There is no magic bullet. Have to remember that. In life, at work, in anything. It’s easy to slide from “try to be efficient and find the shortest distance between two points” to “look for the magic bullet.”
Only there is no magic bullet. There is only day by day, the long few, and the slog. I used to be pretty good at keeping this top-of-mind, and doing the slog, but I think the last few years have left me with some inconvenient habits of mind.
One of them is the tendency to think, without realizing it, about magic bullets. No, no, no. There is no magic bullet.
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Young folks tend not to appreciate the extent to which their lives are pretty convenient. I was that way, too. Lots of song and dance about problems and frustrations and unjust this-and-that, relatively little appreciation of the fact that they will never again have it so good (and a general dislike of the tendency of those older than they are to suggest this repeatedly).
© Aron Hsiao / 2008
But it’s true. And I put convenience at the top of the list when it comes to considering things how things are more difficult as one ages.
Right now in my life, very few things are convenient. When I was younger, despite what I thought, almost everything was convenient. Want to move? Do it! Want to make a purchase? If you have a job, make it! Want to go on a date? Pick the time! Want to go back to school? Well why not?! Need something that you don’t have on hand? Make a trip to the store!
There were no real obstacles but my own initiative—and cash, of course, which young people complain endlessly about, but even that often boils down to initiative—so almost anything could be done.
Now nothing comes easy. Something is in the way of every last thing. A pretty good foundation must be laid even for a trip to the store. Many things simply can’t be done. Everything is a risk-reward-cost-benefit calculation, suffused with compromises. Life becomes much more labor-intensive, and decisions much less about “whether to” and much more about “which to.”
Of course I have no illusion that I am experiencing the nadir of convenience in my life. It remains convenient, at least, to walk across the living room if I want to do so, or to have a glass of water.
In another thirty or forty years, should I live that long, even that those things will no longer be convenient. Bodily movement and energy reserves will gradually become a bigger and bigger issue and calculation, and a glass of water becomes not just something to stand up and get, but in fact something with ripple effects that last throughout the afternoon—a glass of water means a washed glass as well as a trip to the restroom later on. Three inconvenient trips just to get a drink. Maybe not worth it.
If there was some way to impress upon young folks just how wide open the world is to them, and just how much the drag on everything they do will increase as their life goes on, the world would be a much more productive place.
For my own part, I’ve got to internalize all I’ve just said and realize that while things may not now be as convenient as they used to be, they will become less and less convenient with every year that passes.
So if I have anything that I want to get done or any grand changes that I want to make in life, well… the sooner the better.