I’ve noticed that Seth gives one piece of advice in many different situations (though probably not exclusively). When he offers it for group projects, it goes a little bit like this: Set an imminent deadline. Shoot for a month or so—but don’t set it too far out, because the energy might lull.
I agree with him in most cases, most especially because I’m living it. I’ll put off this or that forever but when I set that deadline (or find that the deadline’s been set for me) a sudden three weeks away, everything shifts. I bust my ass into gear. I know I have to move to keep it on the rails, so I do.
If I were choosing a certain level of challenge for myself, I’d almost certainly choose the level just beneath that which creates great change in me. I always want it to be hard, but not too hard. And that, my friends, is the fatal flaw in my default settings, because the great change is what I’m craving. It’s only a matter of being brave enough and strong enough to face it head-on, instead of finding ways to mellow it out (just a little).
If I was not preparing for a vocal competition in Pittsburgh in three weeks, I would be under the gun. You may or may not have noticed, but somehow it’s been almost a year since Marty quit his day job, and things are moving faster around here than ever. Charlie Gilkey worked some productivity magic on my cashflow tracking system and suddenly everything is much clearer: What I want, what I need to do to get what I want, and how quickly I’d better do it. This is wonderful and terrifying and wonderful all in the same gulp. And without any singing at all, it would be incredibly challenging. Incredibly. Challenging.
But, well, I am competing in September and the days in front of me are dwindling. There is music to memorize (memorization! O, wicked task) and Welsh diction to refine, traveling to plan, clothes to buy, and maybe (if I’m lucky) seats to upgrade. And of course, the rest of my life doesn’t stop because I’m singing. My bills don’t have a pause button. My forward momentum in all of my projects doesn’t freeze-frame while I get my shit together. And there is no more safety net. The only thing between me and any month’s eviction notice is me. Either of these situations would be a challenge. Adding them together means that I’m enduring a true trial by fire (probably squared, or published in triplicate, or recited by quadruplets nine times a day for the rest of the year).
This means that I’m moving forward, and I’m in survival mode. There’s no time to think about whether I want to do the next thing on my list or not; there’s no time to argue with myself or speculate on the nature of the universe between to-do items. I’m just moving.
And in my customary bizarre fashion, I find I rather like it here.
Oh, I’d probably change it if I could (and you can argue that I can—of course I can, and I haven’t, and what does that say?). I’d probably adjust this piece and that piece and elongate the whole schedule and give myself more room to breathe. Maybe. But in all the great challenges I’ve come through, not one of them gave me that luxury. And I loved them for it.
Chances are, I’ll love this one too if I live through it. I do tend to live through it.
Stick around, and I’ll let you in on the ending. ;}