Do what matters and quit your pointless crap

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My son Austin is seven. He likes to play any game involving Mario, whose last name is apparently Mario because he’s one of the “Mario Brothers.” Or “Mario Bros.” if you’re a purist.

Every time Austin faces a challenge that gives him trouble, like passing levels and unlocking characters in the Mario games, he gets all pissed off. And so his defense mechanism is to announce that it’s just too hard, and that he’s never going to be able to do it.

My natural reaction to this is to get all Progressive Dad on him, and tell him that of course he can do it if he practices. This doesn’t work at all. He’s seven. I can just try and beat it into his head a little bit at a time that practice makes perfect, but it’s not going in wholesale, not yet.

But the thing is, despite all his protestations, he’s always eventually able to do these “impossible tasks” if they’re something that truly means something to him.

If, on the other hand, he doesn’t care about whatever it is, he’ll give up, and he’ll end up totally right about not ever being able to do it.

So for instance, it was entirely too hard to unlock Dry Bowser on Mario Kart, and he got mad and frustrated and had fits about it, and he said over and over that it was impossible, but eventually he managed to do it, because he cares about Mario games.

By contrast, he also wasn’t good at baseball, and the same basic thing happened, re: getting pissed off and saying it was impossible. I encouraged him to keep practicing, but the thing is, he doesn’t give a shit about baseball. So he eventually gave it up.

And that bothered me at first, until I remembered that quitting the wrong things is just as important as pursing the right things.

As adults, we’re often conditioned to think that just because something is hard, it’s one of those “wrong things.” Or we think that because someone told us to do something, that’s is a “good thing” — regardless of whether it turns out to be easy, hard, or impossible.

The trick isn’t always to do the impossible or the difficult. The trick is sometimes to simply figure out what matters and what doesn’t, and then to bravely do the things that matter whether they’re easy, hard, or impossible. Then quit the rest.

If you’re trying to unlock your own Dry Bowser and it’s fucking impossible but it’s something that matters, then don’t give up, ever.

But if you’re playing baseball and it feels impossible to ever get better… and you realize that baseball is a boring and unproductive waste of your time? Then go ahead and quit. Immediately.

Maybe it’s okay to never seek to get better at the stuff that really doesn’t grab you and make a difference, because there’s a lot in this world to do and you’re not going to be able to do it all.

Something to think about.

P.S: Austin does like soccer, and works to get better at it, so it’s not like the only things that interest him are video games. Just sayin’.

Comments

  1. Brett Henley says:

    Oh hell yes, love it. A little discomfort is good the for the long haul. Fail often and win big. Awesome as always Johnny.

  2. Jerry Kennedy says:

    Great post, Johnny! Love that last line about it being OK to not try to get better at the stuff that doesn’t grab you…I’m still learning when to let go of the shit that doesn’t matter and move on to the things that do.

  3. Claudia says:

    The I Ching says “perseverance furthers.” i tell my students “practice makes possible,” rather than “practice makes perfect.” Seems to help them figure out where to spend their time being badass.

  4. I tried to make fudge and it came out grainy and nasty. I was about to try it again when I realized I don’t even like fudge that much. I was making it for the wife and kids, and they’re perfectly happy with store-bought fudge. Okay … punt. Not doing fudge again.

    But those crustless pizzas? Took a few tries to realy get good at it, but totally worth it.

  5. Absolutely brilliant, Johnny. A simple and clear example of how to succeed, from a Mario-loving Austin :D

    Everyone always marvels at kids, and with good reason: kids use universal laws, live in the moment, and employ the 4 Success Steps amazingly well. ( http://ryzeonline.com/ryze-success-steps-kinetic-typography )

    Thing is, we were all kids once so…

    …what happened along the way? ;)

  6. Ain’t it the truth. And so obvious we completely overlook it. Knowing what we really want, what’s really important. Jeesh. Thanks Johhny!

  7. Cordelia says:

    This is my philosophy exactly. (Literally. It’s the theme of my blog.)

    Life is too freakin’ short, and we only have so much energy and time in a day. Focus on what matters, forget the rest, and your life will be well-lived.

  8. Jason B. says:

    Excellent post! This is something that just comes naturally to kids, but we tend to lose it when we grow up.

    I remember my parents telling me “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” People get so caught up on the second part of that statement that they don’t really take time to think about the first.

  9. Teresa G. says:

    Great post! I have a 7 year old daughter who also loves anything Mario. :) And she tends to get pissed off a lot, too…but always overcomes, because she persists. She wanted to quit gymnastics because it had gotten “boring”. And I let her, but I struggled with whether that was the right thing to do. She’s moving back to dance, and wants to give karate a try. I thought that was great—she’ll find what she loves to do. Your post has helped to convince me we’re on the right track!

  10. Mckinley Betancur says:

    I dugg some of you post as I thought they were very helpful invaluable

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