On Failure

This year I fell utterly short of accomplishing my simple new year’s resolution: Consume more books than movies. I tracked my reading and watching habits until giving up in September. In the end, the ratio was pretty bad. For every book I read, I watched about 3 movies. There are a number of reasons for this.

Movies are great hangover cures. When you need about an hour to recharge, but can’t sleep because your room is full of light from a retina-scorching sunrise, Netflix and Hulu are your best friends. Furthermore, acquiring movies is comparatively easy. I can stream something off Netflix in seconds, but finding a new book takes some legwork. I have to read some reviews on Amazon or ask what others are reading. Most people aren’t as good as the Netflix prediction algorithm anyway. On top of that, walking to the library is a hassle when I can just click “play”. I feel terrible writing that because I live about five blocks away from one of the largest libraries in Texas.

So what now? I can either be complacent with the fact that I’m basically a George Costanza with no resolve to accomplish what I set out to do… OR I can try this again and not screw it up. The previous paragraph is a list of excuses anyway.

Why should this year any different? There’s a strategy this time. Here’s my ace in the hole: I’m making up some ground rules and publishing them here so you can call me out on them. Nobody even really has to read this post. The panopticon should be enough to keep me in line.

Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.

The Rules

  • Quit Reddit 100%. It’s just not worth it. I waste time reading these worthless pandering articles of no lasting value. I don’t even really enjoy it.
  • Quit HN 100%. I just subscribed to a weekly digest because the content is important to me, but I don’t need to spend my time culling it.
  • No facebook before 9pm. I love facebook. It’s a rich communication channel that I could never quit entirely. That would be like quitting telephones or speaking. This rule contains reasonable exceptions for managing events and logistics of social outings.
  • Post book reviews monthly. This will keep my progress transparent and I enjoy doing it.

These rules could be resolutions in their own right. Thousands of people will make similar declarations in attempts to become more productive. But my scheme is not to stop procrastinating. That’s just not going to happen. The idea is to shift the procrastination from consumption of low quality content to something more enriching.

This post wouldn’t be complete without the key piece of information that made me realize this is doable: In 2010, web developer Divya Manian read 110 books. Seriously. She had time to read an order of magnitude more than I did and still be famous. If I can read half of that I will have accomplished my goal.

That’s really all there is to it. I’ve considered picking up a Kindle to reduce library trips, but that will come later. For now, let’s just read some fuckin’ books.


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