So where have I been? Transitioning to a new role and relocating again would probably be enough to take some time off and ease up on the extra-curricular activities right? No, higher levels of day-to-day stress or significant career / personal upheavals don’t require me to “slow down” or “take it easy”; I still have my nights and periodic, non-family, quiet times where I can reflect, meditate, and “ideate”. This latest hiatus was due to my body crapping out. And not the kind of oft-purported stress-induced shut down or mental breakdown; I find that those kinds of breakdowns are prevented with daily exercise, proper nutrition, sex with my lovely wife, and humor. I’m talking about my internal organs just deciding that they’re going to stop working, completely out of my control. This time it’s my gallbladder (my appendix decided it was time to exodus about a year ago).
In a nutshell, the entire month of March was spent in hospitals, Doctor’s office, specialist offices, testing offices, radiology departments, you name it. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I didn’t have any classic indicators that normally accompany a failing gallbladder. It wasn’t until my wife talked about my condition with her best friend that we finally asked the Doctor about a HIDA scan; a long test that is used to determine if the gallbladder is functioning properly even if there are no gallstones. As it turns out, my gallbladder is not working and it must be taken out; so now I wait for the minimally invasive procedure.
Whilst all this was happening, I observed two things. One, I found it curious (and frustrating) the frequency to which friends and family kept proffering advice and defaulting to stress-induced causes despite me presenting overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Second, if life is a balance between mind, body, and soul - for me, body is the base. As I stated before, I actively manage the mind-body-soul interaction by exercising daily, eating ridiculously healthy, reading prolifically, ravaging the wife, entertaining the boys, and meditating as best as I can. But when the body, through no control of my own, decides it’s done, the whole equation goes. I have no surplus energy to put to my side projects; I have no personal desire or drive to keep creating instead of simply consuming. My entire focus falls on getting better, to getting the “host” back to working order.
I oft get upset when things don’t work as they should, especially when I follow all the prescribed preventative measures. I.e. if you get regular oil changes, you should get longer car life. Therefore, my reasoning goes, if you eat healthy & exercise regularly, you should get a longer, more consistent, body life and body performance. However, based on this latest episode, perhaps the equation isn’t that easy (especially when you think about George Burns). Perhaps some things truly are out of my control despite my best efforts to mitigate them. Better stated, instead of getting upset when things don’t operate as the “should”, more acceptance is the key. To be clear, however, I’m still not going to “slow down” Mom, sorry.
I very recently arrived at the conclusion that distractions are a good thing. I am aware that this statement conflicts with the latest prevailing wisdom which admonishes multi-tasking, I nevertheless suggest that focused distraction can be very productive.
Let's assume I'm working on some business analysis. Sometimes the analysis is in response to a specific question, meaning that the analysis already has clear assumptions, objectives and desired results. I call this Type1 analysis, I’m merely validating what the requestor already feels or knows to be true. Sometimes this analysis automatically bubbles up to Type 2 analysis when my analysis proves the requestor’s assumptions were wrong – ouch. According to my spectrum then Type 3 analysis is white space analysis, there is no pre-determined outcome, no reconciliation, no fact finding mission. Type3 analysis starts with a blank sheet of paper. It is here (Type 3) where creativity and energy play heavily. It is here, ironically, where distractions, focused distractions, are vital.
So here I am with a blinking cursor, no direction. Where do I start? What do I have? I have questions. What else? I have data. Great, now what? It is at this particulate juncture that I noticed something peculiar – my mind started wondering. “Wonder if the US won...?” “Let’s check the blogosphere.” “I really enjoy writing, but when do I have the time to write?” “I should watch less TV, I could probably be more productive.” Here is where the focused of focused distraction comes into play. Instead of feeling guilty and admonishing myself for checking the news reels or blogs, I’ve begun, lately, to open a separate blank document and start writing or journaling about a topic or issue that’s of interest. Then, at some point during the writing or journaling, my mind will start to wander back to the business analysis. It’s crazy, I’m actually distracted from my distraction! The next thing I know I’m linking my analysis questions with the data and starting to construct a valuable piece of analysis. Best of all, the analytical side feeds off the creative side and vice versa; i.e. you need a disciplined, analytical approach to put together a cohesive, structured piece of writing just as much as you need creativity to find the correlation and interdependence between multi-variable pieces of business-specific data.
Some life improvement hacks call this right-brain, left-brain optimization. Some folks like to listen to classical music to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain; some like to exercise, while others simply get up and go for a chat by the water-cooler. I say embrace whatever distraction it takes to keep the creative and analytical juices flowing in tandem, so long as the distraction is constructive and of mutual benefit. Finally, I’d recommend giving yourself a time limit, even white space analysis has a deliverable.
What is the difference between being comfortable versus being complacent? I have no idea, so I challenge myself. Challenge my thinking, my parenting, my husband-ing; attempt to challenge my assumptions and my understanding of things. I won't get it right all the time so I welcome all constructive feedback. The goal? To "...be satisfied with life always but never with one's self." (George Jean Nathan)