I took the coach back home for the Christmas holidays yesterday. Portsmouth to Southport – 300 or so miles, with plenty of stop offs on the way. It takes longer, but it’s way cheaper than the train. My student budget accommodates it a lot more readily.
I love people watching. In the dark of the M6, 8 hours in, bored faces all around me were illuminated by their phones. It seems whenever we have long journeys ahead of us, people absolutely love to moan about it, to feel frustrated, like they can’t wait to get to their destination (“12 hours on the coach? Wow, how awful.”). This is ‘dead time’ (I think Ryan Holiday coined that term, but I’m not sure… I definitely didn’t come up with it). Of course I was excited to see my family, but there’s no point wishing for the journey to be shorter. It’s a waste.
I refused to let it be dead time. I’ve written before about Victor Frankl, and Stoicism – the gap between stimulus and response, your freedom to choose how outside events circumstances impact you. So, I could choose to frame this 12 hour slog into something completely different. How did I want to spend your time? Obviously, I had some constraints in a confined space. But, applying constraints of some kind is an incredibly effective way to get creative. It’s actually the only way to stop planning, and start doing (letting go of perfection).
I took 5 minutes the night before I left to plan how I’d spend my time roughly:
If you can’t see the photo for whatever reason, it’s a loose list. Here’s what I actually did:
- Finish reading The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
- Start The Autobiography of Malcolm X
- Listen to Sam Harris/Joe Rogan podcast
- Listen to Rich Roll/Ryan Holiday podcast
- Draw (observation)
- Write (review fitness goals for the new year)
- Write – ideas for blog
- Meditate (headspace)
- Curate Spotify playlists – listen to music
That’s all stuff I’d like to do on an ideal day! The only thing missing is being active, busting out some pullups or sprinting up hills. Even then, being stuck in a seat unable to move makes me appreciate even simple things like getting up and walking way more.
And I had the opportunity to go down rabbit holes I never usually get the chance to in the hurly burly of life…
I went on a bit of a Joe Rogan binge, listening to an early episode with Joey Diaz and Doug Stanhope from about 8 years ago. Joe spoke about the massive impact of Opie and Athony’s radio show on him and his podcasting style. The conversational, freeform format was the absolute the antithesis of phonie, talking head shows in the US at the time. Doing shows like that became less of a chore for people, and something more akin to a meaningful conversation with a friend. It’s so interesting seeing him before his current, insane popularity, before podcasting blew up. The format is decidedly unchanged, but I also liked seeing how much more open minded and mature Joe’s become in the intervening years.
That was a whole chain of thought I wouldn’t have had if I’d just been listening to the podcast in the background like I usually do.
I think my recent consistency in a meditative practice has helped me see the opportunity for tranquillity and satisfaction in the seemingly mundane. Rather than getting frustrated at a delayed connecting coach in Victoria, annoyed at people barging in the queue and encroaching in my personal space, I was absolutely sanguine, content in observing the world around me. When the coach pulled into Southport, 12 hours after I got on it at the Hard interchange in Portsmouth, I jumped in a cab at the station. The cabbie was an old, dyed in the wool Labour type, with an incredibly rich Liverpool accent. He was fascinating, and I had this engaging, intense conversation with him. When I finally walked through the door and saw my family I was ecstatic. Spending the day moaning, unsatisfied, longing for it to be over would in no way have made the reunion more satisfying. Being present, engaged and doing the things I love seemed a much better use of my day.
Have a think about all the time in your life you’re allowing to slip through your fingers. Stuck in traffic? Doing your grocery shopping? If you added up the hours, I think you’d be horrified. I know I was.
So get out there and reclaim your dead time. It’s your call.