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I recently took a trip to San Diego — no internet, no distractions, just the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, my Pinetti journal and my Cartier pen. For six days, my goals were to read, write, meditate, not crash a motorcycle, and play some golf. Upon arrival, I picked up my Harley Davidson at EagleRider. On the outside, riding a motorcycle was just a way to take a fancy Instagram photo and get from point A to point B. To me, it was to be the micro intervention needed for well-being. Research has found that riding a motorcycle increases sensory focus and resilience to distraction.
From its origins, a mantra can be thought of as a tool to transport the mind from a state of activity to one of stillness and silence. It is something that takes the mind into a meditative state. Motorcycles are my meditation, and the zoom of the engine is music for my soul.
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We live in a world filled with constant distractions and FOMO. As creatives, business leaders and entrepreneurs, in order to gain clarity, come into the present and stop social comparison, we must narrow our focus and come into a state of simply being.
Ironically, according to Alan Watts’s “backwards law,” “pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.” Therefore, we can postulate that having a narrow focus could lead to an expansion of our periphery to be able to see the road ahead. Based on my travels, here are my two most important lessons for how we as creatives can gain clarity.
As Marcus Aurelius says, “Take leisure, then, to add some good things to your knowledge.” Playing golf at the Golf Aviara Resort in Carlsbad gave me those five hours of leisure but also taught me about why being adaptive is imperative in order to achieve that narrowed focus.
You can visualize the shots you want to hit in golf. You can practice and take all the necessary measurements, but everything can go awry by the time you step up to the ball. If you are a weekend warrior, odds are, that ball is not going to land where you want it. In response, you can either cripple with fear, frustration and self-doubt, or you can learn from that “failed” shot, and use it as an advantage to hit the next.
This is a metaphor for life and business — even when you prepare, life is in full control. An investment can fall through, a star employee can quit or a pandemic can render your product obsolete. We must be humble enough to recognize that we cannot control every aspect of what the world may bring us and develop the adaptability to respond.
Life is far too grand and uncontrollable to worry about things you may not be able to control. Regret from the past or fear of the future can overwhelm you and, in turn, cause you to stagnate. What is life, but a series of present moments? If we were to die tomorrow or our company was to implode, all we would lose is this precious present moment. Our past has already occurred, and the future is never promised.
Business leaders can be adaptive from that failed shot by taking the word fail out of it. A shot is just a shot. Any forward movement is a small win worth giving gratitude to. The learning that comes from that shot can catapult you into your next moment of progress.
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One of my favorite ways to relinquish my control and ego is to admit I am not the smartest person in the room, as every good servant leader should. Going to dinner at Aviara reminded me of that: Instead of walking in, looking at the menu and activating something familiar and safe inside of me (decision-making), I relinquished control. I walked up to the bartender and asked him what was his favorite drink to make that brings him joy. His simple response: Shaken or stirred?
It felt good to not need to use my technical skills or intellect to make that drink decision. In business, when you surround yourself with the best people, you learn to trust their observations and advice. This helps your team understand that you are listening to their opinions. In my experience, this form of empathy is a great way to not only improve employee retention but also increase productivity.
After my resort stay, I traveled down the coast to visit my friend Nathan and observe nature’s waves crashing upon the shore. Nathan, a leadership consultant, described his unique surfing mentality. For him, being out in the surf is not actually about catching the wave, it is about him placing himself in the arena, facing nature head-on and knowing, at the end of the day, if there are waves he is not able to catch, that is all right. That the sheer act of placing himself in the position to possibly catch one is just enough. Being in the ocean and not catching waves allows him to practice his technique and be surrounded by the action.
In business, there is no such thing as a tipping point. There is no aha moment when everything just clicks. It is a series of putting in focused, hard work, where the sum of those efforts compounds over time. In show business, creatives should keep learning different parts of their craft. For instance, an actor during their downtime should set the lights, work the sound booth or sweep the floors. Uncover every corner of your craft and your skills will snowball over time.
Take no shortcuts, and maybe you will wake up one day and be the best in the world at what you do. But that requires patience — and gratitude for what you have learned.
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