Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Being impulsive is like gambling

Lately my life has been scattered. I have a bunch of unsorted papers sitting on my desk, my car is a mess, and I haven't been organized for months. Not only that, but the way my life is laid out has been scattered as well. I have never been the best planner, but I think it's been reaching an all-time high lately. The only reason I'm able to get by day-to-day is that I've also become quite adept at being reactive.

I don't like any of those things that I just said, and I desperately want to change them. And honestly, I have for quite some time but until now I haven't voiced it to myself openly.

Here's the deal: I'm an impulsive guy. I always have been. Once, in high school, when I was learning guitar, I got several other friends to come out to a corner fruit store with me and perform on the side of the road for hours. We weren't good, but damn was it fun. If I would've planned that out, it never would've happened and I wouldn't have that memory.

My impulsiveness isn't inherently bad, but I've come to the conclusion that lately it simply hasn't been working for me. I've started too many projects and am underperforming on most fronts. I'm a great prioritizer when I sit down and actually plan. But when I don't, as has been the case recently, I fall into an extremely reactive state where I meet problems as they come to me rather than dedicating time to solving them before they actually become a problem. Putting out fires, as they say. Reactive, rather than proactive.

And I get these harebrained ideas in my head that sometimes manifest themselves as new projects, and sometimes just kind of sit in my skull and stew for no reason. For example, yesterday I considered starting a paper about whether or not Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" impacted children of that generation to become rebellious towards school, and whether that has influenced education policy as a whole over the years. And I even started researching that - for no reason whatsoever. It seemed interesting, and I impulsively latched on for about an hour.

I've come to the conclusion that with me, being impulsive is a lot like gambling. The ironic thing is that I'm actually a fairly good gambler, but I'm terrible when it comes to being impulsive. I've never had a gambling problem, I go in with a set amount and spend only that, and I go in expecting to lose everything that I'm willing to gamble with. Smart gambling 101.

For me, being impulsive is like going to the roulette table and putting $100 on a specific number. There's a very very slight chance that I'll win big, but most times I just walk away one Benjamin poorer. My impulsiveness often leads me down meaningless bunny trails like my brief foray into the politics behind Pink Floyd, but sometimes opens really cool new doors. Like last month I started a new consulting business where I help individuals and companies with social media training and questions. It's been working out well, and I've been learning a lot about consulting and what businesses need.

But if I'm honest with myself, 90% of the time if not more my impulsiveness lands me at a dead end. What I need to do is harness this impulsive behavior and be better about how I use it, kinda like I do with gambling.

When I have an apparent epiphany moment where I simply must start a new project, perhaps the better thing to do would be to give it 24 hours and sit on it. Process it a bit, toss it around with friends, or do some very light research. If the feeling passes in 24 hours, it's certainly not worth going for. After that, I could set a goal about what I want to do with this new idea. I could go in to this bet with a set amount of money, all of which I'm willing to lose if it doesn't work out - so to speak.

But at that point I'm not being very impulsive, am I? Maybe that's okay. Maybe what I need is less gambling in my day-to-day life, and a bit more control over where my time and energy is being spent.