The Pursuit of Idleness

A few years ago, Will Smith starred in a movie for the first time with his son called The Pursuit of Happyness. Note, it's purposely misspelled - for more information see the movie. In the film he plays the role of real life Chris Gardner who is endeavoring to get a job and break out of his underprivileged life of hardship, homelessness and trial.

It was an interesting and enjoyable movie about a man trying to elevate himself in life, overcome obstacles and work his tail off to provide a better life for himself and his son. A memorable scene that comes to mind is where he and his son are fearfully hiding in a closet of sorts in the subway while another homeless person tries to come in and kick them out. The following day, Smith is seen going back to work to grind out another difficult day of phone calls and rejections. At another point in the movie, Smith gives a bit of a monologue where he talks about some of the keys to his eventual success. He made more calls than his co-workers, landed more accounts than everyone else. In the monologue he gives an interesting little tip for how he was able to do it, and beat all those others in competition with him who had better backgrounds, better educations, and better odds for success. His tip?

No getting up from his desk to drink any water during the workday.

He realized he could make a call during the water break, and he needed to go to the bathroom less than his competitors if he didn't drink.

What I find so interesting about that, is the movie never shows Smith's character really sitting around doing nothing. Though Twitter, Facebook and Smartphones had yet to be invented, if they had, I wonder if Smith's character would have been seen on the movie looking at his smartphone, or wasting hours of his day browsing the internet. Given his dedication to not drink during the work day in order to not have to go to the bathroom, I think not.

You don't find Smith's character looking for happiness in idleness.

Today it's easier than ever to fill our time with idle pleasures. Take, for instance, a person I work with. Let's call her Sally. Each day I walk past her desk and typically see the same thing. Her PC is on, her monitor displaying an open email on the screen. But sitting on her keyboard is her smartphone. From a distance she looks busy, her hands near the keyboard and her monitor showing something that looks like work. But her attention is spent reading Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or browsing the web on her phone's unrestricted internet service.

Or take Bob. Most days around 9am while walking to a meeting I find him in the hallways at work at a seat along the wall, his cell phone held in his hands, ear plugs nestled in his lobes his eyes intently watching some movie or show. When I leave my meeting an hour or so later, he is usually right where I left him, intently gazing into the electric glow of his mini-tv phone.

Much of what we have at our fingertips today, is the modern day equivalent of the trip to the water cooler.

With the advent of smart phones, tablets, the internet, Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, it has never been easier to spend hours and hours of time in search of idle pleasures.

But do these things bring us true lasting happiness?

I must admit idleness is an appealing temptress, and I constantly fight the urge to quit doing something else and instead turn my mind off for a while and read the latest Tweet, Facebook post or rebuild my Clash of Clans base for the hundredth time. Idleness is a valuable resource in our lives, as we all need time to unwind and relax.

The problem is, idleness seems to have grown into an addiction in our culture.

What is it in your life, you wish to accomplish, overcome or achieve? Can you get where you want to go devoting hours of your life to the quick fix feel good stimulus your smart phone or tablet offers? Or would you be better off, shutting those things off and doing something meaningful and rewarding?

In the end it comes down to a simple question.

Are you Will Smith's character, abstaining from water cooler breaks while you hustle on to the destination of a better life, or are you those guys at the water cooler laughing and having a good time while Smith passes you by on his way?

Choice is yours.

Be right back, it looks like my troops are ready for battle in Clash of Clans.


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