Passive Consumption And The Ever-tempting Screen

Right now I’m sitting on a 7.5 hour British Airways flight from London to Chicago. Its a 747 with TV screens throughout and a long list of free movies to choose from. One point is striking: when given this long stretch of free time near a TV, the vast majority of people choose to pass the time by passively watching free movies.

I just walked around the cabin. The few black screens belong to people who are asleep. Who is using this opportunity to learn something new? To write? To create? The answer appears to be nearly no one.

A Sea of Screens
A Sea of Screens

In contrast, I was looking forward to this rare and precious stretch of uninterrupted time, so I set my goals accordingly. On this flight I finished reading the excellent book The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life by Leo Babuta, wrote two session abstracts for the Warm Crock Developer Conference in Copenhagen, created a post about becoming an international speaker (which I’ll publish soon), and then finished up the flight by writing this post. Okay, full disclosure, I did enjoy some downtime too with an episode of Top Gear!

Fast Forward a Few Hours…

On my final flight today I was unexpectedly upgraded for free to first class (my first time ever, quite nice!). As a side-note, I have no idea why they did this. I assume because it’s my first time flying internationally with American Airlines. Anyway, I really enjoyed the experience and found it interesting that the group in first class was nearly universally either reading or writing. My takeaway: People who sit in first class generally have first class habits.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying downtime. But keep in mind, outliers set themselves apart by commanding their free time. Being an outlier means choosing value while the masses are defaulting to entertainment. Every moment of your life is a precious opportunity to grow or add value for others. Choose wisely.

5 thoughts on “Passive Consumption And The Ever-tempting Screen

  1. Good observation. I noticed the same thing the last time I was on a plane – everyone was watching the in-flight tv screens or reading magazines. It is rare to have such a long string of uninterrupted time for studying or writing! I’m Surprised to hear that everyone in first-class used the time more effectively. Maybe consistently using time effectively will lead to more first-class flights 🙂

  2. Great blog post. Completely agree with these observations and exactly what I’ve noticed when luck has delivered me a first class seat. The trick is to always have a list of productive tasks easily at hand for each occasion. In Stephen King’s On Writing he talks about always carrying the novel he’s currently reading with him. He never knows when he might be in a line and able to read a few pages and it’s the only way he can read 30+ novels a year.

  3. I wonder if the ratio would change significantly if you took that same photo of first class?

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