Nope, this isn’t a group in the New York Time’s new hit brain game Connections. It’s my mentality when tackling tasks.
Procrastination is a real killer when it comes to everyday chores and working on dreams and passion projects. Mostly because procrastination doesn’t mean what most people think it means–putting off a job until later. Procrastination is never getting started.
Choosing now instead of later (never) is the only way to succeed.
Aesop’s Fable, “The Ants and the Grasshopper,” is about the ants diligently preparing for the winter while the grasshopper fritters away his time with music, dance, and play. When the weather turns for the worse, the ants can hunker down and enjoy their time together, while the grasshopper is left to starve in the cold.
When I was in high school I worked as a bag boy at a local grocery story. My duties included bagging groceries, herding shopping carts, and cleaning/clearing out the bottle can recycling center (this was by far the worst of my three responsibilities).
My shift length dictated the quantity and duration of my breaks. With an 8-hour shift, I would get two 15-minute breaks and a half-hour lunch.
I came to work with the ant mindset. I was freshest when I first got there, so my plan was to work for 6 hours straight without rest. After that, I had 2 hours left, with an hour of that in breaks.
I love the original NES Final Fantasy. When we first got it, I would spend hours watching my older brother play. He was, and still is, a much greater risk-taker than I am. He would approach new dungeons and areas on the map with reckless abandon. Not afraid of dying, he took challenges head on.
When I built up enough courage to start playing on my own, and when my brother would let me, I approached gameplay quite differently. I would spend hours retracing my steps in an area to fight foes (“fight foes” might be the nerdiest thing I’ve ever written in a post) over and over. This allowed my team to level up, increasing health, magic, speed, dexterity, agility, cunning, escapism (not sure about some of these, but the point is the more level ups I got the stronger my team was).
Only when I was satisfied with my leveling, would I embark on new terrain or take on a boss. Leveling up was the spring, summer, and fall for the ants or the first 6 hours of my shift at the grocery store.
The Final Fantasy connection might be a stretch for the less dorky. But, everyone can relate to the Lucky Charms concept.
You fell into one of three categories:
- Eat the oats and marshmallows together.
- Eat all the marshmallows first and then eat the oats. I imagine some kids went with this strategy, but then threw away the leftover oats. If you knew my dad, you would understand why this wasn’t an option in my household.
- Eat the oats first, leaving a bowl full of marshmallows.
If you’ve been reading, you’ll know that I was an option 3 kid. I’d suffer through the toasted oats (I feel like the word toasted is a lame attempt to make it sound like something other than plain Cheerios), leaving me with nothing but a bowl full of hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows, and red balloons (unicorns were not yet available).
I don’t know if delayed gratification is learned or inherited. I do know that it has helped me accomplish a great deal of what I want to do and what I must do.
Put in the work now (Ants), attack the day in the morning (Bag Boy), over prepare (Final Fantasy), and grind through the undesirable (Lucky Charms) to best enjoy the marshmallows of your labor.