how to fish
how to fish
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the things I’ve wanted to do, but somehow haven’t gotten around to yet. They’ve been as simple as going to the beach, taking more orchestral auditions and expanding my jazz vocabulary. They’ve been as complicated as starting my DMA at a top-notch school, starting my own lo-fi side project, and as daunting as asking that one cute barista out for dinner. Given as much time as I’ve had to do these things, and still haven’t, I wonder what problem has made it so. As always, when addressing something we view as a problem, the best thing we can do is look at our actions and the ways we rationalize these actions, and deduce a pattern. I think I’ve come to realize that my “pattern” is the same one that plenty of people struggle with, and it’s one that I believe is (for the most part) self-imposed: We’re waiting for the right time.
What is the right time? Depends on the person, and the situation. To put it in a nutshell, I think we’re waiting for the path of least resistance to show itself to us. There’s always that one detail that seems to be in the way; we’re busy in our current jobs, we’re a bit strapped for cash, we don’t know how to utilize a tool that’s necessary for a project, or maybe our hair didn’t lay *quite* the way we wanted it to that day. The “Right Time” is a time when none of those obstacles exist, and here’s the thing about the “Right Time”: by refusing to start that next big project on account of said obstacles, we’re allowing the minutia of our day, or worse ignorance, to preside over us. Allowing a temporary, fixable, short-term detail stand in the way of something that will ultimately bring us fulfillment is a serious disservice to ourselves, and perpetuates a cycle of stagnation.
This cycle is an easy one to get stuck in, but truth be told, only requires a few steps to break free from:
1.) Realizing that the “Right Time” doesn’t exist.
2.) Acknowledging that by waiting for the “Right Time,” we’re holding ourselves back and spending time, rather than investing it.
3.) Using this acknowledgement to drive ourselves forward, and explore the desired process *in spite* of the details that are holding us back.
Why the “Right Time” will never come
The “Right Time” is a time when we perceive no obstacles, or perhaps just different ones. The idea that a time will come when there are no perceived obstacles is folly; an idealistic fever-dream that panders to our short-term self. We are, at our biological core, programmed to seek out and synthesize information that leads us to perceive difficulties in a given situation. This is a product of our evolution in a time where survival was our first and foremost priority, in the most primal sense. Though the context has changed, and thank goodness it has because I doubt I would stand much of a chance against most carnivorous predators, the practice has not. We still seek out reasons that a situation or process may not be ideal, or even possible, simply because we are programmed for self preservation. Even if the obstacles in our path right now were to disappear, we would perceive new ones, because that is what we are biologically hardwired to do.
Not only are we biologically predisposed to perceive hardships inwardly, but society imposes them outwardly on us as well. As soon as I finish grading one round of tests, I have to start writing the next batch, with lectures to match, and then deliver said lectures, and before you know it, I’m giving that next test and starting the cycle over. There will always be more biding for your time; our society operates on placing a dollar amount on our time, and particularly so in todays culture where constantly being busy is seen as a virtue. There will never come a time when your job, health, family, or social circle don’t ask for your time.
There is always an abundance of reason for us not to do something. That being said, does the reason not to do something truly outweigh the reason(s) you want to?
Cons of waiting for the “Right Time”
Time waits for no man…Time never comes, only goes…The right time to plant a tree was 20 years ago…
We are at no shortage of adages as to why we shouldn’t wait, yet we so often choose to do so anyway. It seems to me like people often give motivational talks on why we should jump before we’re ready, but few talk about what happens if we don’t. For those of you that are fear-based in your motivation, hold on to your britches. Otherwise, apologies if this comes off as grim…
To start simply, if you choose to wait, that doesn’t mean other people will. By waiting, you very well may miss out on the opportunity entirely. The future does belong to the bold, and at this very moment, there may be someone less qualified than you sitting in the position you had been waiting to apply for. They are there, instead of you, because they didn’t wait. To wait for the “Right Time” may very well be to miss the chance to act altogether.
By waiting for the fabled “Right Time,” we’re robbing ourselves of so much; we’re spending our time rather than investing it. Every opportunity we have to take action, but choose to be passive, is an opportunity for growth wasted. If I had a nickel for every time I thought about re-learning to use a D.A.W. (digital audio workstation), I’d have enough to buy a nice one. If I had a nickel for every time I chose not to because I was waiting for the “Right Time,” I’d have a really nice DAW. So here I am, listening to @Brasstracks or @classicalpurist (check them on Insta, absolutely filthy), wishing I could do what they do. Had I taken action, I could be bopping to my own music. Instead, I spent that time on something else and don’t have any of my own extracurricular music to show for it. This isn’t meant to sound like a pity party, rather is intended as an example: Waiting for the “Right Time” cost me not only my time, but it cost the ability to do the thing, as well as the progress that could have been made during that time. Instead of investing that time in myself and my craft, I allowed it to pass by because it wasn’t the “Right Time.”
