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Justification for Procrastination (Sort of), March 16th, 1997 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: March 16th, 1997
"Justification for Procrastination (Sort of)" [permalink]
    keywords: personality, talent, skill, procrastination
    soapbox #: 76
    written: March 16th, 1997
    words: 791

"Justification for Procrastination (Sort of)", an Essay

Okay, now I've done it. While playing Quake or wasting time in some other fashion, I think I discovered why I procrastinate so much instead of getting serious work done. And it's not the obvious answer. I don't hate working hard -- in fact, I work hard all the time, but not always at things I should be investing time in.

It'll be hard for me to finish this week's essay without someone thinking I'm arrogant and boastful, so I'm not even going to try to avoid it. You see, the reason I'm always doing other things I shouldn't be doing, like spending time designing web pages or playing tennis, is that I become pretty good at most everything I do.

It may sound absurd, but I'm one of those people who is coordinated, athletic, and reasonably intelligent. I learn things in a very organized and methodical manner, so I pick skills up rapidly. It's hard to avoid something new if you seem like a natural at it.

Case in point. I had been playing baseball as a young kid and was quite good at it. Well, in my last year playing, I had a tyrannical baseball coach who led us to a City Championship. That part is good, but the bad part is my coach didn't give me a chance to play first base, the position I had played so well one year earlier. My coach threw me out in right field, a position I wasn't interested in playing. I had my moments, but...

So there I was, playing tennis at the local tennis club, starting out as a tall kid with a fastball serve, my groundstrokes fine-tuned by my years as a baseball junkie swinging aluminum bats that sting your hands when you hit those big yellow dimpled softballs at batting ranges. In a matter of a year or so, I had won the consolation round of a tournament and was impressing the coaches so much they called me "Sampras" (I kind of look like Pete Sampras when I play). As I got older, I played high school tennis and gradually stopped participating in local tournaments. The more serious tennis players got much better as they got older -- I was cooling off a bit, probably burned out from apathetic school tennis team coaches and loss of interest. I play only occasionally now.

I know, I know, we all outgrow our toys. We drop our GI Joe and Barbie dolls and become adults. I accept that. I just don't think it fully describes why my interests take such haphazard turns.

Lately, I have blossomed as a computer/Internet whiz. Teenage computer geeks draw quite a lot of attention and compliments. And we still have the youthful vigor to learn new things. A lethal combination. I've picked up languages, protocols, and other compugeek requirements with relative ease. I don't know how long I'll be interested in computers until something else interests me more, but I imagine it will be awhile, after I get a good-paying job working with computers (don't laugh, I've already gotten some offers).

You see, I'm good, even great, at things. Whatever even slightly interests me, I pick up. And after some short period of time working it, I'll know what the heck I'm talking about in that area.

Getting back to the original point, that's why I find it so hard to stick to one thing. Sure, I need to study and I need to complete some projects, but damn, within a month or so, I've developed a reputation for being a kick-ass Quake player online. In a month, I was hitting aces past pretty good tennis players. And back in elementary school? Hah! Half the class I spent listening to the teacher, half the class I spent playing cards.

Would you not find it distracting to get real work done if you were good at something you were currently interested in? What if you weren't good at anything? Say, if you were no good at any sports and you didn't like writing, would you continue to participate in them? (probably not, and if you did, it would be to prove to yourself you could do it)

I don't think I've tapped into an original idea here or anything, but it's important for me to make these observations about myself. I need to know why I do what I do and what I'll do when I do it. I need to know Ben Turner.

And hey, if I've found an excuse to goof off instead of do work, it must be good, right?


 
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