In his book The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki makes a great distinction that has helped me recently when I have a lot of energy that has no idea what to do. He says that one of the reasons so many people get stuck is that too often they choose projects to do over refining their processes. Wow! I know that feeling.
So part of this process for me is to make sure I only take on projects that fit my process. I can also say that I know a lot of people who fill their lives with projects simply to burn off energy that is driving them crazy because it is uncomfortable.
So here is what I am trying to follow.
Promise leads to Wonder (energy looking for what matters) to Work (doing what matters) to Power (doing what matters well).
Clearly, there is more to this, but this where I am. I am wondering, looking for what really matters, not what someone else tells me matters. At 48, I should have enough of an idea of what matters and what works. But without holding onto those, it is easy to sink into projects that make me feel engaged, but simply eat up time and energy.
A good friend of mine who is a Grammy award winning drummer was once asked how he keeps from burning out when he is on the road.
I get paid to travel, to be away from my family, to be dehydrated and exhausted, to spend days on a bus. But I play the drums for free. I don’t confuse that with what I get paid to do.”
I knew all of this for years, but to some degree doubted it enough to trust it to put it into play. Then I found a bool called Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile. Here is what made me realize what I had seen, what I had felt was probably true:
“The distinction between wanting and liking is of use here. Our minds are equipped with a dopamine-drunk wanting system that draws us to compete for a promotion or a higher salary: a larger house or more material goods; an attractive partner or 2.4 children. It draws us to these
things, not because they will make us happy, not even because we like them, but because the ancestors who got the stone age equivalents of these things are our ancestors, and those who did not are biological dead ends. Although we implicitly feel that things we want in life will make us happy,
this may be a particularly cruel trick played by our evolved mind to keep us competing. The things we want in life are the things the evolved mind tells us to want, and it doesn’t give a fig about our happiness. All the evidence suggests you would probably be happier not caring about your
promotion and going and building boats or doing volunteer work instead. Moreover, the more important people believe financial success is, the more dissatisfied with both work and family they are.”
And Champion Poker Player Phil Gordon summed this up nicely when I interviewed him:
“I was living the American Dream and not my own.”
I have done a lot of projects, but somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the Process and in doing so put my Promise at risk. I stopped wondering and therefore lost sight of what matters. This is not so true in my personal life, but in my professional life it certainly seems real. No process, just projects.