Category Archives: Enough

The work partner

trumpEver thought about how your career might be a life partner?

Last week I tried calling someone who’s in between jobs. I talked to his wife instead because he was “at the office.” “Why,” I asked, “if he’d sold his company?” She said he liked going in. He’d been working the same job for about twenty years

If changing careers has parallels to dealing with death or divorce, then seeking out what’s familiar and normal for you is what you’ll do. It’s different than hopping from job to job, which is closer to serial monogamy and the end of a job isn’t too impactful. A long-term career is more like a partner, providing meaning and structure.

There’s also the de facto religion of the US of industriousness to consider, busyness is the strenuous demonstration that you’re practicing industriousness. “Not really working? Well, I’ll just pop into the office anyway.” That pattern runs deep, like a tiger’s stripes. If you could shave down a tiger, you’d find a tiger’s skin is striped too, not just the fur.

Maybe this guy had crossed his finish line without noticing. But when he goes to the office he was feeling that “People like us do things like that” even though running on permanent overdrive is unnecessary. Life is not a contest to see who can accomplish the most.

Conforming to the social ideal that to be worthy you must be busy is hard to see, like fish that aren’t aware they’re surrounded by water. Doing something that really interests you, it’ll result in a much more enjoyable life than just doing something to be busy. But it’s hard figuring out what it feels like to be you, right now, not your story.

Last year, most people’s favorite Pope, Francis, was asked about his secret to happiness. His answer was,”slow down. Take time off. Live and let live. Don’t proselytize. Work for peace. Work at a job that offers basic human dignity. Don’t hold on to negative feelings. Move calmly through life. Enjoy art, books and playfulness.”

Beer and Sprinting

How much is enough? And what are the priorities? Sometimes contrarian ideas produce great results.

Here’s a contrarian idea: Do as little as needed rather than as much as possible. Here’re two examples.

One of the best beers in the world is brewed by Belgian monks at the Westvleteren Brewery.

The list of what they don’t do is long: no advertising, no marketing, no labels, no brewery tours, you can’t buy more than two cases, there’s no delivery, and you have to pick up your cases there after placing your order by phone.

The list of what they do is short: they try to brew the best beer.

Their beer sells out and they could sell lots more; but as the abbot says “We brew beer to afford being monks.”

The second example is one of the best track coaches around, Barry Ross. In 2003, one of his athletes, Allyson Felix, became the first track star to go directly from high school into pro track. She also had the fastest 200 meter sprint that year.

The list of what this coach doesn’t do is long: no long hours in the weight room, no long hours on the track, no gizmos like sleds and parachutes, no squats, no training to failure, and no attempt to gain weight.

The list of what he does is short: a few heavy deadlifts, sprinting, and resting between sets.

In a nutshell, Barry Ross aims to make faster sprinters by building  stronger sprinters without adding extra body weight . He found the key exercises are running fast sprints and doing heavy deadlifts. To avoid gaining body weight the reps are kept low (2-5) with a timed 5 minute rest between just a few sets and his athletes never train to muscular failure. The number of sprints in his workouts never exceed 10. Ross thinks the biggest mistake coaches make is overtraining their athletes.

Barry Ross has pared down training to the essential and trainable. He’s arrived at a minimal workout with maximum results. Research shows athletes are better off lifting heavy weights for strength and then refining their sport’s skills by performing the actions of their sport.

Barry Ross’ athletes are runners who lift weights  rather than  weightlifters who run.

Establishing priorities and doing only enough instead of as much as you can, works.