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The Myth of Behind

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There is no such thing as past failure. There is only now.

As I write this I am on vacation in Paris, eating like crap, writing no blog posts, not working out– generally doing nothing productive at all. Sometimes, it feels awesome to be this way. Other times, it sucks.

As you read this you may not have exercised in weeks. You may have been sitting there with your RSS reader for hours eating donuts just because they’re there. You may be sitting there in a pile of your own garbage for all I know. Either way, the only thing that matters is what happens today.

I am currently behind on my book list by one week, so over the past two days I’ve read 200+ pages. I am behind on blog posts so I’m going to write two instead of just one, and the same tomorrow. You can do the same thing at this very moment instead of focusing on the time you wasted. It would be easy.

Even though I used the word in the last paragraph, there is actually no such thing as “behind.” The past does not exist. It has molded you, but it does not create you. Everything you do now is your choice, and in this moment, you can become someone new, that does something new if you want it.

Since I’m on a trip, I’d like to mention that a trip is one of the best places to do this (it isn’t the only way, but it does work). In a new environment you don’t feel that anyone will judge you, so you can step outside of convention very easily. Once you return from your trip, people will think it’s natural that you’ve changed, since you’ve been away. Take advantage of it.

The problem with thinking that you are behind is that it drags you down to a place where you’re disappointed and don’t want to do anything, pulling you lower and lower until you basically have no choice but to fall asleep or eat a giant cake to feel better.

But you can do better than this. You can act as if you received the project today, as if you were beginning right this instant, and do one easy task related to completing it. This does the opposite to your emotional state (the exact point of this post) and gets you started in a direction where you feel better and are doing more. Getting a pep talk doesn’t really work the same way– nothing does, except making progress.

The mind is like a cage, and the past is a depreciating stock, whose value doesn’t exist anymore, and does nothing but waste whatever opportunity you have today.

The past is gone, so pretend. Act as if it has just reached your desk. That’ll make it happen.

* Filed by Julien at 6:52 am under clear thinking, random, systems


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

Check out more of my blog, my free book or add me on twitter. Also, we're hiring. Check that out.

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13 Responses to “The Myth of Behind”

  1. Larry Says:

    Good timing, Julien. (You certainly seem to have a knack for that, according to many of your comments.)

    Just this morning I was really bummed because I have so much to do in so little time – and I look back at all of the stupid time I’ve wasted over the last months and I just feel… defeated. Absolutely defeated. So much so that it seems like it’s not even worth hanging in there.

    So much so that I just feel like saying “screw it”. Forget all these pressures and hassles and just get a regular job, go in, do my time, get my paycheck, and start having if not fun, at least a life.

    But then you got off your own vacation-lazy ass and sent us this post. Thanks. I needed that.

  2. Eric Pratum Says:

    This is a very timely post for me. I just returned for 2.5 weeks out for my wedding and honeymoon. While I had a great flow before I left, I was happy to get away and experience something different. Now that I’m back, I vacillate between feeling behind and feeling like I’m right on track. No one expects me to be ahead. They only expect me to be ready to work.

  3. R. Anthony Solis Says:

    Great post. I try and practice this concept otherwise, I would just sit back and watch pass me by. I teach my own kids to simply learn and apply it to today’s situation.

    When I used to bowl (in league), my Dad used to say, “Ignore the past frames and deal with one frame at a time…” It worked. I would throw 3-5 strikes in a row to make up for my poor play in the beginning; ending up with a much better score.

    Thanks and enjoy the moment of stillness or non-productivity -it’s a perfect time for reflection.

    ~ RAS☺

  4. Elle B Says:

    Very timely. “The past is depreciating stock whose value doesn’t exist anymore” will become my new mantra. I’m wondering if its timeliness hits us because the excessive number of GTD/productivity sites and posts give us an unreal view of simply doing.

  5. Simon Tooley Says:

    You are too young to be this smart. Imagine where you will be when you are old. Or you will never get old at this rate. Keep sending out the words of wisdom. I need it.

  6. cristina Says:

    I Loved it!
    Make the best of what comes next!

  7. Stijn Says:

    Paris is an inspiring city to be in. I’m leaving tomorrow, until next Monday. No doubt we’ll both have a great time!

  8. Andrea Meyer Says:

    Thanks for the kick in the pants reminder. Ironically, I was just in the midst of writing for my blog and doing some maintenance on it. More writing to do, but I paused to read yours. Keep enjoying your vacation!

  9. sandy mackay Says:

    We have so much to do and so little time.
    Strike that, reverse it.
    – Roald Dahl

  10. Valerie Biebuyck Says:

    Your book and your words of wisdom are awesome. However I must commenty as I see the world: The older I get the more I realise how little I know. What I do know is a result of my experiences and my experiences with the new wisdom it imparts daily advises my present actions. Past and present and the research I do to prepare me for the future. So although I agree that it is foolish to live in the past and wise to grasp change and eachnew day with vigour, I cannot deny the value of everything I’ve been through and learnt in my 66 years here on earth.

  11. CT Moore Says:

    Two things:

    1) If you’re in Paris an you’re eating like crap, you’re doing something very wrong (and knowing you, that’s probably seeing food through the wrong eyes for Paris).

    2) A vacation should last a minimum of 2 weeks, because anything less and your mind never really winds down. My point: stop blogging, start enjoying Paris.

  12. Lex Says:

    so true and yet so easy to let slip when things start piling up. There are times when I wish I could declare To Do List Bankruptcy, like the trend of Inbox Bankruptcy.
    But when I remember that I am where I am, there is a clarity of focus that comes from accepting and embracing it.

    So… Go embrace Paris! (and ice it an extra squeeze for us)

  13. Sandi Says:

    This is so right now for me! I finally pulled the trigger on something that I’d been thinking of doing “someday” and someday became today! The kick in the ass, excited feeling that resulted is awesome! I’m now looking around to see what else I can do *today*!

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