I told myself I’d partition my day into sales, team building, writing, other projects. Thought about it last night before bed and this morning at 4AM. Too much coffee? Perhaps. Or too much anticipation. I believe the truth is closer to just too much, period. Doing too much. Every time I try to do creative work I face an avalanche of incomplete deliverables from other parts of my life. And not just that: I feel I’m not committing to the right deliverable in those other areas of my life.
My salad arrives.
A good salad with soft, house grilled-and-pulled chicken, fresh veggies. The cucumbers sliced so thin you can actually pop them folding into your mouth and I’d swear they’re marinated but it’s just the light, tangy dressing. You know those over-thick cucumber slices or chunks you get at picnics; you try to enjoy them but end up feeling it’s your job to finish them to get to something else. These aren’t like that. A different animal altogether. I pierce a section of avocado, a section of orange, a few bits of lettuce so that the dressing and tiny almond slices that hitchhike along with the bite create a heavenly combination I wouldn’t have imagined.
I have read Millennials don’t care about sex because it’s too messy. Surely that can’t be true, but if it is, salads like this one at a co-working cafe could be a cause. Who can think of sex while working to afford this beautiful salad and then eating it? You can even eat it with a plastic fork and it isn’t messy…
I guess I was hungry.
At this point while the writing assignment stretches out ahead of me I notice the many sales calls I still have to make today and my head throbs. If I could trust another two-and-a-half hours of calls would be all I have to do then maybe my head could tolerate waiting to do them later... Still, experience says there’ll be quite a lot more than the 2.5 hours demanded of me.
You know how it’s said people click on and deal with emails as a way of getting dopamine hits? How that breaks up our day into little dopamine experiences we’re seeking all the time that keep us from doing “deep work” (really focusing)? Just now I was anxious I’d get this big overhang of responsibilities while doing my writing and the couple of hours of calls would explode into many hours of dealing with stuff (and not enough time left in the day to get it done). Right?
That’s right — that’s the fear.
So just now I went for the dopamine rush as soon as my contractor texted me, brainstormed ideas with him and blasted through twenty emails. For the moment there’s no overhang. The dopamine feels great and it feels like I’ve run a few yards ahead of the pack so I can turn aside and work on this for a moment. If that means I’ll be beaten by a tortoise then go, tortoise, beat me at my job, make more sales calls than me. The fact is it’s really hard to beat me at sales calls, but not impossible. So you go tortoise.
Anyway life isn’t so simple. I’m the tortoise, steadily making calls each week to hit my goal. And sometimes I’m a tired tortoise. But right now I’m doing something else. The dopamine reaction from my texting, from blazing through emails, might not be all bad, if I control the dopamine rather than it controlling me.
Turning to the side of the way as the rabbit did while others plow forward in competition might be a necessary recharge. Is all conventional wisdom bad, or at least limited in its utility? Maybe conventional wisdom is just building blocks that we have to use to create something real, an actual soaring pinnacle of life beauty, of beautiful life.
The dopamine hits are still suspect, but there are reasons for dopamine.
I see the phone ringing with a number I don’t know and I don’t pick up. I see my assistant saving a file and I email her asking if she’s followed the protocol that she hasn’t been following recently. Flying blind, as I could’ve gone and checked. But sure enough she emails back saying she’s gone bac in and fixed it.
Oh I see the phone call was the glass company I’ve been trying to reach. My boss emails me a decision about a website development we’ve been working on, but I can’t see from the snippet what the decision was, just that his management team has reached a consensus.
Those last things were stress-inducing, not dopamine-producing. That’s cortisol, the fear drug. Sometimes I have so much cortisol in my system that I wake up in the middle of the night, wide eyed. That can’t be good. But I keep typing and the cortisol waves wash over me as I persevere. No one talks about that, do they? About cortisol waves washing over you while you work? Yikes, but I have to say it feels good also…the pain feels good in a way as well as the pleasure. There’s pleasure when the cortisol wave has passed.
My colleague calls and I pick up.
Talking to him about our marketing efforts makes me feel important. It feels like I’m making progress, that this will help me afford a house in ever-more-expensive Berkeley. Running a race to keep up. Deciding whom to pick up for feels good. I see a Google Voice transcription of the glass repair person’s call as I read the email from the President of our company that my colleague is talking about and the transcription says “I’ve tried to call you many times.” Glass contractor, you’ve never left a single message!
And now I’ve captured your words in the amber of Google’s transcription (I at first used google with a small “G” [Google’s ironic demise]), and that kind of makes me feel important but mainly I feel empty. Couldn’t the glass people have left a message a week ago? Why this game? I know you must plan to demand $4,000. Isn’t that worth a message?
Well, that’s an hour. And here’s a photograph: