Friends, I’ve been thinking. I’ve been thinking about the slippery slope, the slippery slope of…as humans, as leaders, we find ourselves in a place progressively over time far from where we intended to be or accidentally just waking up one day and finding that we’re in a place that no longer looks familiar or is no longer desirable. I’ve found myself on that slope many time. I just had a conversation with a friend this morning, and he was stating, after a year of really intentional work and changes in family, moved into a new home, found himself in a place of work rhythms, lifestyle rhythms that were unfamiliar and undesirable. Really not a place, like, “Why am I doing this? How did I get here?” And it’s really helpful to know and have the awareness to start with. “Huh. This isn’t working.” Paying attention…what I talk about often is the dashboard lights of your life, and they start going off.
For me, sometimes it happens in sleep where I notice, boy, I’m sure up a lot at 1 to 2:30 in the morning with lists of unfinished things in my head. Or, boy, I really notice that I’m way less patient than I wanna be, or I really notice that I’m finding the Zoom world of constantly switching of 30-minute or 60-minute blocks and the mental fatigue that that requires. I was just reading a book from Cal Newport on Deep Work, and he talked about how the mental…basically IQ points go down through the day from the progressive switching between topic and between task. That we actually become dumber effectively is what it means.
So what do we do? What do we do when we find ourselves in a place where it isn’t where we started, it’s not where we intended to be, or, simply, where we want to be or what we want to be experiencing is something different than what we currently are. And I believe it usually, like, begins with two vocabulary words. One is starting to say yes to different things and say no to others. And those two words, yes and no, pulling those out, looking at those, one in our left hand, one in our right, and deciding, “Okay, now what are the mends and adjustments and trades I can make?” For myself, I notice this constant gravitational pull to say yes to more client work, to say yes to the next opportunity, to say yes to that next small thing.
My wife was in a training program, and they called ’em, “The big things that you put in a bowl are oranges. The small things you put in a bowl are Skittles.” And it’s much easier to have a bowl that you start with oranges in than it is to start with a bowl, fill it full of Skittles, and then try and shove the oranges in. And oranges being figurative for the things, the big, juicier, meatier, chunkier pieces of your commitments, your yeses and then moving into, then, adding the small bits around those big blocks. So for me, personally, I find it really fatiguing when I end up with a bowl full of Skittles of just tons of little bitty penny ante small things I’m doing. And for me, as I learn to lead myself, learn to lead others, the impact I seek to create has to do with fewer yeses to Skittles, more no to those small little things, and stronger…my friend called them “straight spine” and “open heart” yeses, where the oranges are easier to place in, so that I don’t find myself on down the road fatigued and surprised of the results of the impact of my experience of my work and my life and, in the end, finding myself on the slippery slope in some place I don’t intend to be or choose not to be.
So start with a yes. Figure out where those yeses need to be invested fully, and then where are some of the noes. I just, before recording this episode, said no to two separate invitations,so that I can keep the integrity of the yeses that I’d formally already committed to. You can do this, friends.
Keep going. This is good for you.