A short-short story based on my procrastinating clients.
Posted Feb 13, 2016
Chad loved pleasure. As a child, he would do his homework as quickly as he could get away with so he could play sports, watch TV, or play video games.
In high school, when assignments got longer, he'd procrastinate until the last minute and, thanks to grade inflation, still got okay grades. That reinforced his procrastination—He knew the adrenaline rush would help him get it done—adrenaline addiction.
Chad got into the University of California, Santa Barbara, which his parents thought was more selective than it is, and Chad knew was a helluva party school.
Chad's procrastination worsened in college with the temptations of being away from parents' watchful eye. He majored in partying and minored in sociology because he thought that would be the easiest path out. Nevertheless, it took Chad six years to graduate, much to his parent's personal and economic chagrin.
Chad didn't pursue internships in college and, after graduation, avoided looking for a job, in part because it felt painful and he felt like an imposter: "What value could I possibly add?"
Finally he landed a job as a coordinator at a fashion-forward outdoor-wear company. But even though that workplace was as laid-back as corporations get, his brinksmanship got him "laid off."
But Chad knew how to play and so attracted lots of women. Knowing he'd probably have a hard time making a good living, when he decided to settle down, he looked for "babes with bucks" and indeed found one, Heather, to marry him. After all, Chad was "super fun," motorcycle and all.
The honeymoon lasted until Heather got pregnant and felt she'd want to take at least a few years to stay home with the baby. Chad had been working sporadically, mainly through temp agencies as an admin but nothing that suggested he'd consistently make a middle-class income. So Heather started, gently at first, "encouraging" him to make greater efforts to find a stable, middle-income job. While Chad made some efforts—including hitting up his many friends—when they didn't "have anything for him," he started drinking more and doing more pot, which only decreased his motivation further, a vicious cycle.
Heather's encouragement devolved into nagging and fights, including screaming matches in front of their newborn. Chad "couldn't deal" and so initiated divorce. Heather was fed up with him anyway so they divorced without a protracted legal war.
After six months with the baby, Heather knew she needed to get back to work and did. Meanwhile, Chad is back living with his parents, playing lots of video games, visiting his son less often than he should, and claiming to be looking for a job.
His father said to him,
Chad, some people have to reach rock-bottom before they change their procrastinating ways. Others prefer to stay at rock-bottom, either because of—as psychologists would say, fear of failure, rejection, or success—or sometimes simply because they know someone will take care of them.
In your case, knowing we won't kick you out, you correctly assume you can continue your pleasure-centric life without much consequence. The best I can do is to ask whether you'll feel good about your life having done the least you can get away with rather than the most you could produce?
If you don't feel good about such a life, you'll have to learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable and force yourself to do the things you know you need to do: work harder to get and keep a job, even if it's not a "fun" job. Hopefully, you'll come to appreciate that you'll feel better about yourself and your life by being self-supporting, productive, and a good role model for your child. You'll also, if you wish, be more likely to meet and keep a good romantic partner. That's my best shot, Chad.
Would you have said something different to Chad?
The 2nd edition of The Best of Marty Nemko is available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at firstname.lastname@example.org