No lies. In my younger years, I procrastinated a lot. I was always putting off homework and chores until I forgot about it. For whatever reason, I didn’t take many things seriously, and I didn’t care about doing things on time. Sure, I wanted to be smart, and I loved delving into things for which I had passion, like computers and dancing, but I mostly wanted one thing in life: To be cool. I wasn’t.
What did it mean to be cool to me? In a simple definition, I wanted to live the life in which men wanted to be me and women wanted to be with me. I filled my head with pop-culture references and started reading self-help classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People. I read up on philosophy so I could wax intellectual with the artsy hippies, and I got into dance music so I could relate to the people partying in the clubs. I did everything I could think of to meet girls, become wise, and stay fit. I met some great women, and made some great friends along the way, but I always suffered from a bit of social anxiety. That anxiety drove me to learn to prepare.
Once I got into a degree program at the University of Minnesota, I still wanted to be cool, but I started taking my academics seriously. Although I didn’t have my procrastination problem completely figured out, I was in a writing intensive program, and I felt I had something to prove. Transferring in from a community college, I felt my college experience was lacking. Everyone seemed smarter and better connected since most of the people in my cohort had started their undergrad at the U of M. I thought I had to catch up. I was wrong.
Most people were average, too busy to try, and not nearly as smart as I thought. Some people even openly admitted to plagiarizing content and simply changing words using Word’s thesaurus before handing it in as their own. I found that despicable and vowed to outwork the lot of them. If they were studying one hour, I was studying two. If they were posting essays, I was critiquing them. They were my competition, and I wanted to see what they were made of. That is when I stopped procrastinating.
One of the of the first things I noticed was anxiety relief. If I just took care of things when they were assigned, I didn’t need to think about them anymore. My mind was free to focus on my passions. It didn’t matter that I had to sacrifice the time; I still found a way to party plenty. I transformed into a bit of a workaholic.
The second thing I noticed was an overall improvement in my content. Since I had extra time to edit and expand the ideas, I was able to push my research, imagination, and explore the depths of my creativity. I was relentlessly critical in my self-talk, and I carefully crafted rhetorically sound arguments in my essays. I was proud to earn A’s from professors who rarely gave them. I showed promise, and I loved it.
These habits shaped the way I approached work too. I wasn’t employed to slack off; I was there to climb the ladder. Employment is a zero-sum game. If someone else gets the promotion, that means I can’t. It was just another environment in which procrastination wouldn’t cut it. I decided I am the guy to pick up the slack and step up to take the responsibility no one else wants. That work ethic has led to promotions at every job I’ve ever held. I am a ladder climber. I am a grinder. I am willing to put in the work.
That leads me to where I am today. I will turn 32 in a few days, and I’m still perpetually moving forward. I’m back in school studying data analysis. I’ve climbed the ladder into a technical position at work. I’m getting married to a great woman at the end of the year. I have a good house and a wonderful dog. I have what’s left of the American dream, and I’m not about to stop plotting my path to wealth and retirement. All of this hard-work will pay off; it already has, and I think that is pretty cool.