I had a dream. I thought I could be this guy in the picture.
In eighth grade I took a courageous step toward trying to make it a reality. I tried out for the basketball team.
Then came the day.
I can still remember that day. Clearly. It’s the kind of day that involves little sleep and clammy hands.
I’ve had many since.
Immediately after school we all ran out to the court and lined up along the sideline. The usual bantering was on hold as we silently guessed who would stick around and who wouldn’t.
After what seemed like an hour, Coach picked up his clipboard and began to shout the names of those who’d be on the team. I so hoped to hear mine. And with each pause between names hope was revived.
Until he stopped. Did he … miss … mine?
My clammy hands knew that he hadn’t. I was a late bloomer, uncoordinated, and chunky. With a vertical leap of about 7.5 inches–prior to lunch–I’d not yet developed that skill set.
I didn’t make the cut.
If I were a part of that team I would’ve weighed it down. Literally. That which didn’t fit and didn’t help the team’s speed and effectiveness needed to be cut.
And for all involved–whether you’re the cutter or the cuttee–that’s not an easy process.
I’m a generalist. That means I find way too many things way too interesting. If you’re like me, and if you don’t make certain cuts in your own life, you can feel scattered and weighed down.
Inefficiency grows as the overabundance of activities and information end up on your plate from an endless lineup of opportunities that serve up tasty and healthy portions.
In an era where we’ve access to volumes of electronically based information at our fingertips, by comparison, only a very small fraction of it can be applied.
Look, the day that I wrote this, WordPress alone said that they posted the following:
756,726 new posts, 436,560 comments, & 163,648,985 words.
I read, search, take notes, save quotes, analyze articles, subscribe to newsletters, RSS feeds, save emails in categorized email folders, download eBooks and place them in my bulging desktop folder named “eBooks” (original, I know) and I also save information-packed sites on Delicious.com all, of course, for reading … someday.
So like thousands of digital squatters they just sit there and, and … and mock me … like the 99%-ers of Occupy Laptop. When are you gonna read me? Huh??
I felt inundated, yet I was the one announcing, “Welcome! Come on in, pitch your tents!”
Perhaps I should up my meds.
The feeling that’s so easily attached to all this “doing” is that you’re somehow accomplishing much in the name of learning, inspiration, helping and serving. But is it really?
The more difficult questions have to do with the “why” behind the busyness and items that are being avoided, pushed to the bottom of the list. As with most things, motives run deep and I needed to look at the “whys” under the surface.
Am I distracting myself? Is it something I fear? Am I trying to grasp at something? Am I sabotaging myself or a particular situation?
Unless we want to turn this into a detailed, personality analysis, I’m leaving the exploration of these to another blog post. Maybe.
Suffice it to say that the sheer amount of activities, people, obligations, etc. is inversely proportional to the amount of relevancy you can have in any of these areas.
So, the more things, the less effective I am in any one area.
Others are feeling it too. There’s increasing hype with cutting back and minimizing. It’s practically reached fad status, as evidenced by social media and marketing guru, Chris Brogan‘s unfriending and unfollowing, as well as the second annual unfriend day.
Recently, I set aside a weekend and removed as many distractions as possible to focus on completing a long neglected project. No social media, no email, no events, no visits and phone only for emergencies, and my kids.
The resulting ability to drop into the zone for hours at a time was eye-opening. I saw more clearly the need to cut back on information and obligations.
So now it’s time for the cut. But how?
It’s crucial to hold these items up to the light of your desires and goals. Simon Sinek eloquently states that, “If we value things that we are not prioritizing or prioritizing things we do not value as much, then perhaps it is time to realign our priorities.”
I had to ask, for each item or obligation, some pointed “filter” questions about what’s working and what’s not, and if it fits in my life at this point.
- Does it require too much time and attention, taking away from more important things at this point in my life?
- Does it move down the path that’s in line with my goals?
- Is it used as a distraction?
- Does it help me to be effective in some area of my life?
- Does it help others?
- Will I read it, use it, benefit from it or have someone else benefit from it?
- Does it bring me joy?
- Does it lead me toward what I value?
Difficult? Absolutely. It’s a stretch to refine and close doors on items that you like and may miss, or think will help you realize some degree of success.
The Better Fit
I’ve recently unsubscribed from about twenty sites and feeds. I’ve kept the most applicable half-dozen. I cut obligations such as meetings and service work in half, for the time being. Some doors had to close online and off. I didn’t need to keep track of so many keys.
And, as with basketball–or the lack thereof–after coming to terms with it, I found that I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I belonged somewhere else, doing something else. Art and music, for example. And, well, being a weightlifter and shot putter just fit me better, and the better fit allowed me to excel.
If you find yourself unable to give a particular event, group, team, class, business, client, job, goal, the amount of time and focus that’s needed, if it’s not the right fit, hold it up to the light. Make the cut. Unfriend. Unfollow.