Category Archives: Persistence

Busyness as usual: Is it business or busyness?

It’s business if you’re getting what’s important done. It’s busyness if you’re doing anything else or not getting done. Busy work isn’t work, it’s somewhere between meaning and pleasure, but not close to either one. ‘Busyness as usual’ is the zone I unfortunately see most working people living in. And it’s responsible for my least enjoyable days. The Pareto Effect applied to work means that in 20% of our day 80% of the work gets done. Then the rest of the day (all 80% of it) is going to be pretty inefficient and ineffective. It’s ‘busy work’ time. Or we could take a chance. It could be recharge time, play time, relationship time, learning time, exercise time, nap time, anything. That would be business as unusual.   Learn more: Resiliency: Five Keys to Success – Leverage the five principles of resiliency, engagement, efficiency, endurance, flexibility, and loving the game, for peak work performance and enjoyment.

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From the gross to the subtle

Whenever I’ve studied with masters of an art or a skill, there has been a common theme. They’re no longer interested in the big, obvious stuff. They’re refining their skills to focus on very small things. And they’re encouraging their students to be more mindful of the small as well. Yoga teacher Rodney Yee calls this going from the gross (big) to the subtle (small). When you see beginners at anything you’ll be forgiven for immediately thinking of the word ‘flailing’. They haven’t become efficient with their movements yet. With time and conscious attention this changes. Baby birds figure out how to use those wings. We have to start with the gross, but keep aiming for the subtle. That’s where mastery lies. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings. – Rumi

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Waiting in the dark – The hardest part of personal change

This is why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Waiting in the dark between where you are now and where you want to be is hard. Change needs action, the follow-through. But there’s also the waiting. This is the emotional part of it. It is as simple as withstanding discomfort.  People want to change, then change doesn’t happen, they get impatient, or unwilling to wait in the dark and the unknown, and pop back to the known, the familiar, the old way. They give up. Yet every heroes journey begins with leaving the known and descending into the darkness of the unknown, the underworld. No heroes journey, no story worth anything goes directly from where you are to success. There is always a road of trials. There is always a threshold to cross. Who wants to read a story about someone wanting something and then them immediately getting it, the end?  If you stick with the change you want to make, if you wait in the dark, your life just might become, like all great quests, a great story. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. – T.S. Eliot (From Section III of East Coker from The Four Quartets)

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Troubled? That’s great

When your conscious awareness increases, your dissatisfaction may increase. You wake up to the problem.  When a spouse leaves suddenly after years of mutual alienation, the problem didn’t start that day, it was years in the making. Awareness means you wake up to it. Think of the moment you realize you need to go on a diet. Yesterday you also needed to lose weight and exercise more, but today your doctor told you that you had to or you saw yourself in a mirror in unflattering lighting.  You notice something. And you don’t like what’s been noticed. The most painful aspect of meditation for me is it seems like there’s an increase in the number of runaway thoughts. My mind is always churning. But meditation teachers teach that the number of thoughts don’t actually increase, just your awareness of them increases. They’ve been endlessly flowing underground, but that stream breaks surface and blinders have been taken off your eyes for a moment. When you’re troubled, that’s good. Awareness has increased. Change can’t happen without it. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. “The more dissatisfaction, more questions, and more doubts there are, the healthier it is, for we are no longer sucked into ego-oriented situations, but we are constantly woken up…We are woken up constantly by the unrest.” – Chögyam Trungpa

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Is effort a bad word?

It takes more effort to play a song than to listen to one. It takes more effort to play a song than to watch TV. It also takes more effort to read an article than to watch to TV. It takes more effort to read a book than to read an article. It takes more effort to write an article than to read a book. It takes more effort to write a book than to write an article. So, is effort a bad word? It depends on what you want contribute to the world.  And it depends on the percentage of joyfulness in the effort…even if the joy is just at the end.

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The snow fort and the sidewalk

When it snows, do kids prefer to build a snow fort or shovel the sidewalk? What’s the difference? One of the differences is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm provides energy, while lack of it sucks energy out. If you’re having trouble persisting at something that matters to you, or even harder something that doesn’t matter to you, find the kernel of enthusiasm for some aspect of the work. Or some kernel of enthusiasm for the purpose for the work. Everything you do potentially contributes something to someone, even if it just contributes to you having food on the table and a roof over your head.  It’s not all sidewalk, there’s a snow fort in there somewhere.

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The slow glasses

Ann-Marie the optometrist cautioned me to go slow with the new progressive glasses. (Thanks for inventing bifocals Ben Franklin!) I ignored her advice, moved my head around normally and immediately felt sick to my stomach. It was going to take some time to get used to this new way of seeing.  My 40 Days to Change this year has focused on efficiency. And these ‘slow glasses’ were making me more efficient. No more throwing my head and gaze around willy-nilly. While adjusting, my head movements have been slight and slow.  That’s efficiency for you. It’s not moving faster, going harder and launching yourself at the work. Small and slow movements counter-intuitively instead get us to maximum efficiency. 

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We rush ahead so we can save time so…

“Though we rush ahead to save our time, we are only what we feel.” – Neil Young, On the Way Home We do what we do, to feel as good as we can.  Rushing ahead, trying to ‘save time’, it’s in the service of a promise to feel something we want to feel and to avoid something we don’t want to feel. The question for today: Is it working? If we’re only what we feel, what are we actually feeling? If rushing ahead isn’t doing it, time to try something new. Perhaps the opposite of that.

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How much time does the average person spend on social media?

Q: How much time does the average person spend on social media? A: Two hours “If I only had all the time back that I wasted on Facebook!” It’s a common lament. If you had all your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter time back…what would you do instead?  The best time to ‘do what you would do instead’ was when you first joined.  The second best time is today.

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Bernard Malamud six steps to persisting and the real mystery to crack

Interviewer: What about work habits? Some writers, especially at the beginning, have problems settling how to do it. Malamud: There’s no one way—there’s so much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time—not steal it—and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you. To sum up Malamud’s advice for persisting: There’s no one way to persist.You do what you want done…by sitting down and doing it.You know you best – pick when and where works for you.Discipline is key.Block off time. Don’t just try to stuff it in.You are the real mystery to crack. You.

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