I imagine the work of most creative freelancers and entrepreneurs is no different than that of a writer. Rhythm and routine are paramount.
One of my go-to mentors (a guru of life coaching) often reminds me that there are pluses and minuses to everything. As a life long black and whiter just beginning to appreciate the varying shades of gray that make up our world, I tend to gravitate toward one end of the spectrum or the other. With his guidance and teaching I’ve learned the art of turning my focus away from the negative, striving instead to recognize the positive in most situations. This shift of attention has been a game-changer.
Over the weekend, at my book launch party, I overheard two of my closest friends talking to one another.
“Mike is so damn hard on himself,” one said.
“He’s relentless,” responded the other. “I worry about how hard he drives himself.”
Bear in mind, both these friends—one a graphic designer in his 40’s and the other a longtime conservationist and non-profit hustler—work 60+ hours a week. So I’d say they are pretty damn relentless in their own right.
Like so many storytellers, entrepreneurs and rabble-rousers striving to inspire change in our world, I take pride in my drive and ability to go, produce and hopefully create quality material. It wasn’t until recently that I learned firsthand the need to pace my efforts if I wanted to keep the train on the tracks and moving forward.
As much as I love the frenetic “guru of go” periods where presentations, travel and assignment deadlines demand a high output, I’ve come to respect—and perhaps even honor—the importance of rhythm and routine. I’ve recognized that there is a big difference between manic harvest periods (a necessity at times) and creative flow.
The creative process spans habitats as diverse and varied as deserts and rainforests, for each has their own style and method of production. But I’ve become convinced that rhythm and routine (a homeostasis, if you will) are critical to sustainability.
While I can’t fathom myself ever willing to embrace the 9-5 status quo—I’m bound and determined to keep rocking the boat in hopes of pioneering a movement—one of the reasons self-employment represents an absolute necessity for me is the flexibility it affords me as a father. Remember the pluses and minuses analogy? Summer break puts a spotlight on this teaching point.
Though I managed to blog regularly, re-write and launch a new website/blog this summer, in anticipation of my October book release, my production didn’t match my expectations. My June, July and August were filled with bike trips, jaunts to the pool, summer camps, kids’ yoga and drumming classes, reading workshops and tutoring sessions. A juggling act day after day.
When you live in one of the most spectacular parts of our world, that just so happens to have six-month winters, during the glory months, there’s always pressure to get out and explore on the weekends. Thus packing and unpacking camping supplies becomes the Friday/Sunday norm.
I know I’m not going to get these summers with my daughter back. So no matter how much the nagging naysaying voice that drives me to grind tells me I need to get after it, an unwillingness to prop my daughter in front of the TV prevails. Turning my daytime focus from word count and presentation numbers to quality time and spirit enhancement of my little one becomes the emphasis. For me (and I hope for her), the plus of directed and focused time with my daughter far outweighs the critical self talk coming from the part of me that believes I need to constantly hustle to make it in this writing and speaking world.
But now that my daughter is back in the groove of her school schedule, the website has been launched and book number two has been published, it’s time to re-establish the rhythm of routine. I know the same can be said for countless parents spanning the globe. And I must say, I’m feeling ready to quell the pesky tyrant in me who believes there can be no harvest without constantly tilling the soil.
So for you seasonal hustlers and parents of the world, now—with our little ones safely (and hopefully happily) back in the classroom—is the time to re-establish our rhythm and routines. Let’s do this.
~Michael W. Leach
PS: For me this means a steady dose of daily writing sessions from my office perch here at Sola Cafe where the tea bar and chicken salad sustain the flow. Much love to Tiffany and her Sola Crew.