We all do this inner calculation, and most of us get it wrong.
I went around to my mate’s place the other night, and we head into his study to do a bit of business.
He opens up the door an apologises,
“Sorry, the bulb’s blown in the light. I’ll just turn on the lamp.”
And then he fumbles his way over to the desk in the dark, and turns on the desk-lamp. It’s pretty dim, but it gives us enough to work with.
I say, “Is that still the same blown light bulb from last time I was here?”
“Um… oh. I don’t know. Possibly.”
“Mate that was like four or five months ago.”
“What? Really? No way.”
And it starts to dawn on him that for four or five months he’s been stumbling around in the dark, pretty much every night, for the sake of one blown light bulb.
“Here. I’ll fix it while you’re booting up your computer.”
And so I unscrew the light shade, take out the bulb, follow his directions to the laundry where the new bulbs are kept, get a new one, put it in, screw the shade back on, and we’re done.
It was a little bit of mucking around, but no more than a five minute job.
There’s an interesting kind of arithmetic here that I think we can all relate to.
On any given day the calculation makes sense. It’s a five minute job, I’m only going to be in here for a few minutes, the lamp kind of makes it work. It’s not worth mucking around with. I’ll do it later.
And this makes sense. When you’re busy (and who isn’t?) the calculation adds up.
But zoom out to, say, a period of four or five months, and the calculation starts to look ridiculous. There’s hours of stumbling around in the dark, stubbing your toe, messing around with a lamp and it all could have been avoided with a simple five minute job.
It makes no sense at all.
But we live in this wonky arithmetic all the time.
If you look around at your life, how many things are just not quite right? The relationship with your partner or your mother-in-law. Your job. The storage situation in your pantry. Your garage.
None of them are bad. None of them are at crisis levels. But they’re not perfect either. It’s just not quite bad enough to do anything about… today.
I think this is why a human usually needs to find itself in crisis before it becomes committed to real change. If it can just muddle by, it will. There’s just so many things to do.
In that way the comfortable and the ok are the enemy of excellence. If we are busy (and everyone is), but comfortable enough, we can end up wasting decades in mediocrity.
It was like I was talking to an older fellah who had just retired. He’d done well for himself – he’d had a nice management job in the corporate sector. He’d put money away, and had a decent nest egg for retirement. He’d set himself up for a retirement that was going to be nice, comfortable enough. But it wasn’t going to be amazing.
As he said to me, “I was just too busy making good money to figure out how to make great money.”
So I think that if we want to live a life somewhere in the awesome spectrum – if we want to have a life that is several standard deviations away from the ordinary levels of wealth, excitement and fulfilment that most people enjoy, then we need to see that comfortable and ok are the enemy.
Partly that means keeping our focus in the long term. “If I fix this light bulb now, how much hassle will it save me over the next year?” “If I get a wealth strategy in place now, how much will that be worth to me over the next thirty years?”
But partly it’s about living at a different energetic level. It’s being in a space where as soon as you see you’ve got a blown light bulb, you jump into action and fix it. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired. It doesn’t matter if you’re busy. Just get it done.
Most people won’t or can’t live this way. They’ll leave change to moments of crisis.
But if you want to get out of the pack, you need to do things a little differently.