“I make my living, Mr. Thompson, in large part as a gambler. Some days I make 20 bets, some days I make none. There are weeks, sometimes months in fact, when I don’t make any bet at all because there is simply no play. So I wait, plan, marshal my resources, and when I finally see my opportunity and there is a bet to make, I bet it all.” – Arnold Rothstein (Boardwalk Empire Season 2, Episode 8: ‘Two Boats and a Lifeguard’)
The calm before the storm is a fascinating moment in time.
How many hours have you wasted clicking sensationalist links on Twitter or comparing yourself to others on Facebook?
What if instead of comparing your everyday life to the highlights of other people’s lives (news flash: that’s what they post on Facebook) you spent that time making good art?
I’ve urged you before to forget social media and carve your own path. But this goes beyond that.
We insist people overcome their fear-induced paralysis by doing something, anything.
But I caution you to be careful with that approach. People do have short memories and I’m a huge proponent of testing relentlessly, failing fast, learning from your mistakes and iterating on the fly.
I think for a lot of entrepreneurs and some organizations a minimum viable product makes a ton of sense.
But that doesn’t give you permission to just throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.
It doesn’t mean you need to write a blog post when you have nothing worth sharing.
And it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others’ mistakes before you venture out to make your own.
There’s something to be said for the people who bury their heads. Who take the time to formulate a strategic plan that decreases the odds of failure.
Don’t confuse being busy with working hard. And damn sure don’t confuse being “social” with creating work that matters – though the two can often coincide.
In a world where we can no longer work at work because the work place is optimized for interruptions, I know I sometimes miss graduate school.
I miss the deliberate practice and state of strain required to learn something new or to create something awesome.
That’s the calm before the storm, for me. It’s in the trenches with undivided attention. It’s the strategic planning phase such that when you emerge all your ducks are in a row and success is inevitable (or at least very likely).
In short: Know where you’re going and be very deliberate about how you get there. Say “yes” to projects, jobs, and connections that move you towards your mountain and be ruthlessly selfish with your time on things that do not.