In the technology business, we’re often under pressure to learn and squeeze the latest technologies for the newest and coolest ways to do things, to multi-task faster and better then everyone else, and to be witty and interesting while we do it. As a 2017 New Years resolution, I say to hell with that.
Statistically, around 8% of us will make our goals by December 31st of 2017. This year, I aim to be one of those people. Sure, you can follow all the regular advice of management and self-help gurus. Make the goal real and tangible, not pie in the sky, keep it simple, blah, blah. Not me. That sucks.
This year, I have one goal. I’m doing less.
That’s right, WAY less.
Less projects. Less multi-tasking. Less social media. Less complicated deals. Less as a mantra.
Like many paradoxes discoverable by sages, Warren Buffet is right, and a commitment to less is the path to more.
Yes, yes, everyone talks about focus, you need to have more focus. This is the secret all the great men of accomplishment know. Lord knows I’ve tried this for years, nearly 20 as I power my way through the fires and valleys as I go from mountain peak to mountain peak. Nearly always one step behind my competitors and rolling the dice at a success rate below the mean, I became a man who won the gold for silver finishes. In the end, I felt like Bilbo Baggins who carried the One Ring for a little too long, like a man “thin and stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” And every year, I would commit myself to more focus. “If only I did X, Y, and Z more, I would reach my goals,” I would tell myself. “This year would be different.” Somehow, despite the hundreds of self-help books and all the actions that come with it, it never quite worked out the right way.
Evaluating yourself can be tough. We rationalize a lot of our behavior to align with our perceived identities in relation to the world around us, and there is a strong urge to justify our strengths and weaknesses to maintain this coherent view of who we are. To purposely seek the cognitive dissonance that arises when we challenge our core identity so we can learn about ourselves, to strip away the defense mechanisms that have served us so well over a lifetime of battles, is something ripe not with fear, but true terror. Interestingly enough, to reflect on this image can take a lifetime, to accept it takes but an instant.
Focusing on more led me to reflect constantly on my own failings, on what I was missing and needed to add to make myself better. One day, I decided to apply what I call “re-predication” to the problem, which is a way to shake things up when looking at an issue- I’ll talk more about that another day. Eventually, I found and/or remembered a quote from one of the great ones:
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. -Michelangelo
The artist, or one who makes an aesthetic of their life’s endeavor, isn’t focused on adding more things to build their work, the form of their endeavor is already there in the vision. No, the artist’s focus is entirely on making the crap of life, the things that appear to thwart the vision around the form less, so that their vision will materialize in physical form.
For me, and my vision, it became clear energy was being wasted in trying to figure out what to learn next, what else can I juggle, how much more can I add to my plate to make things happen. So, in 2017, I aim to do far less then ever before.
And it sounds like a productive year to me.