Slow it Down

Photo of a turtle

If there is one thing I will always remember my therapist saying when I got highly stressed, it’s to “slow it down”. And time and time again, when I do indeed do this, the results are far better than if I had kept banging my head against the wall. That by slowing it down, we can actually get to our desired destination faster.—yes, it’s true. Our emotions are easier to deal with at smaller scales, and mastering one small step gives us the confidence to take the next.

It is the tortoise that wins the race isn’t it? It’s not the fast, overexerting hare. Gary Vaynerchuk swears by this practice: “You may think I’m frantic…intense…fast…but look closer and understand: Patience matters.” [/] “I’m not going to become a billionaire overnight like Zucks or like Sacca or like Travis, but I’m going to get there as a tortoise. Which is going to confuse everybody because I have a hare’s costume.”

Pressfield talks about the importance of delayed gratification so not to rush into actions and decisions not thoroughly thought out. Quick is where mistakes are made. “The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out on each individual work.”

Josh Waitzkin, chess player and martial arts competitor, shares the idea of focusing on the micro instead of the macro. Master the smaller techniques and don’t be overwhelmed by the larger picture. When we focus on the brick-by-brick attention, we can slow it down and understand that each small action mastered will eventually build up to complete the grander view. After all, the cathedral is built brick-by-brick. The tortoise will get there faster by being patient, smart, and steady.

We can get somewhere faster by working slower. If you think about it, this is quite a beautiful thing and somewhat a sigh of relief. It’s okay to take a breath. You have time for this. This is a never-ending practice for me and a goal to constantly get better at.


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Negative Creative Talk

A cartoon drawing

It is often said in story that creatives are troubled souls. They live difficult lives which expresses itself in their art. Then they have a challenging career trying and struggling to make a living doing what they love: creating. They don’t take the typical path many people follow. They must create.

Being a creative myself, I think of this. And then I think about many entrepreneurs I interviewed and read about this past winter. Many of them describe a fear of getting in their own way of moving forward in their creative venture. This is so striking to me, and I can relate more than not. Creating a vision, whether its wall art or a business, is creating; and this is hard. Every time. There’s risk to be faced with, vulnerability.

Steven Pressfield writes a whole book about this in The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this book referenced in other resources I’ve studied since, and I revisit this read often. Pressfield points it out right up front: “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.” You can substitute [writing] for your creativity of choice here.

In doodling recently, I sketched this drawing:

A cartoon drawing
Negative Creative Talk: A blank page is thinking “I’m afraid vision will never come to me.” An ink pen is thinking “I’m afraid of making a permanent mistake.”

Figuratively speaking, this illustration highlights the negative self talk we do that builds creative resistance. Some people have visions [blank pages] that never come to life because they’re afraid each move is a pass-or-permanently-fail scenario. Therefore, the steps are never taken where the pen meets paper, where new creativity comes to life.

The reality is that the permanent pen is a pencil, a constant work in progress. It’s only a permanent mistake if you don’t learn along the journey, from both the failures and successes. As a side note, I drew this illustration in pencil, not ink; and I drew it three times before I got it right.

Pressfield also says “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.” —This is the life we create.

There’s no such thing as creative block, just a fear of putting ink to the page.

Just start. The pen and paper would look far more cheerful if you did.


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There is No Know-It-All

Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art has recently become one of my favorite reads, and I regularly go back to it. If you’re an artist of any kind, or if you enjoy creating things, I highly recommend this book. It provides a good list of points to combat resistance that may be blocking your creativity.

In one section, Pressfield highlights the importance of understanding what you don’t know:

“She gets an agent, she gets a lawyer, she gets an accountant. She knows she can only be a professional at one thing. She brings in other pros and treats them with respect.”

Here, Pressfield is making a point that when you don’t know something, you should bring in an expert who does. Include this person as part of your team in order to stay focused on your own work at hand. Don’t try to be a “know-it-all”—these people don’t exist. If you think you know a know-it-all or believe you are one yourself, you have been fooled. Believing this will surely cause obstacles in the road.

Being vulnerable to look at what you don’t know can be difficult, but it’s honorable to be truthful in understanding this so that you can keep your work moving forward and not falsely push it backward to save your pride instead.

A true professional knows what they don’t know and when to call for assistance from other experts.


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Remove Time Thieves

Know the difference between important and urgent, and do important first. – Steven Pressfield

Time is a Poor Indicator

Tim Ferriss argues that time spent at the office is a terrible metric for productivity. Often times we are spending our time doing unimportant tasks simply to fill up the time. Location in the office doesn’t mean you are spending time doing the right things. Focus on the 80/20 rule where 20% of the work produces 80% of the results. How do you know if something is important? Ask yourself, “If this was the only thing I did today, would I be happy with this day?”

Get rid of time thieves and focus only on what is important. Email is one of our greatest time thieves, and Ferriss stresses to not start our days by reading email, as do many other people I’ve researched. In fact, he challenges you to only check email twice a day and get it down to once per week. Can you imagine!?

Don’t Take Calls

Tim Ferriss says that one way we can save time is by letting phone calls go to voicemail, text, or email to answer later. Very rarely does a call require the need to interrupt your work at that moment to tend to its distraction. Add the task of addressing calls to the time block when you address email, and do it in a concentrated time.

Urgent verse Important Tasks

Maria Forleo highlights Steven Pressfield’s work when she describes that there is a difference between urgent and important tasks. Urgent tasks often only feel urgent, and these tasks will always keep you behind. The moment someone says “this task is urgent”, you put on hold your entire planned workflow to fix this one urgent thing. At this point, you get off track, and it eats up time to get back on track. Lastly, things that are “urgent” often relate to other people’s goals, not your own; therefore, it’s a bit hard to get your real mission work done.


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