I Don’t Watch Ertugrul For The Same Reason I Don’t Watch Game of Thrones


I haven’t seen a single episode of Ertugrul or Game of Thrones.

It’s not out of some faux moral superiority either [see: my article about Breaking Bad] . I’ve binge watched my fair share of shows. This is more about sheer utility. What is the commitment? What is the reward? And, what is the cost of avoidance?

This is not meant to be a shame grenade, or to even spawn a throwback debate à la Dark Knight Rises. It’s more about something called ‘strategic incompetence‘ and prioritization.

It’s a concept I came across while reading Finish, and it essentially says you decide ahead of time what you’re going to be terrible at.

The author gives an example about lawn care. Obviously, we all want a perfectly maintained lawn. We’ve all got friends who spend hours on their garden every week. In other words, it’s a priority for them. Take a family with 3 kids under the age of 5. Where would the lawn land on a list of priorities? Probably very low, even if they want it to be much higher.

One of the traps of social media is that it constantly makes you feel bad for all the things you’re not doing. Spend a few minutes scrolling through Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook and you’ll come away thinking some combination of the following-

  • Why am I not getting an additional degree right now?
  • I need to redo the aesthetic of my entire house
  • And then redo the aesthetic of my IG profile
  • I should be taking 2 years off to pursue Islamic studies
  • I should be traveling more
  • I need to do a juice cleanse
  • I should have been promoted at work already
  • Finding more creative uses for mason jars
  • Why don’t I have a side business making 6 figures?
  • My kids are behind on their Islamic studies compared to the kids in some random YouTube video
  • My #squad needs to be bigger
  • I need to get on a Keto diet
  • ….you get the idea.

Here’s the thing. You can’t focus on all of those things. Life comes in seasons. There will be a period of life where studies are top priority. There will be another period where career is top priority. None of these phases lasts forever.

We ignore the examples we have in front of our own eyes. Take your own parents. How long did it take them to get through school? Establish a career or business? Buy a house? Furnish it? Buy a nice car? Take care of their lawn?

We look at what people accomplish over a span of 30 years, and because we get bombarded with images of everyone (seemingly) easily accomplishing these things – we want it all. And we want it all now.

Back to Ertugrul. Am I in a season of life where I can set aside 135 hours to catch up on this show? Or another however many hours to reach peak pop culture literacy in Game of Thrones?

I used to travel every week for work. This meant being away from home and stuck in a hotel room 3 nights a week. In that season of life, I binge watched tons of shows.

The challenge now is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The real motivator to see Game of Thrones or Ertugrul is the ability to take part in the conversation. It’s to understand the references people make. My intent here is not to debate the validity of that assertion (it’s going to differ from person to person). The intent is more about reflection and assessment. How important is being part of that conversation for me?

Beyond that is prioritizing what’s truly important. If, for example, getting your Master’s degree is something you’ve been talking about for years but haven’t done yet. Or memorize the Qur’an, or learn Arabic. You have to make a choice. Where is that 135 hours best invested?

It might not even be those things. It might be health. Health requires exercise, time set aside to walk/run, time spent cooking or meal planning. Those hours will have to come at the cost of something else.

It’s analogous to the sacrifice that many people when focusing on work/business at the expense of family. There might be a time where 2 years of crazy hard work will set you up for a different lifestyle and the sacrifice ends up being worth it. There’s also instances where you could take it to an extreme and lose your family altogether.

Intent rules all in these situations. I can’t say playing with my kids is a priority, or reading books related to my career is a priority, or learning a second language is a priority if all my free time goes to Netflix. In this case I’m being dishonest about what the actual priorities are. We tend to complain that we don’t have time to do all the things we want to do. No one does. We fall into this trap of complaining about not being able to get ahead on things while simultaneously spending our time on activities we ourselves consider lower priority.

Someone else might be in a situation where they really enjoy Ertugrul, and are able to watch it without seriously compromising other important things in their life. That is great for them – but don’t let that put pressure on you to emulate it. Your situation is not the same as anyone else.

Successful people simply decide what they’re going to suck at, and then intentionally let those things go. That might be your lawn for a few years. It might mean postponing that MBA. And it might mean having no idea what everyone on social media is talking about while they watch Ertugrul.


Showing 5 comments
  • R A

    Leading by example!
    May Allah guide us all the best.
    Jazakallah khair. And keep up the good work!

  • Usman

    JazakAllahu Khayr for this timely piece, Omar.

    As somebody who also hasn’t watched a single episode of G.O.T or Ertugurl, I fell into the tap of priding myself on the fact. I secretly wore it as some sort of “I’m not on the bandwagon” badge.

    However, upon deeper observation of the person I become when I binge (I recently binged ‘Underground’ on Netflix for 2 seasons, which ended up being cancelled!) I realised that I end up falling back into the habits that I’ve tried to break out of: sleeping late, delaying prayers, skipping gym sessions, etc.

    As somebody who loves movies & TV series, and is quite admittedly intrigued by Ertugrul, it’s become a matter of “Do you want to fall back into that hole again, Usman, or is it about time you prioritised what’s more important than just being culturally aware?”

    That’s not to say that I don’t waste time elsewhere, but it’s a little easier to justify slipping into a 30 minute social media “break” during work, than an intention 135-hour marathon!

  • Ibn Percy

    Here is a response from the same brother who wrote this article:


    May Allah bless you and increase you! May Allah allow you the time to enjoy 1 or 2 episodes a week of a great show! Ameen!

  • nuriddeen knight

    This was one of the most valuable Newsletters (I first read it via Newsletter email) I’ve read in a while. So true and such an important reminder.

  • MLK

    My favorite line: Successful people simply decide what they’re going to suck at, and then intentionally let those things go.

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