Redefining Entertainment

One smart thing I did after college was get rid of my TV. I was trying to start a company and television was getting in my way. With my daily diet of setbacks, tough decisions, and steep learning curves, it was too easy to turn on the TV when things got tough and too hard to turn it off when challenges loomed.

One day in a moment of clarity I sold my television at a garage sale. Then my time filled up with so many better things that I couldn’t imagine having time for TV again.[1]

Sometimes people asked if I’d watched some program recently. When I said I hadn’t because I had no TV I drew looks of pity. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” they said. But I had a good idea of what I was missing; I’d watched television for thousands of hours. My decision had been made, not out of ignorance, but with considerable expertise. Did they have any idea what it was like to not watch TV?

Sometimes people got defensive.

“I work hard. Sometimes I need a break.”
“I need to zone out sometimes. You can’t work all the time.”

And so on.

But I didn’t buy it. Because I’d figured out by now that when you get sick of working on one thing it usually just means one part of the mind needs a break while other parts of the mind are so bored and underused that they risk atrophy.[2]

So instead of zoning out when I was tired of starting a company I changed zones by playing guitar, working on my car, writing, etc. Taking those under-used parts of the mind out for a spin turned out to be more energizing than being passively entertained.

But while I never found zoning out to be necessary, I did sometimes find it beneficial to do something entirely effortless. Unfortunately for television there were lots of effortless things that are superior. Like getting some sun or taking a nap. Sometimes when I get a nap I wake up so refreshed that I feel I’ve fit two days into one.

[1] It’s not that I maintained the superhuman willpower to not watch TV. I just had a momentary burst of willpower that allowed me to get rid of it. Once it was gone it didn’t take any willpower to not watch TV.

[2] The desire to zone out is probably due less to fatigue and more to those underused parts of the mind being depressed.