Start Early, and Don’t Screw Around

May 5, 2008

One of the most important gifts you can give yourself when you want to get ahead is to start early. Kids over eight years old spend almost 7 hours a day watching TV, giving way only to other worthwhile activities like youtube and newgrounds. The data suggests an average child spends 38 hours per week consuming media passively.

I was an exception to this rule. From the time I was 10 years old, those 40 hours (or more) per week were spent on productive activities. I taught myself everything from HTML, to 3D geometry. Don’t get me wrong: I led a balanced life with friends and girls and the occasional peace pipe, but during all that time that you spent watching MTV and screwing around, I was working. I was thinking. I was building.

The earlier you show up to the game, the sooner you start practicing, the better off you’ll be. By the time I was 18, I was competent to design large web based applications, because I had a few under my belt. I could design a workable data model in several different RDBM Systems. The point is that I had marketable skills in a few disciplines, so I was years ahead of my college peers.

The Tradeoff

Throw your TV away, it\'s worse than worthless

I think it’s worth mentioning that way of living requires trade offs. First, I had consistently poor grades until I (barely) graduated from high school. My grade in any given class was inversely proportional to the amount of homework I had for it. I didn’t do homework: I didn’t have time and I wasn’t interested.

That’s a choice I made, and sometimes it made my life difficult. I applied for, and was rejected from, CSU. I had to write a long letter to the dean of admissions. Through some combination of writing skill and luck I convinced him to reverse his decision, but it didn’t have to play out that way, and you can’t bank on that happening.

College was a different matter. I did phenomenally well — I had a 4.0 for the first 4 years or so, and only broke it with an A- (that I didn’t deserve, grr!). The new problem was that it was a horribly easy. Imagine getting a degree and working for 8 years, then coming back and doing undergrad college again. That was my situation, and that’s why I still don’t have my degree. I eventually couldn’t take the slog anymore. I still take classes one or two at a time because I want to get a couple more advanced degrees eventually.

My point is that it’s not realistic to get fired up about being productive without something else giving. Here are some ways you can squeeze more time:

  • Get rid of your TV
  • Limit your time on filler sites like the onion, fark, other nonsense
  • Limit your time on social networking sites
  • Put less effort into your dead end job

If you cut those first three things out, you’ll hardly miss them. Putting less effort into your current job is one of those trade offs that you have to make with your eyes open: there will be consequences, and you have to be sure the benefit is worth it.

One thing you should not do is neglect yourself. Do not stop exercising, do not spend less time with your significant other, do not eat crappy food. These things are actually important, so when eliminating distractions in your life, choose wisely.


One Response to “Start Early, and Don’t Screw Around”

  1. Your amora Says:

    I’m not sure where you go your data from but I’m pretty certain kids watch and average of 3.5-4 hours per day (actually 28 hours a week). Where did you get 7 hours from?

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