Posted by: draknor | May 9, 2012

Thinking is Hard

How ironic that my last blog post was entitled Life Is Better When You Are Busy, and then I sort of disappear from my blog for a month.  Maybe I’ve been a bit busy? 🙂

The truth is, I have been busy.  But there’s a world of difference between being busy, and actually making progress.  I don’t know that I’m doing much of the latter.  In fact, I spend most of my busy time spinning in circles, and only occasionally making small strides forward.  Which is really not a very effective use of my time, energy, and talent.  I’m starting to see that forest now, instead of the trees.

Thinking is hard.

And I have a lot of thinking to do.

Way back last year, I posted this brilliant little nugget:

In any journey, it is critically important to know three things:
1. Where you are starting from
2. Where you are going
3. How to measure your progress

I was talking about diet & fitness then, but it’s even more relevant right now as I consider what I want, personally & professionally.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much advice I’ve read that said you need a mentor or a coach.  Life’s too short & resources are too limited to learn everything by trial & error — I just don’t have time to make every mistake in the book.  I don’t want a mentor to tell me what to do — if I wanted that, I’d go back to working for someone else again.  But what I do need is:

  1. A trusted partner to:
    • Help me evaluate opportunities
    • Help me make decisions
    • Hold me accountable for taking action
  2. Someone who can offer meaningful guidance & advice because he or she has been there before
  3. Someone who can be objective, without a vested interest in my specific decisions.

I’ve got plenty of friends who meet criteria 1. Very few who meet criteria 2.  Some who meet criteria 3.  But pretty much no one that meets all of the above.  And even if I did have someone who was a perfect fit, what is the first thing that person would ask me?

“What do you want?”

I need to help myself first, before I can ask someone else for help.

Imagine how the conversation would go if I walked into a travel agent’s office…

 I say, "I need help on my vacation."
"Well, where do you want to go?" the agent asks.
"I don't know," I say.
"When would you like to travel?"
"Right away," I respond.
The interrogation continues, "What's your budget?"
"I'm not sure," I say, still stuck.

Now a good travel agent (read: salesman) would continue questioning me. She would figure out what’s important to me about my vacation and why I’m going and what are my motivations, because she can’t really help me until she knows those answers.  But teasing those answers out of me might take a lot of time & energy — costly.  If I do my homework first, and know where I am & where I want to go, then she gets to operate at a higher level, and give me more meaningful guidance:

  • Is my destination a good fit for me? Or might other, similar destinations be better for me?
  • Is my timing right for my destination? Are there cultural events to attend or weather patterns to avoid?
  • What should I prepare for my trip? What kind of gear will I need?
  • What are interesting things to do at my destination (given my priorities/goals)?
Now of course I could do all of this research on my own — but we’re busy people, remember?  Is it worth spending 5-7 hours looking all of this up, or should I just spend 1 hour with someone who knows it (or can look it up for me & summarize what I need to know)?

So that’s where I’m at — I need to do my thinking, so when I find the right mentor or coach, we can have a very meaningful discussion.

And what’s very interesting about this concept is that it applies across multiple areas of life. I spent ~3 hours yesterday lost in Internet forums on diet methods.  Was that a good use of my time?  Considering how much I’ve been yawning this morning and how exhausted I’ve been lately, probably not.  Especially considering that I received very little objective, actionable information from those 3 hours.  Pretty much nothing I read yesterday has affected my diet today.  It has made me more interested in pursuing a particular diet approach, but I barely scratched the surface there.

Lots of thinking to do — and for me, that translates into writing, because I need things written down to make sense of them.  Time to put Evernote through its paces!