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Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Being Boring is Awesome

In his advice book for creatives (Steal like an Artist), Austin Kleon has a chapter titled, "Be Boring."

"Be boring," Kleon says. "It's the only way anything gets done."

"I'm a boring guy," he goes on, "with a nine-to-five job in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog."

Like Kleon, I'm a boring person. I do the exact same thing every day or every week. I haven't been on a trip that wasn't writing related in years. I almost never miss a day of work. Saturday mornings I work on my blog and every Sunday I go to church. It's a good thing I'm a Hufflepuff, because I have the tenacity of a rock.

But things get done. (And money gets saved.)

Once in a while, I get messages from people online that go something like this:

Wow! I've read all the things you've done and what you are doing now, and all I can say is that I wish I were you and doing what you are doing!

I'm always flattered of course, and I do love what I do and think it's cool what I do.

But all the "cool" stuff other people see lasts about a second. They're cool, so I share them. But most days I'm hunched over a computer for 7-8 hours. On weekdays I literally talk to 2-3 different people (I don't have coworkers). To many people who look at me and my lifestyle, I appear utterly boring. In fact, to many outsiders, I give off the false appearance of utter stagnation. (And trust me, some of them let me know.)

I have a friend who is always out on adventures. It's great. If he had any idea how boring I am, he might have different thoughts about our friendship . . .

But being boring can be awesome. Just as canyons are slowly carved out day after day, year after year, so is any "boring" productive thing you do strengthened and refined day after day, year after year.

I remember when I started blogging years ago, I looked at my friends' blogs that were about 5 years old at the time and was a bit envious of their followers, commenters, and big backlogs. Many of those friends have moved onto other things, and that's great. Strangely, soon my blog will be as old as theirs were at that time. Now I have my own followers, commenters, and a big backlog. Week by week this place has grown. When I began, I could hardly imagine writing so many posts. It felt so far away. But by being boring (read: consistent), week after week, it got there.

The same is true of any small, productive thing we do consistently. I've been doing yoga almost every day this year. I only do it for 20-30 minutes, and I don't even leave home. I just follow yoga instructors on Youtube. Watching some of them, I feel a little envious of their flexibility and mobility. But no one got to that point overnight. Day after day, year after year, they were consistent.

I'm sure people come up to them, and say, "Wow! I wish I could do what you could do!" And the truth is, most of them can--if they are willing to put in the few minutes regularly, week after week, year after year. But often when people make such comments, they don't fully fathom the patience, work, and tenacity it took to get there, which are all "boring" traits.

In a strange way, it seems you can accomplish almost anything, if you are boring.

Boring isn't necessarily the same as being lazy. Though if you are boring by being lazy day after day, you will reap those "benefits" also.

People who are boring in the context I'm referring to understand this scripture:

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass

To some of the world, I may seem foolish, doing the same things day after day. In fact, 6-7 years ago, I had a friend who honestly had the attitude that working hard at something you want is stupid and unnecessary. That person would even point out others who were working hard in derogatory ways. Last year, when that friend saw some of the "cool" things I was doing, she came to me and asked point-blank, "How do I get to do what you are doing?"

True story.

The reality is, I've learned a lot of significant things being boring. I've learned a lot about myself, human nature, society, and ideas. There is something about long-term (but productive) stability that clears your vision in ways other things can't. I don't know if I would have believed it if I hadn't experienced it firsthand.

If you study LDS doctrine, you may come across the idea that Jesus Christ became perfect (which in Hebrew mean "complete" or "whole"), line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. This idea relates to another scripture I like:

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

By small and simple things are great things brought to pass, and small things, in many instances doth confound the wise, sometimes because over time, those small things lead to greater wisdom.

Often society envisions greatness as being popular, rich, and free of responsibility. But there is a true greatness in people who have the self-discipline and stamina to be consistent and stable. Of course, there are always going to be things out of our control. In some cases, tragedy and hardship strike out of nowhere. It's not realistic to be consistent and stable in everything, every time, without fail. But we can choose to be consistent and stable in a few things we have control over, even if those things are as simple as what we eat, reading ten minutes a day, doing a simple short workout, or always telling your child you love them. Pick something now that is realistic for you to be consistent in for a week or month that you aren't doing already.

In early March, I planted seeds in a grow box. Day after day, I water them. I admit, I've missed a couple of days. But each day, the plants get bigger, and it only takes me a few seconds. It's funny how simple consistency and stability can yield significant results.

Not everyone wants to be as boring as me or Austin Kleon. And thank goodness. I can't imagine what the world would be like if everyone was doing what I was doing. As my brother sometimes reminds me, quoting P90X of all things: "Variety is the spice of life." Even in your vein of consistency, you can still find ways to add a bit of variety. For example, if you hope to work out every day, you can vary the kind of workout you do. If you want to write every day, you can vary what you work on or where you work. We aren't all the same, and you have to figure out what you want and what works for you. You don't need to be me. But when you are real or serious about getting something done, it's okay to be boring.


  1. You're consistent and productive; you are NOT boring. *HUGE* difference.

    1. haha, thanks James. Some people would think I'm boring. It doesn't bother me. Just borrowing the meaning from Austen Kleon's book. ^_^


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