Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Carpe Diem"

How does one, exactly, seize the day? I think it's a pretty complicated balance. In triathlon you balance consistency with a focused plan that gradually prepares you for race day incrementally, focusing on ALL the aspects that congeal into a passionate performance with perfect execution. I learned a lot about life as I slowly accepted you couldn't just train hard all the time without rest, recovery, and good nutrition.

So the reality is that you can't just go hard all the time just about anywhere. I like to say that even a Ferrari needs an oil change! We all know the law of diminishing returns in Economics terms. Increase any one factor of production alone, like labor, and your rate of return diminishes. It's all about balance. If you build a faster car, without better breaks, better handling, better cooling, and all the other things that matter, you will end up with a car that slams into the wall.

I believe it's very American to think "bigger, better, faster, more!" but not exclusively. As an Engineer its very easy to get sucked into doing too much. What a lot of people don't tell you, is that when you don't focus on balance, and recovery, YOUR utility decreases, just like they postulate in economics. I had to learn this the hard way getting burned out at a few jobs in my time. One thing I was always good at was going hard. Of course that's only half the equation. You can only be on "output" for so long before you need some "input" time. What I learned gradually as I grew, was learning how to be ready to POUNCE!

In one of my favorite books of fiction as a child, The Celestine Prophecy, some guru comes around and tells the protagonist that you should never feel bad, for being lucky. For taking an opportunity that presents itself. "There are no coincidences" he says, and I think it's a good way to approach some parts of your life. The problem is, if you are running around talking on your cell phone, overloaded with work and duties, and never stop to smell the roses, you will just WALK RIGHT BY some of the most amazing things in the world. A very interesting social experiment by a famous musician, Joshua Bell, is a great example of this. The reality is it takes a lot of work to keep your life simple, and open enough to truly embrace the world as a source of inspiration, while devoting yourself fully to your passion, but that is the key.

I read this excellent article last week on keeping your life simple to allow you to release your passion. I like some of the points they the author highlights about leaving free time in your schedule, or "underscheduling" as he calls it. I also deeply believe that much of this time needs to be "off the grid." When I'm off the grid I am unfindable, often to people's frustration. That doesn't mean I'm not with some people sometimes, but I'm not letting the buzz of the world interfere with my experience. Not only must you be rested, and have free time, but just as important is the "go hard" part of getting your work done. How can you focus on the beautiful world around you if you are always worried about things you didn't finish?

 Alas, once again, it comes down to balance. I know that the tightrope between work hard, and play hard, will forever be a challenge to walk.

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