I Try to Be Kind to Future Charles

Now that’s a weird title for a post.  What could I possibly mean?

In my preceding post about “Getting Stuff Done” I promised I’d discuss three tools:

  1. Habits
  2. Strategies
  3. Philosophies

Today’s post is definitely about #3. It’s humorous, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or effective. In fact I’ll quote renowned guitar instructor Mick Goodrick:

“Just because something is funny, it doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Just because something is important, it doesn’t mean that it’s not funny.”
(Goodrick, The Advancing Guitarist)

Often nowadays when I am tempted to procrastinate, do something sloppily, or just leave it until later, I think about “Future Charles.”  Because that’s who my choice in the present is going to affect. I imagine that Future Charles will thank past Charles for setting up things so well or making his life easier.  I joke with students, as I organize the band room after a busy rehearsal day, that I’m doing this so Future Charles is grateful — because I have a metaphysical relationship with myself across time, Past, Present and Future.

This philosophy balances on the knife edge between silliness and something that actually works. It began as more of an off-the-cuff apologia for my fairly natural work ethic, but I’ve found that on certain occasions it actually motivates me to be even more diligent, to take something I’m doing to the next level of organization or completion.

You could argue it’s better self-care to just head home after a busy rehearsal day, but I’ve found the few minutes of extra work are a more invaluable kindness — to my future self. Because I’m doing them for “someone else” (future me) they definitely feel less selfish. The next day will start on a totally different mental footing because of my decision to put in that effort. It might change my outlook on a whole string of future hours…or enable me to dig into a cool project I’ve been wanting to do –rather than cleaning up past Charles’ mess.

We could frame this dynamic alternately as just building good habits, but that’s no fun. I like the humorous tale of Past and Future Charles better.


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