The big rock

I did tackle the big rock before romancing the other stones.

Overwhelmed by my to-do list this week, I wasn’t at all productive for the last two days. Nor was my sleep. 

I called my friend and mentor and spilled out my concerns.

“I feel like everything is so important that I can’t drop any ball I’m juggling right now.”

“Tell me what you have on your plate.”

“A new short film project. My weekly podcast. The dissertation outline that I’m collaborating with a Chinese screenwriting professor. The beat sheet of the animation project. And notes preparation for the three-hour lecture next Tuesday.”

“Here is a big jar and laying in front of you are the big rocks, the small pebbles and a pile of sand. How do you fill them all in without neglecting any?” 

He knew that I got the answer but kept going for my own benefit, “The big rock is your most important, most urgent task. Right now it is the short film that you need to turn in by end of tomorrow. How about you focus on that for the rest of the day and get it done, so you can have time to finish editing your podcast tomorrow?”

I couldn’t help thinking, “Why does it sound so much less messy when it comes out of my friend’s mouth?”

“You just can’t do everything at the same time.” 

True. ”But what if I am too tired too frazzled that I just watch YouTube?” I tried to hide behind the what-if, which is actually the reality I’m wrestling whenever the pressure gets the better of me.

“Well, then you just have some grow up to do. There are things you don’t like, but you are obligated to do it. Pace yourself and complete the task before those all-nighters compromise your health yet again.”

After the pneumonia-bad cold double whammy, I should know better. 

Several hours after our conversation, I now have a rough first draft of the short film. But I need to take a couple of more revisions first thing tomorrow morning before sending it back to the director. 

But hey, at the end of the day, I did tackle the big rock before romancing the other stones.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Get it done

I turned in my first major feature project a couple of hours ago.

In the midst of all kinds of interruptions from pneumonia, bad cold, friend’s visit, to other side projects, I got it done.

That “You can’t do it” voice in my head, so loud at times, finally quiets down a little.

I’m grateful for the people I’m working with. They were patient, and understanding.

That’s empowering.

And there is an obvious lesson re-learned:

How to get things done?

Drip by drip. Word by word.

I will catch some sleep. Because I have a new project to take on tomorrow, from scratch.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Willpower

My old man calls it “Habit.”

My dad lost some 30 pounds in a year since he retired. He did it by watching his diet and walking some 13,000 steps, plus 150 pull-ups and push-ups, every day.

My dad used to be a chubby driver for a state-owned company. He would wake up at 4:30 every day, made me and my mum breakfast and hit the road by 5:45. His job required him to be in the office by 9 and it would usually take him around 30 to 40 mins en route.

“Why did you get to the office so early?” I asked him one day.

“I have better place to sit in than traffic if I can avoid it.”

That’s my dad. For someone who grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, my dad wasn’t terribly well-educated on paper. He fixed it with his air-tight work ethic and street-smart.  Even after he’s retired at home, he still gets up at around 5:30 (my cat, strangely, is his alarm clock) to make us a full breakfast from taro to porridge, and then hit the park (his gym) nearby and exercise for almost an hour and come back to two women (my mum and I) in bed still sound asleep.

Confession time.  I, unfortunately, didn’t inherit daddy’s devilish work ethic, his will power, and his consistency… In my defense, I’ve been having a lot of stress as long as I can remember. My biological clock has been a mess since this summer, if not earlier.

And yet, I want to be able to say, “Like father, like daughter.” But right now, I often stay up late rushing to finish bits and pieces of my day’s work when I promised myself earlier in the day that I would go to bed early, starting today.

I have more respect for myself when I’m discipline and rise at dawn everyday. Who doesn’t? What I see in my dad is this mystery thing called “Willpower.” My old man calls it “Habit.” Some 40 years of stainless-steel habit oiled by fear that he may lose his job if he were even seconds late for work.

I often don’t change until I hit ‘rock bottom.’ But I can’t afford to wait for me to fall that far. I have to start now. I hope it’s tomorrow. But then, after tomorrow, there will be another one.  But, no, YZ, let’s just start.

And I will have my dad to be my alarm clock as long as my cat is punctual. We know who to blame if I don’t rise early.

 

Yours truly,
YZ