|Cutting Edge Ideas from 2500 Years Ago|
Beware the Energizer Bunny
By now, even those of us who work for laggard companies have a good idea of what we need to be aiming for this year. Universally, the message seems to be this: we need to go further, faster, and with fewer teammates than last year. For some, there will be enticing rewards for crossing the finish line. For others, the sole reward is being allowed to stay in the race for the next round.
We've been moaning and groaning about this trend in business for a long time now, but it seems to be "the way things are." And — let's face it — we're good at it! Going fast is exciting, it feels like raw productivity, it's like, well, a drug.
One of the popular slogans of my college years, along with "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30" (heaven forgive us), was "Speed Kills." An ironic reference to a public auto safety commercial, in our lexicon it referred to the use of amphetamines for energy and entertainment. The rush may be great, it implied, but ultimately, you're headed for a crash from which you won't recover.
The allegory in business today holds quite well. We're all moving faster and faster and lately, according to my unscientific survey, the great majority of us are feeling signs of wear.
Is there any way to keep up? To move faster than we already are, achieve the goals set for us, and not burn out?
The first step is: slow down! I'm not talking about coming to a screeching halt. This is not a tale of "slow and steady wins the race." Try that and you'll be toast before you can say "Voice over IP."
I am talking about slowing down first your mind, then your body and ultimately your spirit until you develop a calm center from which to navigate your days. It is important to pay attention to all three, and any healthy effect you bring to one will radiate to the others. When you incorporate practices into your day that help you to slow down, you will shift from moving merely "fast" to moving "swiftly."The word "swiftly" connotes elements of grace and economy of movement — more like Mikhail Baryshnikov than Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
It's a lot easier to move swiftly when you are
observing quietly from a calm, centered place.
how it's described in the Tao te Ching:
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
All good advice in ancient times, but how is this possible in our broadband world? Here are some tips to slow down in order to move more swiftly:
Many years ago, I was one of four Regional Directors for a hot software company speeding down the Long Island Expressway in my friend Lewis' fancy car towards Chinatown for a management dinner. The company was doubling in size every six months and we were all racing like maniacs to keep pace with the demands. We were feeling pretty successful, with lots of cash in our pockets, newly-purchased homes, and snazzy clothes adorning our frames. We prided ourselves on being fast-moving and capable fellows.
Trouble was, my friend Dom had discovered a boil on his neck, I had gained 12 pounds and developed high blood pressure, Lewis had problems with substances both solid and liquid and Eddie, the stalwart citizen among us, had been discovered in the master bathroom by his wife early one morning, in the dark, staring at the mirror. We were all in our thirties.
You can move swiftly toward your goal, but you want to get there feeling whole by taking care of your mind, body and spirit. Otherwise you'll reap those rewards feeling like Pee Wee Herman in the glare of front page headlines.
It's important not to lose sight of the natural order of things: bursts of activity followed by periods of regeneration. Not to honor this is to echo the ironic words of a song by America's Greatest Depressed Poet, Paul Simon:
My life will never end,
And flowers never bend,
With the rainfall."
Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson!