How to *Not* Waste Your Life

Todd Brison

I thought I wasted a lot of my college years.

Journalism was the only career for me. I just knew it. I couldn’t bear the thought of doing anything else. I loved the work. I loved the interviews. I loved to feel smart. Above all, I loved to:

  1. Take a complex topic
  2. Make it simpler
  3. Give the simpler version to interested people.

Then, in my fourth year of college, we watched a documentary which broke my heart. The film depicted an average day in the life of a New York City journalist. In the film, the journalists:

  • Woke up before the sun
  • Had no idea what they were going to do until the news happened
  • Got yelled at when they covered a celebrity event (“People in Iraq are dying and you’re covering this trash?!”)
  • Ran from corner to corner of the city, sticking a microphone in the faces of people who didn’t want to talk to them.
  • Got yelled at some more by an editor
  • Went to print with material they weren’t even sure was true yet.
  • Stayed up past midnight making sure they printed the right thing (luckily, they did)
  • At last went home to bed

Then they did all of these things the next day.

So I bailed. How could I handle that kind of schedule or verbal abuse? Besides, my new wife probably wanted money for food.

What a waste of all those journalistic skills, right?

A year after graduation I made my way into Corporate America and found a good job for me (after some initial torture). Something called “elearning design.” I was tasked with reviewing long, boring material on a corporate initiative and reformatting it in an on-demand web version.

To complete this job, I needed to:

  1. Take a complex topic
  2. Make it simpler
  3. Give the simpler version to interested people.


Now, I write a lot online. I post nearly every day on Quora or Medium or YouTube. I address questions like how to make money as an artist, or what to do when your boss hates you or whether or what fiction writers should do to create an online presence.

Do you know what I do when I’m doing that?

  1. Take a complex topic
  2. Make it simpler
  3. Give the simpler version to interested people.

What’s my point?

Nothing is wasted.

I have a friend who “wastes” a lot of time on Instagram. Then, she goes out and takes perfect photos because her eye has been so well trained.

I have another friend who “wasted” a lot of his life chasing a business that imploded. Guess what? Now he knows how to run a business.

My aunt “wastes” a lot of time chatting with people on the phone. Every year, she gives better Christmas presents than anyone else.

Every single moment in your life tells you a little bit more about what you might do, why you might do it, and who you might be.

If you understand those moments, your life will never be wasted.

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