Adventures #53: The Momentum Machine
Two valuable lessons from a pair of toddlers, plus career navigation made better and a dose of YOLO
Holidays are a chance to decompress, have fun, relax. And rest.
Except, holidays are where I get depressed.
During 90% of holidays in the last 5 or so years, I’ve become deeply miserable at some stage.
It doesn’t matter what or when. Beach hut or boutique hotel. Christmas or Thanksgiving. Quick jaunt or big adventure.
What an ungrateful little toad, you may be thinking. You’re right. I’m lucky enough to take occasional leisure and time off, sometimes traveling to distant places. For sure, not everyone can do this. Privilege oozes from my amphibious pores.
But, still, I get depressed on holiday. Why?!
I’ve been trying to figure it out for a while. I wonder if a pair of toddlers may hold an answer.
Last week I went out of the city with a few fully vaccinated friends, plus two nearly two-year-olds.
All was well in our little countryside house. Until day 4.
The black cloud rumbled. Mid-morning pseudo-nap. Doomscrolling phone nothingness. Sentences became sagging sacks of cement. My eyes glazed into the middle distance.
If you’ve ever felt depressed, you probably know it’s hard to describe your feelings. And you don’t remember much of what occurs in the dark time, either.
This time though, I had some insights - courtesy of those two toddlers.
First, the value of routine.
And, second, the importance of The Schedule. (Not ‘a schedule’. The Schedule.)
The routine and the schedule may sound boring, but they’re vital: without them, mayhem ensues and momentum disappears.
But they’re not just the key to childrearing success; they’re also key to adulting.
For me, being on vacation too often highlights all the things not yet done. The world moves ahead while I stay still.
This time, I knew better. I had a plan: write a few blog posts. Film a couple of videos. Clear the inbox. Read that book.
The laptop; the notebook; even studio lights and 2 tripods were packed. Best intentions bundled in.
But while I had a plan, I didn’t pack my routine. And I didn’t adhere to a schedule - let alone the schedule. The kids had theirs precisely designed, yet I hadn’t even made a sketch.
Taking on that project list without these tools? I didn’t stand a chance. The black cloud was inevitable.
In case you’ve been waiting for this month’s now-obligatory 80s movie quote (I know I have), here’s Tom Berenger aka Sgt Barnes from Platoon:
“When the machine breaks down, we break down.
And I’m not going to allow that from any of you. Not one.”
These words are as applicable to a machine of one as a platoon of many - if not more so.
Maybe like me, you’ve always resisted the machine: contorted against it; tried to find ways around, under, over, or through.
But this isn’t the industrial machine of dated education or old school corporations. This machine creates momentum - and the routine and the schedule are at its core.
Momentum is what I’m chasing. It’s 3 videos created in one day. Quick wit, not a nonresponse. Rolling into what’s next with vibes and vibrancy.
The importance of momentum was made clear when a close collaborator recently pointed out to me:
“you’re not so good as a creature at rest”.
A state of rest - the tendency to remain unchanged - is also known as inertia. And when inertia is present, the quest for momentum becomes even more elusive.
What happens when the momentum machine is inert and stuck in neutral? When there’s no routine or schedule to fuel it - yet the engine of the mind just keeps on revving?
Yup, those toxic emissions of depression begin. The dark clouds brew.
The following morning, the routine and the schedule were still adrift. But so was the plan and the project list. My whirring mind switched to OFF. The momentum machine powered down.
Instead, I helped make lunch. Kicked a ball about. Played with the kids. I didn’t really think; I just did. Just like them.
I was a creature at rest.
No routine, no schedule. No to-do list. No narrative. None of it.
I may not be particularly great as a creature at rest, but that’s ok. Because I sure do need to be one sometimes.
Perhaps you do, too.
The key is to know when you’re resting. Don’t kid yourself. And let out the inner kid in yourself.
Thanks for reading, and as always I’d love to hear what’s got your attention right now. Just hit reply. I respond to every email (albeit a little more slowly when I’m resting)
PS. I’ve never written about this topic before (and very nearly didn’t hit send). Thanks for making it this far.
01: Career Fuel
In a rapidly changing world of work, career navigation is way harder than it should be. Fondo offers you personalized insights about yourself, a suite of career design tools, plus connections to industry experts to guide you to where you want to go next. Check it out >
Languishing is the dominant emotion of 2021: Here’s yet another great bit from Wharton professor Adam Grant. My wife Jacinta says she sees a bit of him in me. Other than the yawning gaps in talent, intelligence, credibility, productivity, and hair, I completely agree.
(Pair this with Austin Kleon on why we’re not languishing, but dormant… aka creatures at rest)
Welcome to the YOLO economy: This is a fascinating trend, but also tricky. Many essential workers aren’t in a position to make these leaps, and this bit from the comments really jumped out at me (especially the phrase at the end):
“…this pandemic has turned a spotlight on the gross inequities in our country, and the widening spectrum of living experiences amongst our citizens. My generational peers seemed to have missed the lessons that I've picked up through this experience. Instead they seem to be further distancing themselves from the broader society - leaning *harder* into their privilege to pursue a "good vibes only" lifestyle of toxic positivity”
02: Learning <> Doing
As Adventures… will continue to focus in on career navigation and entrepreneurial endeavors, this “Learning <> Doing” section has now largely taken up residence over at Wavetable. Sign up to get fresh insights into learning and education each week, plus free weekly co-workng sessions.
As a last hurrah though, here’s something I published last week (after taking just the 6 months to complete it). Why the future of learning will look a lot like Peloton >
Opportunity for Adventure: There are no less than 8 included in the article :)
03: Entrepreneurial Endeavours
I’ve been spending more time building than curating this month, but this piece on rethinking cultural expectations of entrepreneurship is well worth digging into (and closely links to the stuff I’ve been working on).
Opportunity for Adventure: Creating better ways to bridge the gap between successful independent/solopreneur and 'proper' company with employees. This gap is way larger than people think
This month’s selection is one of my favourite combos of new, old, and somewhere inbetween...hope you enjoy.
From last time: “Howard, please can you share some psychedelic experimental rock fusion by a flock of mysterious masked individuals in the outer reaches of Northern Sweden?”
Ok, no one said this. But regardless, here’s the latest album from GOAT. Thanks to my Dad for tipping me off on this one.
There are guitar solos and then there’s Prince just being... well, Prince.
Back: Grace Jones - Hurricane
I saw Grace Jones play at Lovebox in London in (I think) 2008. It was summer, I’d just moved to Hackney from being stuck deep in South London and everything felt fresh, exciting, and vital. Unsurprisingly, her set was a vampish tour de force. I had no idea about this album then, but Jacinta put it on the other day and it’s a real treat.
Other things I’ve been up to this month: