One Sunday morning a couple weeks ago, I was supposed to play in a soccer game. It wasn’t a formal game, just a kickaround, but earlier in the week I had confirmed that I would be there via Evite. (I normally play every Sunday, and a few friends were expecting me.) When my alarm went off, I was tired and slightly hung over, but I got up, put on my soccer clothes and made my way toward the subway that would take me to the field. As I passed a small café, I thought, “Man, I could just get some coffee, a ham-and-egg omelet wrap, go back home and watch the Wimbledon final.” So after a minute of hesitation, that’s what I did. And you know what? It felt great.
For most people—for good, responsible people—flaking is probably worth doing more often. It’s a time-management skill, and it’s a way of showing that you respect yourself and your life…
The point: blowing off a commitment—or “flaking,” as the kids say—is sometimes the best decision you can make for yourself. Bailing on something at the last minute—when you realize it’s going to be a waste of time, or it isn’t going to help you much, or it won’t be fun, or you’re just not feeling it, or there’s something else you’d rather do, or it’s just generally a bad idea—is actually a really smart move. It’s an underrated move, and it’s a veteran move. In fact, the older I get (I’m nearly 35), the more I do it. And I’ve learned to not feel guilty about it, either, which is another key.
See, there’s a stigma attached to flaking that’s not really fair. I mean, sure, some people flake on everything, which is why flaking gets a bad name, because the people who do that are dicks. But for most people—for good, responsible people—flaking is probably worth doing more often. It’s a time-management skill, and it’s a way of showing that you respect yourself and your life, and you’re not just going to show up for mediocre events. (I’m at the point now where I occasionally get upset at myself for not flaking, when an event that I attend turns out to be a bad experience. Ah, damn, I should have known better.) Every guy needs some breathing room in his life, and flaking is a good way to create it.
Because here’s the thing: when done in moderation, flaking isn’t a slacker thing to do. It’s a badass thing to do. It’s actually not Jeff Spicoli. It’s Donald Trump. You’re saying, “You know what, screw that. I’m not wasting my time on it. I’m going to do something that’s more important to me.” It’s all about opportunity costs. Sure, you could go to that pseudo-friend’s concert. But then you wouldn’t have those four hours to work on your screenplay. Or to write a letter to your grandparents. Or to watch Cocktail. (Hey, it’s a good movie.)
The other thing is, if you show up for every event—every game, every show, every birthday party—people take you for granted. When you’re occasionally MIA, people realize how much better things are when you’re there (and how much worse they are when you’re not). Think Chris Bosh in the NBA Playoffs.
Now, I’m not saying flake out all the time. And I’m not saying flake out on everything. You have to be passionate about something. But I’m saying it’s OK—and even wise—to bail on some commitments, from time to time. Think of it this way: you’ve got three “flake cards” that you can use every month. You can use them however you see fit, and give yourself permission to not feel bad about using them. Because you shouldn’t. (Provided it’s not, like, your daughter’s graduation.)
And if you really don’t want to do something, don’t do it. You can’t do everything in life, and you can’t please everybody. Better to be really into one thing, than to be half-assed about four things. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go not go to something.