“The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until the time is right, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of joy. Be deliberate, but once you’ve made up your mind – jump in!” – Charles R. Swindoll
Who says age – that number which most women fear (sorry, ladies if most of you are singled out) – matters? Look at Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao who, at 40, still manages to win his boxing match against a younger opponent.
If you’re like the world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, age also doesn’t matter at all. He was already 68 when he created his most famous structure – in about two hours. But hold your breath first. It actually took him long to do it.
Brandon Spector, in an article published in the widely-circulated Reader’s Digest, shares the story: “In 1934, Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann Sr. hired Wright to design a retreat around the waterfalls of his forested Pennsylvania property. Wright visited the site and assured Kaufmann he had big plans. In truth, he hadn’t drawn a thing.
That’s how trouble started brewing. “Weeks became months, and on a Sunday morning, September 22, 1935, Kaufmann spontaneously decided to visit Wright’s studio and check his progress. He would arrive before lunch, Kaufmann explained over the phone, and was very excited to see the designs.”
If you were in Wright’s shoes, what would be your response. I know what you are thinking. Read the rest of the story: “With nervous apprentices watching and Kaufmann hours from his door, Wright finished breakfast, then drew up the plans for what became Fallingwater – an icon of modern design and a US National Historic Landmark.”
What Wright did – the delaying tactic – is procrastination. Its synonyms include dawdle, dally, defer, drag, linger, loiter, postpone, protract, retard, stall, suspend, tarry, temporize, and wait. Dictionary defines it as “delay or postpone action.” It also means “put off doing something.”
Many famous men have shared their thoughts on the subject. “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well,” said American humorist and novelist Mark Twain. US President Abraham Lincoln also said, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
Two other American presidents did say on the subject. Thomas Jefferson, stated, “Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” Dwight David Eisenhower also said, “Neither a wise nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”
Wright, however, is not alone. There are so many people – famous at that – who procrastinate for various reasons. Bestselling author Paulo Coelho admitted, “It was my failure that first kept me from attempting the master work. Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.”
Miranda July, the woman behind It Chooses You, shared her own experience: “The funny thing about my procrastination was that I was almost done with the screenplay. I was like a person who had fought dragons and most limbs and crawled through swamps and now, finally, the castle was visible. I could see tiny children waving flags on the balcony; all I had to do was walk across a field to get to them.
Then, something unusual happened. The American film director, screenwriter, singer, actress, author and artist went on: “But all of a sudden, I was very, very sleepy. And the children couldn’t believe their eyes as I folded down to my knees and fell to the ground face-first, with my eyes open. Motionless, I watched ants hurry in and out of a hole and I knew that standing up again would be a thousand times harder than the dragon or the swamp and so I did not even try. I just clicked on one thing after another after another.”
More often than not, writers have this habit of doing things “later on.” American playwright and essayist Paul Rudnick wrote: “As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90% procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”
To procrastinate once is a while is alright. But doing it for several times that it becomes a habit, well, that’s another story. “Habitual procrastination will readily testify to all the lost opportunities, missed deadlines, failed relationships and even monetary losses incurred just because of one nasty habit of putting things off until it is often too late,” wrote Stephen Richards, author of The Secret of Getting Started: Strategies to Triumph over Procrastination.
Do what you do today and don’t wait for tomorrow. Remember, we have given today and that’s why it is called present. Yesterday is gone and you cannot relive the past. Tomorrow is still out there and what if, as the line of a song goes, “tomorrow never comes”?
Now, let me tell you a story shared by William Barclay:
It came to pass that Satan was testing all his little devils on the methods they would use to get people into the burning hell. “What trick or like would you use?” he asked them.
A little devil pupil raised his hand and answered: “I’d tell them there is no heaven. Heaven is just a mere imagination.”
“You’re crazy,” Satan shouted. “Deep down inside everyone believes that they are one day going to be rewarded in heaven for all the good work they do. Saying there is no heaven does not work.”
Another volunteered, “I’d tell them there is no hell.” Satan again fired back: “That’s no good either. Instinctively, everyone knows that someday – in a hell – evil and evildoers are going to get what they deserve. It is going to catch up. Forget about that argument.”
A third pupil stood and said, “I’d tell people: have you fling now and convert later. No hurry. Take your time.”
Satan smiled and declared, “Hurrah! There’s a man who will win. Get up to earth and get to work.”
Now, get to work. Do the things you have to accomplish today. Never wait for tomorrow. For as Scarlett O’Hara (portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Vivien Leigh) in 1939’s Gone With The Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”