On our Japan trip this year, lots of people took turns sharing their skills with others. Sebastian gave an awesome talk on Sengoku Japan (AT Osaka Castle, no less), Nick Gray gave one of his signature tours at Tokyo National Museum, and Brian and Leo led a meditation session at the Kinezuka tea farm in Shizuoka.
Before we actually sat and meditated, both Brian and Leo talked a bit about meditation. One of the best pieces of advice they gave was that when you want to stop meditating, don’t. When you again want to stop, don’t. But on the third time, let yourself go; open your eyes and stand up.
My meditation practice is only five minutes every day, so I never really want to get up, but I apply the principle to a lot of other things.Today was an intensive day of work. It wasn’t the most volume I’ve had, but I had to design a new feature, implement it, and then go through our existing code and deal with all of the little complications created by the change. It was mentally exhausting. My only break came at six in the evening when I went to ballet class.
At first ballet was a relaxing weekly event, but I’ve moved up to the second level, which is much more intense and difficult, both mentally and physically. I came home completely drained.
I sat down to do some work, and after half an hour or so, decided that I was ready to quit for the day. Then I remembered the twice and stop advice, so I got back to work. Two hours later I was even more exhausted, and again ready to quit. I persevered for a second time. The next chunk of work was only an hour long, but it was very taxing. When I finished it, I allowed myself to stop working on SETT and do my daily blog post.
With your habits, it’s very important to extrapolate out and think about the loop that they create. Is it pushing you to be better and better, or to slowly get worse? I love the twice, then stop rule because it’s not completely draconian, but it does squeeze out just a little more productivity each time. The effect is that you become more and more accustomed to hard work.
Quitting the first time, on the other hand, gives your brain an “out” from hard work, and can very quickly lead to a decrease in your ability to focus and work.
If you aren’t pushing yourself a little tiny bit harder most times, you’re probably not growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re probably weakening. That’s okay if it’s intentional and in order to focus on other priorities, but a major loss if it happens by accident.
So think about persevering twice and then stopping. It’s meant for meditation, I apply it to work– what will you apply it to?
Photo is a wood carving at the house we meditated at.