Ever heard of Malcolm X? If you have, you’ll probably recognise X, or 'Malcolm Little’ as he was christened by his parents, for his vast contributions to the civil rights movement. Through his talks, books and actions, Little spearheaded huge transformations in America by encouraging equality between black and white people.
What many people don’t know about Little, however, is that he served six and a half years in prison for armed robbery. Before becoming an activist, Little spent his youth stealing from stores, dealing drugs and facilitating prostitution rackets.
For some, prison signals the end of a fruitful life. For Little, going to jail changed everything for the better.
Whilst behind bars, Little met a man named John Bembry, a self-educated fellow whom Little would later describe as ‘the first man he had ever seen command total respect... with words'.’
Inspired by Bembry, an example of what an ordinary man could become, Little became a sponge for knowledge. He threw himself headlong into the pursuit of knowledge, reading so many books in prison that he literally wore his eyes out and was forced to wear glasses.
‘But,’ as Ryan Holiday writes, ‘the trade-off was worth it. Those five years he served were some of the most productive of his life. He breathed in every second while his fellow prisoners rotted away.
‘So many people are busy thinking about the future that they miss the opportunities right in front of them.’
Malcolm X saw an opportunity where others see doom. He could have spent his time in one of two ways. The first, simply counting down the days and watching each minute tick past him, as everybody else did. Instead, he chose to use that time to improve. To grow. To expand his mind and emerge a changed man that would go on to transform America.
We all have a lot of time on our hands at the moment, don’t we? We’re stuck indoors, staring at the same four walls and wondering how to solve our boredom.
Like Malcolm X, we now also have two choices: alive time, or dead time. Will we use this time to emerge from lockdown as an upgraded version of ourselves? Or will we come out the same person, with the same habits and at the same stage in life?
The way you spend every second determines the entire trajectory of your life. You can waste time, or you can capitalise on your abundance of it. Those are your options. Choose wisely.
Photo: Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin on March 26, 1964. (Source)