it is to see the contours of a house through the trees at the end of the forest. It’s not experiencing what it likes when you break through your shell because it became too small. Not going through the process is not getting the actual reward of going through it and not creating a habit out of going through processes. It leads to an unfulfilled life of coulda, woulda, shoulda, a waste of talent and a waste of character.
And all because you were impatient and not courageous enough to endure the process.
Try this if you’re not sure if you are patient or impatient: Take 6 deep breaths right now. Deep breaths have amazing health benefits like lowering stress and blood pressure. You are breathing anyway so why not take 6 deep breaths? Try it, now. Breath in for 5 seconds, hold for 10, breath out for 5. Chances are you bail out before you reach 6. All because you are impatient.
All children do is go through long processes and they never bail out. Kids trying to walk don’t say “this isn’t for me” after they fall ten times. They keep at it, no matter how many times they fall. We talk about children like they are some rare species, but there used to be a time when we all were kids and had to go through those processes, and we dit. So what happened? When did we become so allergic to patience and the process?
Sitting with the trees
The patient man is a wise man. A wise man who knows everything needs its time and space. When you ask a patient man how long a process will take, he will say “as long as it takes”. The patient man knows you can’t rush a process. If you turn the oven twice as high the cake won’t bake twice as fast. If you pull the stem of a flower, it won’t grow faster. The patient man just lets the process be, without question.
Not because he doesn’t care, but because he knows what’s best for the process. Baking the cake twice as high results in a burned cake on the outside and a doughy inside. Pulling the flower will damage it and probably even kill it. And so the patient man goes through each process with full awareness and faith that all will work out in the end.
Not having patience and being able to focus go hand in hand. Focus means the ability to completely emerge yourself in what you are doing without any distractions. Patience means having the ability to accept what is and having trust in the process. Being impatient robs you of the ability to focus completely.
Sometimes all you need is nothing. A place for space, a window for time, a moment where things can settle in. The trick with the process is to dance with it every step of the way. To fully experience it with full awareness. Sit with the sadness and fully experience it.
Or not and keep it inside where it will rot and infect your body from the inside. Deal with it now and own it or wait till it comes out.
Going from A to Z in a process is like a walk through the forest. Sometimes the process is an easy and short stroll in daylight. Other times the process takes years of guiding yourself through a dark forest covered in a mystic fog. The patient man keeps going step by step. He will reach the end of the forest when the end of the forest presents itself, and not sooner.
Now he is a better man. He can look at the forest with a warm heart and thank it for the teachings and wisdom. Yes, times have been tough in the forest, but the patient man knows he had to go through it to become who he is now.
At the end of the forest, the patient man is capable of teaching other people the lessons he has learned in the forest. His weakness became his strength. He can be a guide to those anxious to set foot in the forest, for those who need a light in front of them to give them that bit of courage to carry on.
Beauty takes time. So how much time is needed? As much time to complete the process. The goal isn’t to run through the forest, the goal is to enjoy and experience the forest, no matter how dark.
In the forest the blocks of life are molded. Molded into perfection by fully emersing yourself in the journey. And while going through the journey you might find some bonus blocks which help you balance the ever growing tower.