As I write this, much of the world is in slumber. It’s the holiday season, and many are on vacation or taking the week off.
Families are getting together to exchange gifts, eat food, and nap excessively. A lot of my friends are taking a break from social media.
And many bloggers are encouraging their readers to unplug: to rest, fast from the online world, and be present to those they love most. Which is great, but incomplete, advice.
Yes, be present. Be available. But don’t go on autopilot.
This is the perfect time to get ahead. Don’t waste it.
One way to get ahead
Have you ever seen the movie Iron Will? It’s your typical “underdog” story about a young man who enters a cross-country dogsled race to beat the odds and save his family.
Do you know what he does to succeed? It’s simple: He does what nobody else will do.
Each night, the main character, Will, shaves an extra hour off his sleep schedule, until the last night when he doesn’t sleep at all. He is helped by a handful of guides, who give him some important advice (which might as well be a mantra for our lives):
You have to be strong. You have to learn focus, stamina, and balance. Only the smart ones will finish.
You have to run longer and sleep less… You’ll make friends who aren’t your friends, enemies who want to hurt you. Be careful who you trust.
You have one chance. You must run at night when the others have stopped. Run with the moon. Embrace the darkness.
Grow hard with the cold. Put pain from your mind. And on the last day… you alone will be friendly with the dark.
It’s not a pretty picture. Will’s body doesn’t cope well with the cold or lack of sleep. He gets sick, battles the elements, and encounters his fair share of obstacles. But he perseveres. And he wins.
How does he do it? When others are sleeping, he is working.
This is how you win at life, how you break out of the constant feeling of being left behind: Work harder; show up more often. And eventually, you prevail.
It’s not easy. It will require sacrifice. But it will also bring you results.
What if you did this?
During a season when much of the world is going to sleep, what if you didn’t?
What if you tackled that manuscript you’ve been procrastinating working on?
What if you got up early or stayed up late? What if you did both — not forever, but just until the project is done?
What if you started something new, read a book for fun, or began working out?
It doesn’t just have to be during the holidays. It can be anytime.
This is the secret to beating the status quo: Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Do what you know you need to do.
Successful people aren’t successful because they’re like everyone else. They’re successful because they’re weird. Because they do what others are afraid to do.
So be weird. Be you.
This isn’t for everyone
Some people will read this and get the wrong idea.
They’ll think I’m advocating for a workaholic lifestyle or antisocial behavior. Not at all.
What I am encouraging is you to live a life you won’t regret. One that you can be proud of.
So many times, I’ve wasted energy on things that don’t matter. I’ve squandered opportunities with distractions and comforts that didn’t add up to much. And I’ve learned that the people who live important, meaningful lives are those who understand sacrifice and commitment.
So, I’m compelled to be different — to pursue my passion and create a life I don’t have to escape from.
Yes, I’ll still take days off and enjoy myself. But I’ll also use little windows of free time to do stuff that matters most to me. This may mean working on my book, going for a run, or tackling my reading list.
Doing this doesn’t stress me out; it invigorates me. It doesn’t suck my energy; it brings me life. And if you have a passion, you know what I’m talking about.
But this may not be for you. You may need to take some much-needed rest. And if so, you should do that without one ounce of guilt.
But for those who have projects you know you need to work on — stuff you’ve dreamed of doing all year long — I hope you find a way to invest in them.
After all, they’re worth it. Aren’t they?
How are you spending this time of year? Share in the comments. And if you’re looking for some ideas, here is a list of five practical tips that might help: Use the Holidays to Get Ahead.
*Photo credit: Roger Barker (Creative Commons)