The Not Alcohol Speech

Everyone in my position has an alcohol speech, and we’ve all heard it. We might not have heard one exact speech or another, but they’re all the same, dramatic and tragic, full of the warnings of drinking and driving, underage drinking, destructive decisions, and lives ruined.

The talk we need to have isn’t just about avoiding the truly horrific and sad stuff, and it’s not about keeping ourselves out of the newspapers and other stories that circulate after the weekends. Just because we’re not in those situations, it doesn’t mean we’re doing this alcohol thing right. There is a way to do it right, but we have to change the way we look at alcohol to do it. I say this because I’ve done it wrong as many years as I’ve done it right. It’s not simply about staying out of the drunk tank and police blotter, or any story involving a goat.

So, how can I talk about alcohol and speak about more than just the warnings and horror stories? If I’m worth my salt in this Day Job business, I should be able to find some way to make my point while avoiding soapbox everyone else is on. How can I get down to the nuts and bolts of all this and share the frustration my peers and I deal with more often than we’d like?

The best way I’ve found over the years is to make my alcohol talk not about alcohol. Instead, I make it about goals.

Here’s the thing: I want you to be successful. I know for a fact that you came here with some goals, and I want you to meet them. As a matter of fact, I’ll say I owe you the chance to meet them if at all possible. I don’t care what your goals are, they’re yours, and they’re worth the effort. To meet those goals, you usually need three things: time, energy, and money.

Here’s the problem: Alcohol wants your time, energy, and money.

And when it’s all said and done, these things we need to meet our goals are precious. I can’t see how we can be successful if we donate them to alcohol too often. Actually, it’s smarter to say that, in 25 years, I don’t see it often. I don’t have any single memory of someone with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol meeting personal, professional, and financial goals. I do, however, have an overwhelming number of experiences with people losing sight of their goals.

And no, the majority of those experiences and first-hand observations of people losing momentum aren’t from the drinking and driving or stories of nights that started as fun and ended as trouble. They’re stories of good people with good goals who donated too much time, energy, and money to drinking. They were never classified as having a problem, were never late to work, and were never the person you have to worry about. Sadly, they also weren’t the ones you watch, knowing that great things are coming from them.

So, digging deeper to find my not alcohol speech, I tried to figure out why so many good-hearted and well-intentioned people end up investing too much of their resources in the completely wrong direction. Some don’t have goals at all, which is just sad, but that’s not often the case since we’re all adults here.

I fondly remember a young man who finished his initial run of military training and earned half the necessary credits for his Bachelors Degree. Like everyone else who graduated the course, he had big plans at his first duty station. He was going to finish that degree within two or three and be ready for greatness. This rather handsome young man moved on to that next place, but he never set up a plan to meet his goals and invested his time, energy, and money in the wrong direction. By the time he finally got back on track and finished his degree, a decade had passed and he’d lost all momentum along with a handful of opportunities. Please don’t be like that young man.

More often than not, like that young man I mentioned, they don’t really know how to reach the goals they have.

– Someone wants to run a marathon this year but hasn’t researched a training plan and diet, which alcohol is rarely a part of.

– A friend wants to get out of debt, but hasn’t had a financial counseling to work out a budget, of which alcohol may play a surprising part.

– A peer wants to take a required online course from home, but struggles as he tries to both drink and focus.

Notice that none of these examples involve bingeing at the local bar or breaking any laws, but they are very common. These examples come from having goals but not completely understanding how to meet them, not creating a routine to meet them, and instead creating a routine with alcohol. For many, that routine can be a bad thing.

I can’t tell people not to drink, that would make me a colossal hypocrite. I can, however, reasonably tell you that I’ve figured out the risk we don’t always talk about with alcohol, and that’s about the routine of drinking instead of working towards our goals. Most of us have things we want to accomplish that can’t be done at the day job. Amazing, drinking also can’t be done during most day jobs. So, the only time we really have to commit to the other goals outside the daily grind is after work, in those few precious hours of daylight when we need to get exercise, go to college, or in my case, write these articles.

– For your personal, professional, and financial goals, how do you need to use your time, energy, and money to meet them?

– Without understanding your goals and how to meet them, how will you know when is the right time to donate your resources to enjoying a well-deserved drink?

– What else is competing for your time, energy, and money? Video games? Television? Hobbies that won’t help you towards your goals?

Related articles:

Set Three goals

Achieving goals

Have a great week out there.

– JT

Day Job Final_Web

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as a Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.