Are you a Watcher or a Doer?

One of the great parts of my job is that I get email messages from former students, often people who were in one of my classes many years ago. It is always fun to catch up with folks who once worked so carefully with you in their quest for success. It is fascinating to see what they remember about the experience.

I got just such an email last week from a candidate who had been in my live CPA Review course in about 1990. I could not remember seeing or hearing from him in the past few decades.

This voice from the past wrote something that I immediately found fascinating, especially since he could still recall this specific advice from 25 years ago:

“In that class, in an attempt to keep us from wasting valuable time in front of the television, you said, ‘most people care more about the success of their favorite sports team than about their own.’”

Yeah, I am sure I said that. I sometimes get frustrated with CPA exam candidates and with college students when they seem so interested in sitting in front of a television screen watching other people battling to be successful. They urge these strangers to work harder without urging themselves to work any harder. These “observers” often get outrageously happy or morbidly upset by the actions of a team of athletes hundreds of miles away with whom they are not connected in the least. What’s wrong with this picture?

Many people are, indeed, extremely interested in someone else doing the hard work that is necessary to become successful while they sit passively in their chair going nowhere. I will have students who are not prepared for class because they just had to watch a college or pro football game on television. Their own passing and failing is trivial to them compared to the Green Bay Packers or Seattle Seahawks.

Passing the CPA Exam is a little important to some candidates but watching a bunch of strangers throw a ball around is extremely important. I am always amazed to walk into a restaurant where a large gathering of people will just be screaming at the various televisions around the room. A lot of energy put to no good use.

Here’s my question: Why don’t these people get that excited about their own work and their own successes?

I don’t have a good answer for that question. As I tell my students here at the university, “You have to truly want to succeed before you have any chance of success. That desire to be at the top has to live in your heart, gnawing at your insides. You can’t ‘kinda’ want to succeed or ‘sorta’ want to succeed. That is not enough desire to provide you with the ambition needed to turn off that television set and go to work.”

I have nothing against sports. I watch a little myself. However, those three hours that we sit around passively watching someone else play a game on television is a lot of valuable time that is squandered. Would those players stop their lives just so they could cheer for you?

So, with the World Series coming up in baseball and the college football season now underway and the pro football season in full blast, where does that leave you? In life, you can be a “watcher” or you can be a “doer.” Here's how to be a doer:

Decide how many hours per week you are willing to give up to passive activities such as sports on television (or whatever it is that pulls you away from your studies). Perhaps, it will be three hours. Then, stick to that limit. Don’t cheat. Don’t watch a few extra minutes here and there – stick with your limit. When you hit the limit, turn off the television and start answering some CPAreviewforFREE questions.

You can control the time you spend on these passive activities or they can control you. Don’t lose control. How much time do you really want to spend sitting on a couch watching grown men through a baseball or football around? How does that benefit you? You know, as well as I do, that this is just wasted time where nothing is ever accomplished. It is a weakness that winners are able to control.

Set that time limit and keep your actions under strict control.

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