Monthly Archives: May 2017

How To Make Boring, Unsexy Progress

When people speak of others being overnight successes, what it boils down to is the fact that all of a sudden, everyone is talking about that particular person. In today’s language, these people became viral in a good way.

Breaking the phrase down, ‘overnight’ and ‘success’ hits all the sweet spots in our hindbrain.  ‘Overnight’ appeals to the part of us that want things fast and easy. ‘Success’ gets us to imagining what it’s like to be admired, or wealthy, or famous. Or all three.  Witnessing an ‘overnight sensation’ also works in the same vein — ‘sensation’ taps into the feel-good mechanism in our brain, which lights up whenever we get a hit of something that pleases us or makes us feel good about ourselves. “If they can do it, I can too!”

It rarely matters to the public how hard or how long someone’s been working on whatever it is that helped them become a success; When somebody becomes a star, being in the spotlight can cast a deep shadow over the work done behind the scenes and throughout the years. All the audience can see is how flattering the lighting is, and how put-together and happy the star of the show looks, and how inspiring the story is.

And aside from sound-bytes and maybe a short montage,  you don’t usually get to see the frustrations, disappointments, wrong turns and stubborn grit it took to get them to the point where they finally caught the public’s attention. The editors and technicians see to that.

The thing is, the way ‘overnight’ comes across, and adding the temptation of ‘sensation’ into the picture, that all glosses over one small principle that gets overlooked and yet can help us become successful to ourselves and for ourselves.

‘Get-rich-quick’ and ‘get-famous-quick’, or ‘overnight success’ can sometimes end up as ‘one-hit wonders’ and ‘flash-in-the-pan’ phenomena. Consistent and steady progress makes for meaningful, solid work that lasts. Continue reading How To Make Boring, Unsexy Progress

Zigzags, Progress, and Quiet Success

TL;DR: Sometimes, “aiming high” can unintentionally set you up to fail.  Setting the bar low and hitting it consistently can help you achieve more at a more realistic pace, and one you can sustain.

Background context:
Mass media and social media show the extremes because that gets the most attention. On one platform, bad news makes the news. On the other, you get highlight reels and pictures from the lives of friends, family, and the people you follow.  In both cases, you get the edited, minute versions of events, and miss the things that happen off-screen or behind-the-scenes. You only get the parts of the story they want you to see, not the whole picture.

The effect of regularly seeing highlight — or lowlight, as  in the case of the news — reels creates a false impressions of how things are, and how things ‘should’ be. In the case of doing business, for example, you’re pushed to be on your top game all the time, and to do so you have to follow a certain formula, follow a set of actions, or go for the ‘right’ kind of exposure to succeed. Anything else wouldn’t be worth the effort, and also beneath you. Go big or go home.

And if you don’t make it big, it’s all on you — because “if these people did it, you should be able to.” Highlight reels, right? That’s why it can be so unnecessarily pressure-filled to work towards your goals. Comparison is too easy. There’s tons of how-to’s and guides on sale to show you the way to greatness — you have no excuse to fail (Hah!)  Plus, if the nebulous ‘They’ did it, why can’t you? And when you can’t, the failures wears at you even  more.

Have you ever thought that instead of flying high, you could go low and slow, and still accomplish what you want to do?
Continue reading Zigzags, Progress, and Quiet Success

Getting Things Done Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

With everything technology has given us in the ways of getting in touch with one another, the demands that come with being always connected has set work culture up to be quite a free-for-all, one with numerous competing bids for our attention. When you can talk to anyone from anywhere, anytime, you can be reached everywhere, all the time. Unless, of course, you’ve taken precautions.

When you have a good system in place to filter those demands, that takes a weight off you. Still, there are always days where it’s all you can do to somehow slog through your workload.  It can be wearing on a daily basis, but consistently having bad days? That’s a recipe for burn out, mentally and emotionally. In that case, prevention can help things from getting worse.

Related article:  Technostress: Rise Against The Machines

Assuming that you got a good set-up going for you, what else can you do to make it easier to still get things done when you’re hit by one of those zero-motivation days?

Certainly mindfulness is a very good skill to develop. It’s something that can help you distinguish and filter out the noise from the signal. Mindfulness also helps you cut through the distractions that swarm in and eat at your focus. But since mindfulness is a practice that you can get better at over time, what other things can you do to help you focus the work you need to finish today, even when you’re really not feeling it?

Quick spot-check:

  1. Are you watered? Dehydration can lead to headaches and fogginess, you delicate flower you, and could be why you’re wilting. Coffee still counts as a liquid, but the caffeine can act as a diuretic. Go get water-water. Whether carbonated or flavored, get water. Please steer away from sodas and other sugary drinks — they’re not good for you in the long run.
  2. How’s your blood sugar? Is it crashing? Speaking of sugar, when was the last time you ate something substantial, and not artificially flavored? Do yourself a good deed and treat yourself right. It’s not just garbage in, garbage out when it comes to sustaining yourself.  Eat real food.
  3. How’s your breathing? Slumping in front of your computer screen doesn’t only play havoc with your spine, it compresses your lungs and you don’t get as much air as you need.  Go take a brisk walk, preferably outside if you can. Stretch your legs. Pull your shoulders down and back and breathe into your belly, exhaling slowly through your lips. Get your blood oxygen up.
  4. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Go to the bathroom. Wash your face and your hands while you’re at it to clear up your head and shake off the mood. Use cold water to wake yourself up. Continue reading Getting Things Done Even When You Don’t Feel Like It