Devote Yourself to the Loathed Tasks

The Zen approach to truly taking care of what you’re always trying to avoid

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Photo by Fabrizio Chiagano on Unsplash

1: The Matt R________ approach to homework

When I was in middle school (in the early 90s) there was a kid in my class named Matt R_______. I’ll always remember him, because he was a bit of an asshole — a borderline bully. Like most people, he also had his moments, and could be smart and funny when he wasn’t ruining my day.

But I’ll also always remember his approach to doing homework, since it was original and effective. Actually, I guess it was his mom’s approach, which he had to comply with. Either way, it worked liked this: Matt’s mom made him do a minimum of one hour of homework every night of the week, regardless of how little or much work our class had been assigned.

So, for example, if all we had to do was a worksheet for French class that took 20 minutes, Matt would have to do that worksheet and then find some other school-related work to do for the other 40 minutes. There was no escape or excuses. He simply had to do schoolwork for an hour every night. The expectation did not change based on the amount of work there was to do.

Of course, there were lots of evenings where we had more than an hour of homework to do, at which times I guess it would have been easy for him to fill that time (and then some).

But from what I remember, there were many, many more nights where we were only given a small assignment to do. Meaning that while the rest of us were devoting the bare minimum amount of time to homework and then going out to ride bikes with our friends, or playing Super Mario on Nintendo, or doing whatever, Matt was still putting in his thankless hour of homework-based suffering.

Of course, it wasn’t quite thankless, because while the rest of us were doing the bare minimum, Matt was going above and beyond, learning a lot more than he had to about whatever we were studying in class, looking into things that were actually interesting to him, and double-checking his math homework. Matt was (involuntarily) extending his learning.

So the morning after especially light-homework nights, Matt would often come in to class having not…