Why The Ice Bucket Challenge Is a Waste of Your Time

There are many reasons you should not waste your time with the Ice Bucket Challenge. For one, I won’t do it because I don’t like being called out and told what to do. Second, it doesn’t look like a lot of fun (although from what I understand, that’s the point, to experience the momentary loss of muscle control that ALS sufferers deal with on a daily basis).

Those are two small reasons.

The biggest reason of all is that it simply doesn’t matter.

You didn’t wake up on January 1st, 2014 thinking, “If I can only pour a bucket of ice cold water on my head for charity this year, then I’ll have accomplished something really important.” You probably didn’t wake up thinking that on July 1st either, or August 1st, or even two weeks ago.

Then the emails and call-outs started coming.

“Have you seen this?” your friends asked.

“I call you out to do this!” your work colleagues would state in their Facebook posts and Youtube videos about their ice bucket challenges.

Maybe you gave in to peer pressure and did it. Maybe you haven’t. Yet.

If you do it, nothing will change for the better.

If you don’t do it, you’ll actually get further ahead in life.

At a minimum, the Ice Bucket Challenge will consume two hours of your life. There’s the organizing of the ice water, the finding of a bucket big enough to hold the 5 gallons or more that you’ll waste, the recruitment of a ‘dumper’, the further recruitment of the videographer to capture the event for social media, the emails you have to send out to people with the momentous announcement that you’ll be putting yourself through this stunt, the changing of the clothes into your ice bucket outfit, and then the subsequent dumping, hopefully without injury unlike the Campbellsville Kentucky Fire Department that was electrocuted in an ice-bucketing-gone-wrong (if you have more time to waste, you can watch plenty of ice bucket fails on Youtube), and then the changing of clothes and warming up your body, followed by the subsequent calling out of other people and then the tall tale telling you’ll do with co-workers.

That’s a lot of time and energy.

And for what?

Yes, it’s a charity. Yes, money will go to research that might lead to a cure for a disease that affects 5,600 people in America every year. That’s 0.001% of the American population.

But if you’ve done this, why aren’t you marching in the streets for peace in Syria? Surely you hate to see the pain and suffering of innocent bystanders being killed in Damascus?

What about pediatric cancer? Every year 13,500 children in America are diagnosed with cancer. Everyone hates cancer, even more so when it happens to innocent children. But what have you done to fight childhood cancer lately?

What about the humane society? If you aren’t out there volunteering and neutering and spaying animals, what kind of selfish lout are you?

I’m being facetious, of course, but it raises these questions.

What do you stand for?

Where do you draw the line?

What do you sit out?

What really matters?

Jim Collins, quoted in a 2012 Inc. magazine shared twelve questions that a company should ask themselves if they want to go from Good to Great. We can apply three of them to both our careers and personal lives:

First, “What are the brutal facts?”

Second, “What is our 20-Mile March, and are we hitting it?”

Third, “What should we stop doing, to increase our discipline and focus?”

At the beginning of 2014 you set goals. You identified your priorities. Have you accomplished them all? Was one of them to get doused in a bucket of ice water?

How is your progress going on your big goals and dreams? Did you get all of the work done that you needed to get done this week? Could you have used those extra two hours that were wasted getting a bucket of ice-cold water dumped over your head? How does the ice bucket challenge fit into your priorities in life?

Where do you draw the line?


Each week my personal coaching clients are required to send me an email update including both the successes and bottlenecks they are experiencing in their businesses. Three of my clients called me out to do the Ice Bucket Challenge after undergoing their own. All three of these clients also reported being stressed, not getting everything done, and being mired in struggles in both their personal and business lives. Yet for some reason they thought it was a good idea to take two hours from their week, engage in lemming-like behavior to pour a bucket of water over their head for a charity that they did not even know existed ten days ago.

One of them argued it was worth it because it might have brought in a new client.

That’s nice, but wouldn’t two hours of time dedicated to hard thinking, reactivation calls to past clients, or crafting an email marketing campaign have brought in more clients?

Whatever happened to relying on the merit of your message and the master of marketing for getting clients and customers instead of hoping that participation in a charity event might get you a client? That’s akin to playing the lottery and it is not worth your time.

Those are the brutal facts.

The Ice Bucket Challenge does not move you closer to your vision.

The Ice Bucket Challenge – and other activities like it – is something you should stop doing so that you can have more discipline and apply your focus to what matters.

Funny thing, who would have ever believed that our desire to procrastinate is so strong that we’d even sit through the pain of having a giant bucket of ice-cold water poured over our heads? That’s the reality of the situation though, isn’t it? Instead of sitting at our desks and doing the real work, we’ll do almost anything – including getting doused with freezing cold water – just so we can avoid the real work that really matters in life. Such is the ingenuity of our dilly-dallying.

I know what you’re thinking.

