Do Less Succeed More

I didn’t run at all last week. Well, that’s not exactly true: I ran an ultra-marathon; 36 miles.

But the week leading up to the race: I didn’t run. (It’s what runners call the taper.)

It made me pretty crazy.

Not running screws with my mind: Who am I if I am not running? Will I get fat, weak, out of shape? Will I fall down the slippery slope into some roiling vat of Crisco or Krispy Kreme?

Runners run.

Doers do.

But maybe that’s not exactly true either.

Because success – real success, sustainable success – requires both doing and not doing.

And often, it’s the not doing that actually empowers us to do.

It’s incontrovertible that rest and recovery are essential components of peak performance in athletics… Not doing is critically important in the repair of muscle; in the recovery of tendons, ligaments and bones; in the re-balancing of hormones and body chemistry; in the recovery of our nervous system and mental state.

But rarely do we apply these principles to our businesses and our careers. (Or our lives for that matter!) We like to think (pretend) that they don’t apply to us; that we’re different; that we’re macho; that we can muscle through.

We keep going like hamsters on a wheel; 24/7/365. Always on; always connected.

We don’t stop; we don’t rest and recover. We never taper.

And then, of course,

  • Productivity drops
  • Stress soars
  • Decision fatigue creeps in
  • Mistakes multiply
  • Morale plummets

(Oh, and relationships get damaged and marriages unravel and our children grow distant and our health deteriorates and we forget why we were on the wheel to start with.)

But just a few tweaks can change up the entire game for you:

  • Sleep more. There is no more powerful tool for rest, recovery and peak performance than sleep; and most of us aren’t getting nearly enough.
  • Create some white space in your calendar; time between obligations and commitments that you can use to get a breath of fresh air, take a short walk, drink some water, listen to a bit of relaxing music, read a chapter in a book.
  • Hydrate. Drink water. Often. Throughout the day.
  • Take a mental health day (or half) day on a regular basis; step away from the work; and get off the grid.
  • Take your vacations. All of them. And make them real vacations. (A working vacation is not a vacation.) ToSucceedDoLess

When you embrace the science; when you take the time to nurture yourself; when you allow yourself to rest and recover; when you give yourself permission not to do; when you can see – and believe – that not doing is doing; then… then you re-create yourself; you come back stronger; you get to perform and serve at an even higher level; and make an even greater impact in the world.

I showed up at the staring line of my race (battling my demons of depravity); and ran the 36 miles; and crushed my previous times.

Sure, I trained. But training (and living) means doing… and not doing.

You: A Fraud

Not.

But chances are that you’ve felt like one from time to time.

I had dinner recently with a high-ranking foreign official. She was appointed to her position by the president of her country, the first woman to hold it in over 700 years. Trained as a trial lawyer, she is bright, savvy, shrewd, articulate and attractive. And yet, she confessed, after every television and radio interview she does – and she does many – she comes away feeling like she’s making it up as she goes along, that she’s shallow and transparently inept, that she must have fooled someone to hold such an important job, that she’s… a fraud. images-1

She’s not alone. More than 70% of folks have suffered from the “Imposter Syndrome;” and it is especially prevalent among successful women.

I can’t remember a time that I haven’t questioned myself before going out on stage to speak to a group: There is a little voice that asks, “Who am I to teach these things I want to say; what can I share with this audience that is of any use whatsoever; and what veracity does any of it have especially when I’ve struggled and thrashed as much if not more than the next guy?”

But here’s the truth: Each of us has gifts and talents that are uniquely ours to share with the world; no on else is equipped to share them the way we can.

And it is our call, our obligation to do so.

There are folks on the path behind us who need to hear what we have to say; who want to hear. We can make their way sweeter and gentler when we have the courage to stand up and be heard.

Every third grader looks up to a fourth grader… each of us can turn around and share the lessons that we’ve learned.

With confidence and integrity… even when we’re scared; even when we feel we have no “standing.”

Marianne Williamson says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

No one escapes these feelings of inadequacy.

It’s what you do next that matters most: Will you shrink? Or will you step up and lead?

There is a great children’s book called Everyone Poops.

Yup, everybody does.

Where The Magic Is

We get to stop from time to time. In fact, we need to stop.

Our technology, meant to free us, actually enslaves us. We’re ‘on’ 24/7/365.

There’s no space; no respite.

We’re expected to be at the net ready to volley. We’re expected to react: Immediately.

Forget about consideration; forget about reflection.

Everything is urgent. Everything is now.

Except that it’s not.

We’re not trauma surgeons. And even if we were, we wouldn’t make ourselves quite as crazy as we do.

Many of the lawyers I work with exist in a near-constant state of anxiety and stress. Everything appears to be an emergency; everything seems dire. Every day, they feel as if they are fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun.

No doubt, they have some pretty important deadlines to keep in mind. We all do. But for the most part, no one dies if we slow down the pace for ourselves. No one dies if we take the time to give a considered response.

No one dies if we take the time to pause. Pause

But endeavoring to slow down in our culture of overwhelm can be one of our most daunting challenges.

It’s not really in vogue.

In fact, if you’re not ‘busy,’ if you’re not ‘flat out,’ if you don’t have your calendar jammed, if you don’t have stuff scheduled back to back for yourself (and your kids), something’s wrong with you!

But that’s not sustainable. (Would you run your high performance car that way?)

You cannot thrive without a pause. So pause you must.

Create time and space for yourself to think, reflect, create; take the time to decide how you want to impact, who you want to serve, and what you want your legacy to be!

Take the time to consider the beauty and the grandeur of the here and now.

Take the time to nurture and care for yourself.

Take the time to me mindful.

Take the time to be; to just be.

You will enjoy the rewards of a peaceful, grounded, joy-filled life that is productive, resourceful and resilient.

Your life is your masterpiece.

Artur Rubenstein once said, “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes—ah, that is where the art resides.”

That’s the power of the pause.

 

Maybe You Should Stop Thinking

I’m a big fan of thinking and reflection. In fact, carving out dedicated blocks of time for thinking and reflection is a practice essential for creativity, innovation, and long-term success. And sadly, it ‘s become a lost art; a casualty of our culture of overwhelm.

But ‘thinking’ can become a roadblock; and excuse for not taking deliberate action.

Perseveration the poor cousin of resistance.

(After all, who can really fault you if you’re ‘thinking’ about a challenge, ‘working’ on it, ‘trying’ to figure it out? Read this: sitting around, wringing your hands.)

At some point in time, you need to take action.

Races get run, mountains get climbed, art gets made, books get written, businesses are built, masterpieces are created… only when you act.

I have one client who tells me that he has been spending a lot of time thinking about how to discover his passion. Another has been thinking (a long time!) about how to position herself in the market for her job search.

It sounds rational to be doing this thinking. But it’s so easy to get stuck in a place of uncertainty; fearful that we will err; afraid that we might get it wrong.

My advice: Act. First Step

“Feel the fear,” as Susan Jeffers says, “and do it anyway.”

Action is the antidote for uncertainty; action is the antidote for lack of clarity; and action is the antidote for fear.

It is in taking action that we put our thoughts and ideas to the test. We see what works; and what doesn’t. We revise, adjust, modify, pivot; and act again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Martin Luther King said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t need to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”

The next step will appear. It most certainly will.

Action creates momentum; action eviscerates resistance; action precipitates ideas.

Small steps over time lead to magnificent outcomes.

So just do it, as the Nike ad once said.

Get going. Take action. Today.