Nine years ago, I pulled the antenna cable from my TV and resolved never to watch a TV show again. And it's one of the smartest things I ever did.
When I was a young boy, television was something we watched in the evening, and only for an hour or two. We had our favourite shows like M*A*S*H, Fawlty Towers, The Muppet Show, The Love Boat and Mork & Mindy, and settling in on our green velour couch with a few snacks was a lovely, simple indulgence.
As I grew older, I found greater pleasure in other things, like tinkering in the shed, photography, motorcycles and writing. In the evening, my dad and I sometimes played cards on the dining table or sat by the outdoor fireplace and talked about interesting ideas. Television was something we used only when there was nothing else to do. By the time I was 10, those times were rare.
The 18-Hour TV Cycle
Before pulling the plug in 2007, I'd spent a few years living with the in-laws. They had a curious habit that, to me, defied all human logic.
Whoever woke first would go to the lounge room and turn on the TV. The last one to bed would switch it off again.
If guests came to visit and the TV was off (because I'd switched it off), the cheese, the olives and salami would be brought to the coffee table, and the TV would go back on again. And there they'd sit, glued to the screen, watching nothing in particular. Sometimes, they'd speak to each other.
They had a TV in the lounge, the kitchen, every bedroom, even the garage. It was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing before they shut their eyes at night.
I doubt that deliberate brainwashing in POW camps ever maintained this kind of schedule.
The Addiction is Evolving
When we first inspected the house that we'd go on to purchase, it contained twelve TVs. Twelve! Two of them were outside – on the deck and by the pool. I sometimes wonder how much time they spent in front of them.
Today, the average Australian spends over 90 hours a month watching TV. In the US, it's about 120 hours. These times are slowly contracting but guess where they're going? Phones and tablets – thanks in large part to YouTube.
People are devoting more than ten working days every month to watching a screen for entertainment.
And many of these same people will tell you:
- They're sick of their job.
- They would love to start a business on the side.
- They don't have time.
It's been said that man's most persistent cry is “Freedom!” Perhaps it's yours too.
A lot of men work themselves into an early grave and take the music with them, never having achieved what their heart desired all those years. But you have to ask, how serious were they? How badly did they want it?
I believe the simple answer lies in priorities. When you've suited up for work every day for 20 or 30 years, it's easy to think you deserve to relax. TV is an easy choice. The barrier to entry is extremely low.
But that simple little choice is keeping your poor.
That innocuous panel on the wall blocks so many of life's riches – personally, spiritually and financially. It pulls a veil over the things that really matter, experiences that only come through doing versus passively observing. And one of the most valuable of those is the chance to uncover your hidden talents, passions and opportunities.
No one will hand these to you on a platter.
You need to get out there and unearth them yourself. And starting a business, no matter how small, is one of the best places to do this. Creating something of value, something people will pay you for, is one of the most human interactions there are.
I know that building a business is hard. It demands dedication, consistency and a long term view.
It throws obstacles in your path time and time again, and it tests your resolve on a weekly basis. It constantly asks you, “Are you serious about this?” But it's one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things you can do, too.
Don't say, “One day.” Don't let ‘busy work' get in the way. You've done that long enough.
Perhaps you've already allowed this idea to take root, to interrupt your thoughts on a daily basis. Maybe you'll do something about it. You might even give it a try, only to fail then slip back in line with the majority – ashamed to have ever thought you could do something different.
I know it is the rare few who will persist until the dream bears fruit. And those few will experience a life filled with challenges, riches and genuine fulfilment.
They'll know what it means to be fully alive.
But the bottom line is, there's no easy path. As Seth Godin puts it so eloquently, the long way is actually the shortcut.
If you want to strike out on your own and earn your freedom, if you want to jump off the merry-go-round and create something you're proud of, you already have all the time you need.
You have 24 hours like everyone else. Warren Buffett, Gary Vaynerchuck, Marie Forleo, Seth Godin, Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas; all these entrepreneurs have the same 24 hours that you have.
The difference is, these people make a conscious decision every day to devote a portion of that day to creating the life they want.
And if you're looking for more time, I can't think of a better way to get it than to unplug your TV. Then make your plans and go blaze your own trail.
Like me, you'll discover it'll be one of the best decisions you ever made.
Tools and resources for entrepreneurs that I use myself.
Books for Entrepreneurs in the New Economy
The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris
Tim's book is responsible for fuelling much of today's solopreneur phenomenon. A must-read.
The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau
Chris debunks the old myth, “It takes money to make money,” with plenty of examples to relate to.
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Seth is a pioneer from the earliest days of the Internet and a trailblazer in today's ‘connection economy'. Read everything he writes. Seriously.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary V is loud, rant-prone and tends to swear a lot. But no one knows social media better. Read and learn.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I respond to all emails. If this was beneficial to you, please consider subscribing and sharing with someone you think would also benefit.
Disclaimer & Disclosure: I'm not a psychologist and I'm not a financial advisor's elbow. This material doesn't constitute financial advice but rather a collection of personal opinions, based on my own experiences. Some of the links on my site are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I provide links to services or products I have used and liked or researched and recommend. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you believe they will be beneficial to you.
Also published on Medium.