“What a selfish jerk! You don’t care about anyone but yourself. My Ice Bucket Challenge was for a good use of my time because it’s for a good cause!”

If you think that, you’re wrong.

What I care about – so strongly that is it is borderline irrational – is that you are using the limited amount of time in your life for the right things so that at the end of the week, the year, and your life you can look back and be satisfied with the legacy you have left.

We’ve never met, and yet I think night and day about how your life can be improved. It’s seven o’clock on Sunday morning and I’m working on this article for you to challenge your thinking on how you use your time. Your success matters that much to me, and that’s why I insist we look at the brutal facts about your decisions and how your actions are either moving you closer to or further away from your goals.

What is your 20-mile march? What is your big hairy audacious goal in life? What does the Ice Bucket Challenge have to do with it? What are the brutal facts about the progress you’ve made towards your big goals and dreams in life? What do you need to stop doing so that you can apply more discipline and focus to it?

Have you written the book that you were born to write? Or are you procrastinating with a million different trivialities that will not matter in three months let alone three days from now?

Have you fully nurtured and grown the family that you have so much love for? Or are you coming home late from work because you wasted two hours doing an Ice Bucket Challenge and thus had to stay three hours late to catch up?

Have you poured all the ice-cold water over your head that you could ever need to pour over your head?

If you were only able to answer yes to the final question, then you need to take a good hard look at how you are spending your time and whether or not you are focusing on what really matters in life.

Are you doing what really matters?

Will the ice bucket challenge improve your life and get you closer to your vision? No. Will it help raise $300 for charity? Maybe. When looking at your participation with utter, brutal honesty, was it the best use of time in your life?


Imagine, if you will, two possible conversations that could take place on this coming New Year’s Eve. You stand around at cocktail hour in small talk with friends.

“Remember,” your friend says to you, “when you took that challenge to pour that bucket of ice water on your head?”

“Yep,” you reply.

“Yeah, that sure was funny,”

“Yep,” you repeat like Hank Hill in a scene from the cartoon, King of the Hill.



Compare that to this conversation you might have if you focus on your priorities, if you sacrifice the minutiae and miniscule matters from your life and have laser-like focus and discipline commitment to what really matters.

“Hey,” a member of your community says, “I know you were really busy this year raising your family and having a really great year with your business, but I just want to thank you for finishing your book. It made a real difference in my life and in the life of all my friends that I referred to it. Thank you.”

Maybe you don’t care about writing a book. That’s fine. It’s just an example of what you can achieve if you stay focused, stop procrastinating, say no to what doesn’t matter, and say yes to what does.

My friend Dave Kekich wrote, “You are responsible for exactly who, what, and where you are in life. That will be just as true this time next year.”

As an ETR reader, there’s no doubt that you have big goals. In a year from now, will you have accomplished them if you keep making the decisions about how to use your time that you are making right now?

At the beginning of 2014 I followed Mark Ford’s advice and set only four goals for this year, one for my health, one for my wealth, one for my social self, and one for my personal enrichment. Nothing else matters to me but making progress on these four items. Combined they are my 20-Mile March.

  1. My Health Goal – To fix my digestive health issues
  2. My Wealth Goal – To do everything I can to support our team at ETR so that we hit a record annual revenue
  3. My Social-Self Goal – To improve 3 specific and incredibly important relationships in my family.
  4. My Personal Enrichment Goal – To finally finish my first book.

These four priorities drive everything in my life. Nothing else matters. I must be ruthless about how I use my time and I make no apologies for it. I will be turning down every ice bucket call-out that comes my way. I will control what I can, I will concentrate on what counts, and I will focus on what really matters to me. Those are the brutal facts about my life, and this focus has been a key element in 2014 being my best year ever for goal achievement. Brutal honesty, discipline and focus works. Following the crowd and wasting your precious time does not.

When asked about his success in building Twitter, entrepreneur Jack Dorsey said, “I’m most proud of the things we decided not to do.” It’s great wisdom from such a young man to recognize the Power of No.

We all have 168 hours in our week. You can’t afford to waste any of them. The keys are to know the Vision for your life, your priorities, and what really matters. With that knowledge, you must – if we’re being brutally honest – be ruthless with your time. How you use your time will be the most important decision you make in your life. Choose wisely. This life is not a dress rehearsal, as the old adage goes.

Be clear about your goals. Know what you are willing to do – and NOT willing to do – in order to succeed.

Know what you stand for and stick to it. Make no excuses, make no apologies.

You still have big projects to finish in 2014.

Be clear about your priorities and let nothing get in your way.

“Regardless of what is going on around you, make the best of what is in your power.” – Epictetus

[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with research of proven methods in your career, in your business and in your personal life. He has created a unique system to show gratitude and appreciation to stay on track for these goals each and every day. Click here to follow the exact 5-minute system you can use to improve your life.]