slow down

A brief regard of slow things

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With apologies to Patrick Rothfuss ...

Things take time. Some very good things take a long time.

I’ve been learning to appreciate this, to enjoy the process itself.

The Sequoia national forest is a good place to observe this. Those immense trees have been around for hundreds of years through fire and storm and they just keep on steadily growing. They are remarkable in many ways and, unlike a Los Vegas hi-rise, they didn’t sprout up overnight.

Most of the time, I want to rush everything. Whether it’s my culture or personality (let’s just blame culture, shall we), my tendency is toward instant gratification.

I want it now. Actually, I wanted it yesterday, but since we haven’t quite got time travel down, now will have to do. 

A lot of businesses run this way (even my own at times), and I think the frantic demand for faster and more is killing us.

It definitely doesn’t help where sleep deprivation is concerned.

These last few months have been more a time of rest than rush for me. While I still struggle with feeling unproductive and unaccomplished, I think there is a definite positive side to taking things one slow, measured step at a time. 

The theory holds true with compound interest—very small amounts added in over time equal a much greater end result than a few large deposits.

I heard about a study where they had one group wear spf 15 sunscreen every day and the other wear 65 spf only when they were outside and it was sunny. The result, after only 5 years, was the 15s looked about the same and the 65s look noticeably older. 

Hey, maybe I’m not so crazy when I fret about unprotected exposure to even trace amounts of sunshine. Mr. Sun is a big meanie. 

Anyways, I’m trying to enjoy more things that take time. Lately, I’ve been making batches of cold brew coffee, which, in my completely accurate opinion, tastes way better than the hot brewed kind. But it takes 24 hours of brewing as well as some prep work and cleanup.

Besides the end result (smooth, delicious coffee), the process itself is kinda fun. It makes me feel like some kind of coffee connoisseur.

In my office, I’ve got a standing desk with a hand crank. It was way cheaper than the electronic one. It takes longer and requires some effort to crank that baby up and down a few times a day, but it’s also a nice little break for me.

Sure, it’s more work to grow your own vegetables rather than buy them from the store, to write a letter by hand, or to take a break and soak your feet at the end of the day. But the attention required by slow things leads to a greater appreciation, and, ultimately, enjoyment of the thing itself.

So take a break now and then, smell the flowers or put a kettle of hot water on the stove for some tea. You may just find yourself smiling. 

And, hey, you could use a break.

hustle and bustles

There is some advice I hear a lot from creative professionals and other entrepreneurs: 

HUSTLE 

I will admit, it’s important to hustle, or, as many of them say, to have hustle. 

Many a creative has been known to drag their feet from time to time. This might be due to a insecurity, anxiety, distraction, or just plain old laziness. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to avoid the creative things we know we ought to do.

On the flip side, when we hustle, we keep the magic of momentum moving in our favor. We get things done and it feels good so we get more things done. In that case, we’ve got to keep the hustlin’ and bustlin’ cranked to the max.

But could there be a drawback to this frantic break-neck pace we adopt? Shouldn’t we also slow down, relax and take in the moment or something?

I remember seeing an interview from a writing business course where the guy being interviewed, who was skyping in on his cell phone, was also doing a workout, gathering things around his hotel, scheduling a meeting, hailing a cab and then riding off to his other meeting.

Some may say he was a living example of what it means to hustle—he was certainly a proponent of it based on his advice during the interview. And sure, he did give some good advice in his hurried talk, but I also found the whole thing stressful. I know it’s something I would never do.

If someone personally invited me to an interview for their business course, I would schedule the time to talk with them as a person ought to: one on one, with some measure of respect for the other party and for the potential listeners. I don’t care how “big” I get, if I don’t have the time for that, then I just wouldn’t do the interview.

The hustle mindset can be helpful at times: it keeps us productive. When you’re constantly on the move, you don’t have time to stop and worry about your shortcomings or feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got things to do, after all. There’s no stopping you now.

But here’s the drawback: when all we do is hustle, it’s very easy to leave other people behind. 

Often I find my pursuit of a creative writing career is at odds with my role as a husband and father. It is almost impossible to do both at the same time and if I attempt that, my performance for each of them suffers. 

I’ve learned (and am learning) each requires their own appropriate time and each deserves my full attention. 

For me, family always comes first. I have to be ready to stop whatever I’m doing and give my wife or children the care and attention they deserve from me. This extends to the other people in my life as well.

Creativity, after all, is for others to enjoy. If we are too busy following our creative pursuits, we can trample over the very people who might appreciate our creativity or help us along the way.

Notice hustle and hostile are almost the same word? Maybe there's a reason for that. Our speedy approach to life can eventually lead to other's hurt.

So yes, you should hustle when the time is right, but make sure you take time to pump the breaks now and then and share some quality time with the people in your path. Often that little chat with a friend, or word of encouragement will be all the motivation I need to get back on track and hustle some more.

Alright, I admit it, this post has absolutely nothing to do with the female dress-wear known as bustles. So sorry to disappoint you all. In case you were wondering, it also lacks anything about the Belgium city of Brussels or the sprouts they are so famous for. Well, what can I say? It’s probably not easy to hustle while wearing a bustle in Brussels, but maybe you should try it and let me know how it goes.