Satire: The Discipline of Avoiding Distractions
The other day, I was about to do some writing on my laptop when I got distracted by an article on the internet warning me about distractions.
The article was written by Greg McKeown, author of the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Giving an example of an executive who was constantly distracted, partly because of Twitter and Facebook, McKeown asks the question: “Why do otherwise intelligent people find it so easy to be distracted from what really matters?”
The answer, of course, is that being intelligent is not the same as being disciplined. Plenty of people are intelligent, but far fewer are disciplined.
I’d like to tell you that I’m one of the disciplined few, but the truth is, I’ve always had trouble with discipline. When I was a child, the word “discipline” meant something different, of course. It usually meant that my butt would be sore for a day or two.
My father often disciplined me and so did a few teachers and principals. I was quite disciplined in doing things that got me disciplined.
As I grew older, the concept of discipline became more about self-control than punishment. And self-control wasn’t exactly my strong suit, especially as an undergraduate college student. Distractions were everywhere on campus and they seemed to pop up with the greatest frequency the day before an important exam. I’d be trying to study for a chemistry exam and my friends would say, “Hey, let’s go play some soccer. You can study later.” And, of course, I wouldn’t be able to resist. If I had any discipline, it just evaporated at the mention of the word “soccer.”
Now you know why I wasn’t a top student in college. It wasn’t my fault, of course. It was the professors’. They never tested me on my soccer skills. (I would have received a passing grade at least—I was pretty good at passing.)
Soccer was just one of a number of distractions on campus: girls, tennis, billiards, girls, video games, parties, and did I mention girls?
These days, I’m a little more disciplined, but I still get distracted easily. The internet is the biggest distraction, constantly tempting me to click on a link, read an article, or watch a video. Some of it is informative and educational, but most of it is nothing more than “time pass,” though I prefer to call it “time waste.” It’s just entertainment, but unlike a good book, movie or concert, it doesn’t enrich our lives much—it doesn’t have lasting value. So you spent two hours on Facebook, reading and responding to comments about Shahrukh and his latest movie—what exactly did you achieve? A little entertainment perhaps, but if you were doing it at work, your boss won’t be happy; and if you were doing it at home, your other boss won’t be happy.
If you’re in the habit of writing several goals each morning and one of them happens to be “waste time on the internet,” then you probably have nothing to worry about. It’s the easiest goal to achieve these days, even easier than getting front-row tickets to the World Carrom Championship.
One of my goals is to finish my second novel, a book that I’ve been working on for the last few years. If I were more disciplined, I’d be writing four books a year like Alexander McCall Smith, creator of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. When he’s tapping on his keyboard, producing his daily output of 3,000 words, nothing can distract him, not TV, not the internet, not Priyanka Chopra running through his home in a bikini.
As for me, Deepak Chopra in a bikini is sufficient.
Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.
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