“He… could… go… all… the… way…” (Berman, MNF of days gone by…)
Do you ever get any of those weird epiphanies about life?
The ones that burst into consciousness like the first bloom of dawn… after a particularly dark and ominous night?
They aren’t necessarily the kind of insight that drops you to your knees and propels you off into a completely different direction.
But they are a critical plot point in your life’s story.
Here’s what just happened to me (and see if you can’t identify with it):
For the last week (has it only been that long?), the global news has been a horror-show.
Politics is tearing the country apart (again)… we’ve got a financial mess that may make the dot-com bust look like a picnic… and, personally, I’ve got biz pressures building up in my head like the Mother Of All Brain Farts.
So, I’ve diving into every distraction within my grasp for Miller Time. (Miller Time, for the uninitiated, is the built-in “reward” I insist all my freelance students create for themselves. It’s main task is to help you officially call an end to the day, which helps prevent burn-out.)
(I came up with the idea while working with Halbert, as a coping mechanism. Without a set point in time where I said “That’s it — done for the day”, the pressure of the tasks at hand would suck me into even longer work hours…
… and that’s not good.
In fact, that’s bad. Very bad. I burned out once, and that’s all it took for me to never, ever, ever want to do it again. Required three years of remedial goofing off to be able to catch my breath.
And I was young, too. I’ve had students ignore my advice on this — dudes in their twenties, cooking with peak internal fuel — and flame out like a dunked match.
Miller Time is serious play time. You quit working. You have a little fun. You give it a freakin’ rest.)
Obviously, I have a much different philosophy about stress than most business owners.
I don’t avoid stress. In fact, if there’s something stressful on the plate for tomorrow… well, that’s the first thing I wanna dig into.
No avoidance on this monkey.
… neither do I regard stress as something “good”.
It is (and current research backs me up) probably the source of all the bad shit in your health profile.
So how you DEAL with it… is probably one of the most important decisions you make early in your career.
Because you’ve got to make dealing with it a habit. Breaking the stress up and jettisoning it from your system must be on your “A” list of things to do each day.
Otherwise… you’re putting that career in serious danger of short-circuiting.
For me, toys play a big part of “steam removal”. I’ve loved games and toys my entire life — and that’s what guitars, cars, iPhones, Web-surfing, Twitter, cable TV, iTunes, barbeques, and every quest you engage in for anything outside Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is: Games and toys.
It’s been a long, long time since anyone could claim to have a handle on how civilization works. The well-educated dudes of the early Renaissance MAYBE could claim a decent savvy in every skill and knowledge-base in exisitence.
But that’s simply not possible today.
Humans have never been in this situation before — where NO ONE has a handle on how the essentials of the civilization works.
It’s like nobody’s in charge anymore. It’s like glancing down the aisle and noticing that the pilot’s gone. The driver has disappeared. No one goes into the boiler room anymore, because no one knows what to do in there.
A large part of the mob deals with this sense of not being in control… by zoning out. I doubt there has ever been this large a percentage of the population zomibified before in history. Just willingly oblivious.
In my experience, you can’t really hide from stress, though. It builds up, it festers, it infects every joint and synapse in the system.
For those of us who are incapable of ignoring the blinking warning signs now flashing… (and our global engine has been overheating for a very long time)… it’s more important than ever to manage stress.
You do NOT make it go away by eating it like candy. It won’t leave unless forced out.
Thus… to be effective today (and oh my God do we need effective people in the mix right now)…
… you gotta choose your battles. You can work every day. You can gear up and charge monsters every time you go into “work mode”.
But you can’t do it 24/7. You’ll fry.
So… playtime becomes an essential tool.
What rocks your Miller Time boat may change, often, thoughout your life. That’s to be expected.
So you gotta keep a tab on your own responses.
You know what makes you happy… what sucks you in so thoroughly and pleasurably that you forget the smell of the trenches for a while.
Don’t focus on the “what”, however.
Instead, focus on how you feel. You will have to alter things — the games, toys, distractions, etc — that trigger the right response often.
And the new stuff is only going to work — only going to help you disengage so you can re-charge — if it nails the wheelhouse of your pleasure center.
At various times, playing music has been “it” for me. But then I go into another phase, and I need something else. Drawing comes and goes — hours spent completely absorbed in putting ink on paper, creating visual worlds from nothing.
Games, too. I played the first Doom like a junkie. No other game since has held my interest like that. Collecting rare stuff, too. Reading history… I’ve been lucky to have a long list of stuff that works.
But here’s the one tip I really can give everyone: One of the most enduring, and most pleasurable, Miller Times available…
… is simply going outside and feeling the universe swirl around you.
Fresh air, the cool breezes of early fall, the coming harvest moon (big as the sky), the leaves changing so fast you can almost see them turn.
Especially now… especially with so many entrepreneurs welding themselves to cyber-space at a desk…
… it’s essential to reconnect with Nature.
In as giddy a manner as possible.
Just my two cents.
What’s your Miller Time consist of?
P.S. One last funny aside: I dove into the world of Twitter with gusto this week. Not obsessed, but having great fun…
… sorta like the first time Mom let me loose in the Fun Zone at the LA County Fair. (Never been a place like that before, nor since. Total art deco sprawl of mazes, haunted houses, vast wheels that spun you in circles half the size of a football field, tight little capsules that swung like hammers at 3 G’s, pulling your cheeks back as they dove… all of it way too dangerous to ever be allowed today…)
I explored the apps of Twitter-land, strolled into little-travelled areas, spelunked in the nether regions of the software (as far as I could go without using code, I suppose).
And today, a new follower told me that, hey, he was happy to see me on Twitter…
… but, dude, I was tweeting too MUCH. “Cool it,” he implored.
Because I had found a new toy that let fresh air into my system. Fun, distracting, with some of the elements of a game. (Trading witicisms and barbs with fellow word-meisters. That’s invigorating, for me.)
And I laughed because I suspected it was time to put the Mac to sleep…
… and go outside for some real air, too. A long hike, paying attention to things. Soaking up being alive for another season.
I’m stressed, no getting around it.
Lots to be stressed about. Unless you’re a zombie, and that’s not a job I’ve ever gone after. (Can’t meet the basic requirements of accepting bullshit.)
So I need all my tools, and I need to able to use them elegantly… and that requires rest, distraction, and rejuvenation.
You on my Twitter follower’s list yet?