The Consequences of Instant Gratification

Or the lack thereof.

“man climbing wall with harness” by Fancycrave on Unsplash

The problem so many of us face nowadays is simple: we’re used to instant gratification.

There’s hardly anything rare these days. If the mall doesn’t have something, it’s a few clicks away online (minus the time in shipment, but let’s not go there, unless it’s Amazon’s one-day shipping of course, which is yet another topic for another day).

When it comes to skills, we tend to treat them the same way; we expect to learn a new skill overnight. Which of course, never ever happens.

In my field as electrical engineers, we still adhere to tradition. We go to universities, work our asses off to get degrees, and only then can we legitimize our claim to the title.

For now.

But in some other walks of life and career, things are a lot more convoluted, thanks to accessibility. Take web design or graphic design, for example. Back in the days, when we had to spend thousands to purchase Photoshop and other fancy Adobe products, the titles such as “web designer” or “graphic designer” were rare.

Now? They’re a dime a dozen. Myself included.

The reason is simple. Adobe doesn’t cost thousands anymore. Photoshop is less than 10 bucks a month and the whole Adobe suite is 50 something (per month).

Accessible, right? It’s much easier to pay 50 bucks a month than dish out 3 grand.

But wait, it’s not only that Adobe is cheaper, but there is a whole line of totally free, open source programs that will allow you to create complex designs just as well.

It’s also not just about accessible software, but the whole idea of schooling is shifting nowadays. Take LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) for example. Or platforms such as Udemy or Skillshare. These platforms are created to make learning accessible. You don’t need to take expensive college courses to learn a programming language or excel at it. Heck, you don’t even need to buy books anymore! Learning by watching videos is so much easier (and faster) than learning from books!

Seth Godin’s AltMBA program is one-month long. And while I haven’t taken either traditional MBA or AltMBA, I have a feeling you’ll come out learning more with the latter than with the former.

Where am I going with this?

Well, you see, while accessibility is great (and how things really should be), it can also become a trap if we’re not careful.

Accessibility can make us impatient, and worse, lazy.

The problem I see in my generation is that we’re still relatively new in this age of accessibility, and so, for the most part, a lot of us are in learning mode. We tend to confuse access to resources with results.

In particular, I notice two distinct issues that has arisen from said accessibility.

Let’s tackle them each at a time, shall we?

We Equate Accessibility with Mastery

What do I mean? Well, you see, just because Photoshop is 10 bucks a month doesn’t mean that we can all become designers. Good design is a skill that takes time, practice, and knowledge of certain technicalities (and of course, a little inherent talent along the way is always welcome). While the tool of the trade is much more affordable, it doesn’t mean we can bypass the training required to become good designers.

As a result, many settle for mediocrity, while others give up altogether.

The fact that we can get away with not being stuck in colleges or universities, by no means indicate that we can get away with not busting our asses. Nope! On the contrary, learning without supervision takes much more discipline and dedication.

When there’s no one else imposing rules and routines on us, the task falls on ourselves to impose these rules and routines. So now, not only are we the enforced, we are also the enforcers. Filling in these two distinct roles takes at least twice as much work, if not more.

We Confuse Accessibility with Achievement

The issue here has a lot to do with our growing impatience. We’re becoming so used to instant gratification that the concept of waiting is lost on us. So, as soon as something requires time and effort and patience, we feel the urge to give up.

I hear new freelancers and business owners complain about not having enough work. Writers and bloggers who give up because they don’t get enough shares or claps or likes, while in truth, these things take time. Those who strike gold overnight are among us, yes, but they’re rare. They are the select few who get lucky. It doesn’t happen in most cases and to expect that of us is just unnatural, and even cruel!

We’re not meant to be overnight successes nor overnight geniuses.

We cannot start a blog and expect it to get 100K views in it’s first month (unless you’re a veteran blogger with hundreds of connections).

We cannot start a freelancing business and get 10 high-ticket clients in the first week.

All of these require showing up consistently, for months and often years, diligently, while sharpening our skills and learning as we go, without any results or rewards.

Failure is a prerequisite to being successful, but somehow, in this age where everything tangible is at our fingertips, we expect intangible things like education and mastery and achievements to be just like that; FAST.

Simply put, we’ve forgotten that when something takes time, it’s not because we’re doomed to be failures or that we lack tenacity or that we don’t have what it takes. In fact, that’s just how things should be. It’s normal.

But somehow, we seem to have forsaken what should be natural. Good and quality work takes time and effort. Period.

Life isn’t a video game where you can purchase buffs and masteries and become stronger instantaneously.

Real life, while now a whole lot easier than it used to be even as little as 50 years ago, still requires hard work and dedication from us.

If we want to be good at something, that is.

I’m an engineer, writer, and amateur photographer. I write about what I know and what I’m trying to make sense of.

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