The first leg of our journey. I unbuckled Olivia’s seat belt and she shot up, full of energy.
“We’re going to Hawaii!” she shouted. The crowd turned to admire her gusto.
She waved to everyone, “Bye byeeee…. We’re going to Hawaii.”
She grabbed my hands, jumped from the seat to the isle, and strutted her bad, little self off the plane.
I didn’t notice the sound of airplanes flying overhead until I decided that I will learn to fly. I set the goal a few weeks ago when I was thinking about practicing uselessness. The goal succeeded in sparking some passion and optimism, but I didn’t realize that having this compelling goal could provide so much fuel.
Today, I was bustling along, focused on my to-do list, when I heard a little plane overhead. The stress immediately left my body as I looked up to search the sky. My state transformed immediately from anxious to optimistic.
As I returned to the tasks, they didn’t seem so important, and the clarity gave me the space to decide what I really needed to do next.
Then I’m off work for a week.
There was a time when the build up to vacation was exciting. I’d fight sleep to dream about the moment my feet hit the ground there. I’d distract myself throughout the day trolling for ideas about what to do.
But today, I’ve given myself too much responsibility to feel anything but terror. People are expecting things from me and I have to get them done tomorrow. If I don’t get them done, then I need to put the ball in the right court. If I miss something, I’ll return with my head on the chopping block.
Of course, none of this is true. I’m not as important or indispensable as I think I am. Most people probably won’t realize I’m gone, those that do will probably forget just as quickly, and whatever fires do erupt will certainly be less painful than the beating I’m putting myself through now.
When I return from work, two-year old Olivia comes charging from the other side of the room to greet me with a hug.
Soon after, my heart begins to sink as I maneuver to distract her so I can slip away upstairs. I look forward to her company all day, and right now I’m all she cares about. But there’s something I must do first, and it kills me.
This is the time I’ve dedicated to a brief exercise and stretch routine, followed by a shower—no more than 20 minutes in total.
I know this is important. I can rattle off all the arguments. But the devil on the other shoulder doesn’t acquiesce. He doesn’t let me get away without burning guilt over walking away from my precious little girl. He so strong that in the last two weeks I’ve missed more than half of my target days.
But today, I was strong. I insisted on getting it done and feel rejuvenated. I lost 20 minutes with her, but I know I’ll be in a better state to make the rest of our time worth double.
I’m most productive when everything is silent. When there’s no one ringing my metaphorical doorbell. No one blowing up my inbox, or calling me, or texting me.
But most of the time, it’s as loud as an Irish pub on St. Paddy’s Day.
You can manufacture silence. If you stop listening, the noise goes away.
One way to manufacture silence is to separate capturing from doing.
For example: In a perfect world you’d check email once per day. Process it. Knock quick tasks out immediately. Add the bigger items to your to-do list. Then spend the rest of your day being productive… uninterrupted.
On a bad day, it’s the opposite. I keep email visible and am constantly inundated with urgent requests, often letting them take me down the rabbit hole, and always letting them distract my focus.
You might not be able to keep the inbox closed all day. So instead, try scheduling periods of uninterrupted work. For an hour, close your inbox, silence your phone, turn off any other means of interruption, and just work.
When your time is up, open the floodgates back up, process quickly, and then get back to work.
Nothing is important.
Don’t get suckered into too many critical items, or top priorities. Slam on the brakes, pull over the car and shout into the back seat:
“If you don’t tell me the single most important thing you want from me, I’m going to turn this car around!”
“Life goin’ nowhere. Somebody help me.”
Take a break from trying to get ahead, and do a little dancing in the present.
“Got the wings of heaven on my shoes. I’m a dancin’ man and I just can’t lose.”
Oh, oh, oh, oh…
I often bite off more than I can chew. For example, I had six or seven important items on my to-do list today but only checked off one.
The most common reasons for this kind of “failure” are tasks taking longer than planned, the unexpected taking me off course, or simply getting distracted.
It makes sense to improve on these shortcomings. To get better at realistic planning. To stay strong and resist letting things pull you off course. To practice discipline and focus.
But having too much to do can serve the purpose of motivation, so I prefer to bite off too much than not enough.
I was scolded for not meeting an expectation.
I knew better, but was tired. I snapped and passionately defended my position. I was too deep when I realized the error, so I politely shut up, let the water crash under the bridge, then quickly offered resolution to appease and we moved on.
The beating served little purpose, but so did defending against it.
If I’d been of clearer mind, I’d have graciously taken the beating and ended up in the same place much sooner and with much less emotional collateral damage.
Being humble is about always accepting that you could be wrong. Not saying with an undertone of sarcasm, “Now I could be wrong,” but actually believing it.
The skill of humility is essential for anyone interested in improving themselves, leading others and being happy and fulfilled.
Humility is not the same as lacking confidence. To be humble, to be willing to admit you could be wrong, you must take a position first.
The pushover, the person who lacks confidence, is too afraid to take a position. They can’t be humble because they have nothing to be willing to concede on.
It’s courageous to be humble, but only if you have the courage to feel strongly about something first.