Paralysed as a means of renewal

A conversation with wifey this afternoon revealed an annual pattern. Every year, around December, I will suddenly be paralysed. I won’t work despite the mountain of tasks to complete before the new year, I won’t talk to most people unless it’s impossible not to talk to them, and I will spend many hours staring into the void, or doing mindless things.

After coming back from my last business trip 3 days ago, it happened again, so I thought it’s a good to pen this observation down, and perhaps I could read this again next December.

In the process of shutting down and restarting, I had 3 important conversations. One with my wife this afternoon, one with Mark yesterday, and one with Mean 3 days ago in KL. I learned 3 things:

1. I need to exercise.

I’m not joking – I found out that the procrastination and excuses had caused something profound in my life: my ability to focus intensely on something has dropped significantly since I ran out of time for everything this year. Originally only a few things slipped – band, then family travels, then house grooming. But soon after, the frequency of me running, cycling, swimming and all went south as well.

It became so intense that the last 3 days I ended up stress eating. It happened before, and I immediately recognised it. I spoke to myself in intense meditation to stop it straight away, and get out of the house. This body is in serious need of some exercise generated hormones.

2. I’m officially back in the long haul.

This was especially the case for the startup. Although I always knew that and said that, but it always seemed like we would have to do some serious pivoting in the first 3 years, or there would be some surprises that we had to face, but none of that happened this past year.

Instead, a steadfast and resilient team came into being and I couldn’t be any prouder of what we’re building everyday. At the same time, the mist that often shroud an early stage startup has cleared – the market has emerged and their needs much better spelled out. For the first time we could plan 1 year in advance instead of 3 months, and I actually know how to bring this team to the next level.

Put that together with other things in my life, it felt like it has returned to the long haul. Baby and startup are new additions to marriage, trombone, music arrangement and so on. It’s like 2006 again, after coming back from the US, with a script for the next 6 years.

3. It’s getting exponentially harder to stay in touch with people.

Not anybody, I’m referring to the people that matter, mattered and will probably matter to me. The key point is “exponential” – Without deliberate scheduling and prioritising face-to-face meetings, I am doomed to not meet any real human beings unless there’s work to do together.

I now see the value of those with a permanent social circle that they thrust themselves into, whether it’s church, golf, mummies going on a play date, meditation groups, and so on. Because I failed in my ability to balance band commitment and family, I felt totally left out this year (probably the first year I didn’t do a single major concert), and I don’t have another social circle beyond that.

It’s ironic because I still keep in touch with all my circles in the all too convenient ways like WhatsApp groups or Facebook walls. We are mutually very up-to-date on each other, and yet none of us could expend extra energy to carve out continuous 2 hours in the same location. Simple example: I see my AEP group in dozens of primary schools this year, but we have yet spent the time to go out for lunch, often rushing from job to job.

A new ideal week

This brings me back to an exercise I did some time back call the Ideal Week. During my relatively idle year in 2014, I designed an ideal week for myself. I had to, because after leaving the comforts of being employed, I needed the discipline to seize a day that could easily vanish. The goal was to live out every week as close to the ideal week as possible.

Needless to say that lasted like, say, 6 months, before GR came along and my life became topsy turvy again, in a good way. In the following two years, there wasn’t a need to create such an ideal week because there’s no way to create it. Every month the needs of my family and work changed. However, that hadn’t been true since my baby’s 2nd birthday in May. The past 6 months has actually turned into, basically, 25 weeks of no-so-ideal weeks.

To get my mind back on track, I must reestablish a baseline that takes the 3 things into account: an exercise regimen (no more excuses), a see-people regimen (however inconvenient), and taking a long view in all aspects of life (no more starting up as an excuse).

Let’s see how these factor into my 2017 resolutions 🙂

Have you started yours yet? Hope you’re not staring at this blog being paralysed as well!

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