My incredible mentor teacher, Pat Wright, gave me a bracelet when I made the difficult decision to leave the classroom. Inscribed in the silver band the cursive letters read, “embrace the journey”. Pat clearly knew my tendency to race towards the finish-line line, want to accomplish more, and very seldom stop to rest and reflect along the way. Shauna Niequist, in her book, Bittersweet echoes this refrain, a result of the mania of modern life, as she shares of her breaking point after writing DO EVERYTHING BETTER (in all caps) across her todo list.
“The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.”
I think part of my cyclical behavior and striving is due in part to the fact that this insanity is sometimes unfortunately effective. I will never forget the principal at my first teaching interview telling me I had a “record of success” and as a result he trusted me to teach ALL the subjects in two languages “even though I was just a first year teacher.” If it wasn’t already hardcoded, that comment reinforced my fear of failure and the false notion that I better not mess this up.
And still now I find myself having to fight my lizard brain, as Seth Godin likes to call it. This is the voice that tells us to play it safe, to hold creativity at bay, and stay inside the box for fear of making a mistake, stirring up trouble, or missing the bar. Shared something successfully? Lizard brain has new questions of doubt for you: Will I get the same response? What if this isn’t as good as the other thing? On and on our lizard brain takes us down the rabbit hole of fear…especially right before we are about to turn it all in. Then we hustle and bustle about finding all the other things we “need” to do besides simply shipping.
In our connected world, I can get online and see a thousand things everyone else has shared, tweeted, created, and then the crazy thoughts take back over—DO EVERYTHING BETTER. When at last I’m ready to post or share lizard says, “hold up… that isn’t worth sharing. That isn’t completely innovative or original or mind blowing.” Whaa? Lizard brain please stop being so schizophrenic.
On the other hand, being “connected” and working with awesome educators pushes me to think deeper, write more often, unpack my thoughts, and not fear someone challenging or critiquing them. It gives me confidence as those around me encourage me and see the good I can’t see in myself.
So what do we do with the skeptics and critics? Jon Acuff, in his book, Start, discusses the dialogue that occurred with skeptics when he was starting to write a book….
“Have you ever done that before? Proper response-no, but I am about to.”
I don’t know about you, but I want my inner dialogue to sound more like that.
There are a bunch of things I haven’t done yet that I want to do. There are things I want to create and curate and share and learn. I know the journey of learning and growing is the road less traveled. It is much easier to just take and consume instead of giving and creating. Kid President warned me there are rocks and thorns and the potential for clothing malfunctions down this road (you have to watch it to get that one). But even though the lizard voice may be loud on this path, there is “work that is only mine to do…” and so I will keep working on silencing the lizard brain, shipping, and most importantly, embracing the journey as I go.
*In the sprit of full disclosure I wrote a version of this post in my Evernote a month or so ago, and left it 2/3rds of the way done, but wasn’t quite sure about it so it sat and sat, but here it is shipped whether I think it is ready or not.