Not only do we rob ourselves of progress and time itself by waiting, but we sow the seeds of regret and shame in the process. If we choose not to do that thing that was important to us, how will we ever know how we truly would have fared? We can speculate all day, but at the end of the day, speculation is a story we tell ourselves, based on assumption and implication. Sure, the fear of failure plays in here. This fear is certainly valid, but like any emotion, we give power to it. It is of course a possibility that we might have failed at that audition, or social gathering, or project, but to me…the uncertainty of knowing whether I would have failed or succeeded stings much worse than walking away from a situation, knowing I’d tried my hardest, but it didn’t work…this time. The feeling of uncertainty certainly lingers longer than the sting of defeat, for myself anyway. This in mind, to wait for the “Right Time” is to self-inflict emotional wounds, to needlessly pick up emotional burden.
Lastly, all of these aspects culminate into something largely more important: self image. By continuing to choose not to do the thing we so desire to do, we are denying ourselves the fulfillment and sense of personal achievement that is so necessary to a happy life and a positive idea of self. As we look back on our lives and see the things we wanted, but chose not to get up and get for ourselves, we fabricate stories about why we don’t have these things. Ultimately this can contribute to a negative self-image (I’m lazy, I don’t follow through, I’ll never make enough money, etc…) which lead to more passivity, which lead to more waiting for the “Right Time,” which lead to more time lost, and the cycle continues. By choosing to wait for the “Right Time,” we are denying ourselves one of the most basic, yet fundamental liberties afforded to us: the pursuit of happiness. I’ll say this: As I understand it, happiness does not come to us. We have to cultivate it.
And we should all jump in before the water is warm because…
Now for the desire driven folks (thanks for sticking through that).
Choosing to do the thing before you’re ready is, all things considered, the best option we have more often than not.
Acting before the “Right Time” will put you closer to the thing you desire by forcing you to develop the skills and resources needed to get said thing. Take an audition for example: You may feel entirely under-qualified for a given audition. That’s okay, in fact it’s just shy of optimal. This, in my experience, drives me to practice more intently for said audition, and to be more thorough in my research. Along the way of becoming more well equipped for said audition, you will develop vital skills that will help you not only in this audition, but in all of your future endeavors. The very task of taking on a challenge you don’t feel prepared for, will prepare you. In this case, the fear of failure can drive you in a positive way, and will grant you new skills and methods you may not have acquired had you made the decision to wait for better circumstances. Not only this, but the decision to take the audition now means you’ve acquired those skills now. Acting before you feel ready is to choose long-term growth over short-term comfort.
Let’s say you win the audition. Congrats, you did the thing! What a massive contrast from sitting, waiting, spending. Take a second to breath, relish in your victory, and celebrate with the folks who supported you and held you accountable. They are vastly more important than the position you just won.
Now let’s say things didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. You now have the experience of a job audition, a clear idea as to what to expect from auditions going forward, and an idea as to how to better prepare for the next audition…not only this, but you now can say that you’ve put in the work, took the audition, and saw your plan through to the end. This certainty can be empowering and motivating, unlike allowing that one thing to stand in your way, leaving you feeling powerless and defeated. What a massive contrast from sitting, waiting, spending.
Lastly, I really believe that we develop our wings on the way down. It seems that as much time as I spend preparing for a given thing, I’m never 100% ready when the time comes. So much of what a situation will entail can’t be foreseen, and to expect to be fully prepared is to act on a false pretense. That being said, we can’t know what we’re fighting until we enter the arena. So get in there and learn; the sooner you jump in, the sooner you’ll know how to adapt and acclimate, and the sooner you’ll be successful in said situation. To wait for the “Right Time” is to hold yourself back from the potential you have been fostering for so long. We are greater than the obstacles we perceive. You’ve done the work, now trust in it.
The Long Con
All this being said, I can’t finish this post without mentioning one thing: It is not always as simple as “Just Do It.” Sometimes, doing things right now just isn’t a realistic option, particularly when the obstacle facing us is a financial one…but action isn’t exclusive to the scope of “all or nothing, now.”
Avoiding waiting for the “Right Time” doesn’t need to be an immediate cessation of bad habit, or immediate explosion of be-all-end-all action. It is just as valid for the first step of action to be just that: a first step. If money holds you back, make a commitment to put back $15 dollars a month to afford those travel expenses. If getting in shape is your goal, make the first step to work out once a week. If better interpersonal relationships are your goal, make two phone calls a week to someone you love and trust. So often, the second step is made clear by the first.
The important thing here is to take that first step, now. Do not wait for the “Right Time” to make the thing happen. Action looks different for everybody, and that is okay. Sometimes the action is a single decisive blow, and sometimes it is a gradual procession. The true value lies not in the end goal, but in each step taken towards that goal. No matter how long it takes from step 1 to the finish line, the sense of fulfillment and growth will outweigh the effort needed to get there. Ultimately, the time is never right. We have to take the steps to make it right, and strike while the iron is hot.
Don’t do yourself the disservice of waiting for a time that will never come. Chose growth over fear, action over passivity, and yourself over the obstacles you perceive. The time is now, and if you aren’t ready, you will be.
Now, I’m off to start tinkering with GarageBand as a starting point. I’ve been mulling over a cover of “Thank U, Next” and these ideas are burning a hole in my noggin. As always, I hope my words can be of some service. I’ll let Mr. LaBeouf wrap this up with an extremely relevant speech…
Trombonist, educator, aspiring cactus-hugger. I hope these perspectives and observations are helpful, inspiring, or at least entertaining.