What if I said you could write a book in 1 month? Sounds like baloney, right?
Most of us have never written a book, but we come up with our own hand-wavy assumptions for how long it takes to complete tasks. Sometimes we’ll put in even less thought and just use the average pace defined by society as a rule. Should college really take 4 years for everyone?*
These assumptions are difficult to overcome, but luckily there are examples all around of people bucking the curve — people who realized life has no speed limits. How can we be more like them?
How long it takes to do certain activities are just “known”. Brush your teeth = 2 minutes, a college degree = 4 years, waiting at the DMV = 10 years, etc. We know them as facts, but humans have so much variety, how could we possibly all operate at the exact same pace? Likely we are succumbing to the anchoring effect. Once we collectively agree on how long something should take, that’s the starting point of future estimates. We take the average pace as a law, rather than suggestion.
If there isn’t a readily available estimate from our environment, we resort to hand-wavy estimates from personal experiences or our limited knowledge. We extrapolate estimates from bad information to get depressing timelines that discourage us from starting. We overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year. If you spent 3-5 years studying Spanish in high school and know 10 words, it must take 30 years to be fluent, right? It’s easy to shy away from a goal which feels impossible to finish.
We are ruled by estimates based on the average, but life has very few hard & fast laws. Why do you think world records are always getting broken? Someone found a way to push a teeny bit farther. Just don’t try to play games with gravity, it won’t end well for you.
What’s the difference between half-assed language learning in school vs a motivated person? The first person could study for a hundred years and get nowhere — the motivated learner can be fluent in under 3 months.
This doesn’t just apply to people who are blessed to be above average. Everyone has their own unique circumstances in life, their own definition of striving beyond expectations. Whether you need 2 years or 6 to graduate, you shouldn’t be forced to run life at someone else’s pace.
Talk is cheap, examples are gold. Here’s a few people for inspiration who made amazing progress in a short amount of time.
“Everything’s impossible until somebody does it.”
You can read these and assume they are gifted freaks, pick holes in each story and why your situation is totally different, and come up with reasons why you shouldn’t try. Well, a smart woman once told me “if you go looking for excuses, you’ll always find them”. I would encourage you to take a different stance. No, you might not accomplish it as fast or get as good, but if you match their dedication, you will surprise yourself.
“I don’t want to go back to school. I’ll be 35 by the time I get my degree…..You’ll turn 35 anyway.” -unknown
Despite the life-altering changes possible in mere months, inertia can keep us stagnant for years. The same person, with the same skills, same habits, same sinking feeling they are missing something from their life. It’s comfortable and easy to keep doing what we already know, even if we have a desire to do something totally different. It’s scary to jump into the unknown and be open to failure. Use the stories above as your guide, making the path a little less uncertain. Don’t worry about what you have or haven’t done until now. Introspect and understand what you want out of life, then go chase it. What’s the worst thing that happens, you spend 6 months trying to accomplish a dream and find out you don’t actually like it? Now you won’t die with the regret of not trying and can chase the next one.
You’re going to get 6 months older no matter what — why not spend it on something worthwhile?
*Yes, I am aware there is variation. Majority end up taking 4 years, so the point stands.
Thanks to Derek Sivers article “Kimo” for inspiration.