Monday, July 25, 2011

Sustainability Inside

Earlier this year I wrote about 2011 being the year of authenticity. And in May I wrote about calling myself out - realizing that I had bet on myself.

As we contemplate changing locations for Firefly Willows, and wrestle with all that such a choice brings, I am once again confronted with that "self". When I realized that I had bet on myself, I grounded the anxiety I had been feeling about failure. That helped a lot.

Now, though, I'm wrestling with another aspect of this problem.

I readily admit that during my career (and my life experience outside my career) I would reach a moment of opportunity. And somehow, for some reason, I would take a step that led me away from the opportunity in front of me, and toward some uncertain consequence and future. Either by overt commission or subtle intransigence I have, in some sense, sabotaged myself.

I need to really find out what is happening. I don't think it's deliberate - I don't think it's because I am afraid of success.

I look and reflect and conclude that during those moments, I said something like, "Oh, it's not really worth the effort/pain/discomfort."

So why wasn't it?

I had a flash of insight that reminded me of playing basketball. I'm kinda short for basketball, so when I drive to the basket for a lay-up, I have had a tendency to use speed (get there before the other guys) to ensure that I'm not blocked.

But that doesn't work when they're already there. So I've also adopted another technique - stretching myself so my reach is as high as possible.

My basketball colleagues will tell you that when I drive the lane it's often a comical sight (in a Buster Keaton "Oh My GOD there's going to be an ACCIDENT!!" kind of way).
Definitely NOT me...

I recently figured out why that is. As I approach the basket, I'm moving so fast and I'm so stretched out that I have very little capacity left to tweak my move, adjust my body, or reposition the ball. If I haven't picked my approach perfectly, and moved impeccably, I'm just going to end up in a heap. And even if I HAVE, there are still other players with their own free agency and they can do the unexpected. Which, if I'm too strung out, will result in my ending up in a heap.

Either way, no score.

No score.

I see now that I often am running so fast and am so stretched out that there is no room to adjust to a new inspiration or opportunity. I have no capacity left to respond.

I have discovered that I run myself so close to the edge that anything along the way that is not exactly as I've envisioned it can derail the mission. What's worse is that I run myself this way on missions that are not really in alignment with who I am - my personal mission, so to speak.

So what have I done in the past? Typically, I've overdriven the machine in a way that is not sustainable, eeking out a measure of success through sheer force, and damaging myself in the process.

At some point, I do become exhausted, and my subconscious just forces me away from the table. I either bail out explicitly, or my subconscious unstitches key seams in the underbelly, and I just kind of fall out in an ungainly, inefficient way.

(Thank God I have friends and family that love me...!)

Now, upon reflection, it makes complete sense. I've often been pushing too hard on a particular vision to have anything left to be responsive to the world. And eventually, I get exhausted and have to stop.

How does one fix this kind of problem, and what does the solution look like?

It dawns on my that, first and foremost, I have to be clear about what I sign up for. In particular, I have to be as honest as I can about the following parameters:
  • How much sustained effort will this take?
  • How much do I really care about it?
  • How long can I keep doing it?
  • What happens if I have to stop doing it?
Ultimately, this analysis compels me to examine the sustainability of my own actions. And here, I'm talking about things as simple as writing this blog, or hosting a weekly event at Firefly Willows, or starting a new project.

I have lots of instantaneous capacity. The key question is, what is my SUSTAINABLE capacity?

It's obvious when I go running, or play soccer, that my instantaneous capacity and sustainable capacity are not the same. I get winded and have to stop and rest.

In basketball -- and it seems, in life -- I'm not so aware.

Is it odd that I've never actually contemplated a limit before? I think I've always viewed my instantaneous capacity and my sustainable capacity as equivalent when it comes to my "work" life. And as a result, I have been ill-equipped, misaligned, and exhausted at key moments in my life.

That's just plain weird. Who could be so profoundly oblivious to something so obvious? I surprise myself with the depths of my dysfunction sometimes.

Good thing I can laugh about it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, and one more thing - there is a way to increase my sustainable capacity. I'm discovering that it involves the following components:
    1) Sleep
    2) Very clean diet
    3) Daily spiritual contemplation time

    Of course, these things take time and effort. But they pay off bigger dividends than they consume.