Are you playing the long game when it comes to doing your great work? Do your actions today reflect that?
Michael Bungay-Stanier and I were having a planning call for a call we’re going to be hosting soon, and one of the things that we talked about for a good bit was the challenge of doing great work sustainably. This came up because I know Michael’s been doing a lot traveling around the world, and I commented that I’ve watched my friends and influencers do that and that I don’t think it’s my path because I’m concerned about how sustainable it is for me.
It turns out, though, that it’s probably not sustainable for anyone. Take Gary Vaynerchuck, for instance, who’s the epitome of passion and doing something all the way. He’s commented that the way he’s been crushing it is making him lose his edge. That’s Gary V. He’s extroverted and high-energy to the max, so imagine what it would be like for the rest of we tried to run that race with our particular DNAs.
Gary V’s an extreme, you might say, yet at the same time, the issues of launch fatigue aren’t as removed from this as you’d think. If the game is about bigger, faster, more, and Right Now!, a foreseeable consequence is burnout.
In another recent conversation with Pam, I expressed that “an abundance of good things you can’t manage is still an abundance of things you can’t manage.” For what it’s worth, I was talking about my situation, not hers, but a lot of our conversations have been about how we can share our gifts with the world an effective, resonant way.
And then there’s Seth talking about the danger of premature shipment. A different but complementary worry to “just because it’s easy to ship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself” is that people will misunderstand that there’s a difference between pushing quality and pushing quantity.
We all know that part of what separates those who do great work and those who don’t is the ability of the former to say No. Sometimes No means Not Now – in which case the question is about sequencing and pacing. Sometimes they say No because whatever they’re doing doesn’t need to be bigger, faster, and more – it just needs to be what it is, but higher quality.
What I’m hoping is that more and more of us will say No because we recognize that we have what we need and what we have is quite good, and, even if we got more, it’d start to reach a point of diminishing returns. As I’ve said before, sometimes the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, especially when you’re already exhausted, depleted, and overdue for an ebb you keep forcing yourself out of.
It takes a lot of self-trust and confidence to know in your bones that saying No is not a sign of you being weak, scared, and lazy but instead a sign that you know what your resources are and that the whole point is to use them over time. Doing great work over the course of a lifetime looks dramatically different than crushing it for a season and it requires a different mindset…perhaps a mindset much more like this one by my brother-teacher Mark Silver:
I’m in this for the long haul, and I’ve got some fun practicing to do. How about you?