Tip #8: Nothing worth doing in life is easy

It is far too easy to be distracted from the important things in life, in the age of the internet. Feeling bad about not having done your holiday homework? Ah, perhaps you’ll do it after a few clickety trips to YouTube or Buzzfeed. Three hours later, you’re suitably entertained (because it’s that easy to be entertained), and your homework still isn’t done. Is entertaining yourself too easy, with the internet? Definitely. So, don’t entertain yourself to death.

If you’re feeling unhappy about something school related, do something about it. It’ll probably be difficult, but nothing worth doing in life is easy. This one’s for the adults too — it’s too easy for adults to (metaphorically and literally) sit down and grow fat, instead of getting up and getting stronger or fitter.

I like to use my music to illustrate the value of hard work to my students. I can play the guitar fairly well (a student once said that my playing was “perfectly calibrated” :D), but that my singing needed work. Well, of course. I’ve spent a decade and a half playing the guitar, but I only started to take my singing more seriously a few years ago. To be honest, I probably need to take it more seriously if I want to get better. And it’s the same for studies, or work, or life. Nothing worth doing in life is easy.

It may sometimes be tiring if we keep on pushing ourselves, but it eventually will be rewarding. I remember trying to read John Milton’s Paradise Lost when I was an undergraduate, and feeling absolutely lost. Here’s a taste (you can skip it if you want to):

OF MAN’S first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the highth of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

If you understand that, congratulations. You’re coping better than I did when I was just in university. But since I had to understand this book-length epic poem, I slogged my way through it. I checked the brilliant Oxford English Dictionary for any word that I didn’t understand. I read and re-read passages to make sure I understood them. When the semester was done, Paradise Lost became one of my favourite texts of all time. I still read it now and then.

Nothing worth doing is easy. I spent months trying to understand one of the most brilliant epic poems in the world, and when I started to understand what was going on, it felt like my brain was exploding with fireworks and radiant light. Yeah, Paradise Lost is very, very awesome.

If you’re a student, something like Paradise Lost would be a little bit irrelevant (unless you’re, say, consistently getting A’s for your English, and feeling bored with modern prose). You might want to set a goal worth achieving, like cycling 100km in a day, or finishing your homework on time for an entire year (whoa), or cooking a meal for your entire family, or studying early for all your exams in the coming year (whoa).

Remember, don’t entertain yourself to death. It’s too easy.

Are you looking for an English tutor? For one-on-one lessons or group lessons, please send an email to kevinseahsg@gmail.com, or call/SMS/whatsapp 97700557 (Singapore only). I’m not always at my phone, so if I don’t pick up, please leave me an SMS to let me know you’re looking for a tutor.

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