Politics have never really interested me, since I never wanted to be a politician. It was pretty clear to me when I was a kid that I would have to spend all day every day updating my knowledge of the country and the world just to stay informed enough to do a job like that. Even then, the difference between information and opinion gets pretty blurred on nearly every issue; figuring out if what you learned was the truth or a lie or a cleverly crafted half-truth would also take all day every day, and that means no time to learn that information in the first place. Also, it turns out many politicians have to spend pretty much all day raising money; so that leaves no time for either practice.
After spending a bit of time writing about doctors recently, I should address their time issue here as well. To cover student loans and malpractice insurance and the costs of running a practice on top of their regular bills, doctors have to see a ton of patients in a day. The average length of time a doctor spends with each patient is around seven minutes, since they have so many costs to cover and so much paperwork to keep up on. Many of them quickly fall behind on keeping their education updated in a field that is always rapidly changing, because there just aren’t enough hours in a day.
You can say that isn’t enough time to spend with a patient, but they are stuck between a rock and a hard place in the modern landscape of medicine. If your only choices were getting your seven minutes or not having a doctor at all, which would you choose? Just be glad there are people passionate about helping people; the money isn’t really there like it used to be.
Also, there are only twenty-four hours in a day.
Rather than eliminate the careers I didn’t want to do one at a time, I spent much of my childhood reading books and wondering what I would be when I grew up. I didn’t realize at the time that the people you admire can often help you figure out what your heart longs for, but I did know the people I admired most were authors. When I learned many of my favorite authors were somehow writing more than one book a year, I was amazed. Even writing one book seemed like a huge and complicated task to me; it wasn’t until I had written several books that I saw how focus and practice play a huge role in an author’s productivity.
I imagine trying to become a politician or a doctor would give me insights into those fields that would turn any criticisms I may have into compassion; but maybe not. Every author I hear complaining about their situation looks like someone more interested in making excuses than they are in creating great work to me. The ones that don’t complain are facing challenges just as difficult as the ones who are, but their focus is on what they can control instead of what they can’t. Inevitably these are the ones that get more done and get better at their craft. While the haters languish in their own version of needing to be right, these are the folks who set aside their misconceptions in order to find their next highest truth.
This applies to every field of inquiry, of course. I just know I could spend hundreds of years getting better at writing books and never find an end to that improvement arc. So my interest in politics and science and medicine remains cursory, and I remain in a position that attempts to consider every point of view without clinging to any of them as absolute truths.
The last thing I want to do with the little bit of information I have been able to gather is form beliefs around them; that way, new information can enter my consciousness without challenging any long held beliefs. Rather than believe what anyone tells me, I reserve the right to consider both sides of an argument. Usually I end up realizing the two people arguing are each right in their own way and also both wrong in their own way, which gives me more reason to reserve final judgement.
This works great for the fiction author, who will benefit a great deal from looking for thoughts that start with ‘what if’ instead of searching for ways to start our sentences with ‘I know’. But it isn’t just authors that reap the rewards of keeping an open mind; the world is full of creations that started out with a ‘what if’. While the bulk of humanity focuses on being right about what is and isn’t possible, the rare gem looks for ways to make what was considered impossible yesterday commonplace today.
As often as people level their criticisms against folks who are obsessed with inventing or improving products or services, they are typically spending at least twice that time depending on those inventions and improvements. One of the keys to getting more done in a day than most people is shrugging off the limitations others tend to adopt, and I suppose the most extreme examples tend to ignore more of those limits than anyone. When I think of how many things didn’t exist when I was a kid that are completely commonplace now, my mind runs in place for a minute. Every one of those things were the product of an obsession and disbelief in some form, and they all just keep getting better due to imagination and hard work.
Goods and services aren’t the only thing that benefit from streamlined thinkers. If you believe the story of almost any messiah, you have to consider how much intense inner work they must have each done to reach some significant level of enlightenment within one lifetime. Not only that, most of them get there in their twenties or thirties at the very latest; that’s only a fraction of a lifetime, in modern terms. And their days were all only twenty-four hours, as well.
The real kicker in all this is that the people who work the hardest and make time management a high priority often have to start out making the least money. As much as the rest of us might depend on their brilliant products and innovations, the current system has no way to compensate idea people while they are having their ideas. Creatives have to do more than just have an idea; they have to find a way to implement it as well.
Even though their days are also only twenty-four hours long.
Nobody benefits from someone sitting around all day thinking of brilliant stuff but never doing anything to make it a reality. Whether you’re a painter or a software designer or an author, being clever at your craft just isn’t enough in the modern marketplace. You have to be clever at starting and running a business as well, as good at selling your product as you are at creating it. This is a reality the day jobber never has to grapple with, and when creative types finally get paid for all that time they put in the working stiff often thinks they suddenly became the classic ‘overnight success’.
Not every creative gets paid for the time they put in, either. A lack of good business sense or ethics or practices won’t pay off no matter how long you keep at it; you have to get all your ducks in a row in a very real way to find any true success in your own business, and more fail than succeed. As much as we might cringe at the thought of minimum wage being lower than it has ever been in relation to the value of a dollar in America, few people point out how the business owner gets left out in all of those equations. The truth is…
We’ll talk about that next week, in a post by that name. I hope you come back for it, and that this was a fun one for you too!
Thanks for reading!
All the best,