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Outsmart the Hustle

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Michael Knouse Logos

You ever feel like you’re too busy to slow down?

I feel like that a lot. Like earlier this year when I was filling every spare moment in my calendar with something “important.”

Funny thing about claiming busyness as an entrepreneur. We get to wear it as a badge of honor.

Annnnd… at the end of the day, week, or month, I can state with robust conviction, “I worked really hard for that.”

It’s an old habit – needing to be busy to feel worthy. It comes from growing up in a small town where the harder you work, the more you’re respected. And it also comes from working in startups where putting in time on Sundays is the norm.

All the times I’ve said to myself, “Michael, you need to slow down to speed up.” Only to digress and fall back into old patterns of working harder to feel like I matter.

So there I am, acting all super busy at the end of February. Days later, a global pandemic forces the world to pause.

I think of how this feels like another loss I will suffer.

Will clients cancel and want their money back?

What about all the big plans I had for this year?

Priorities shift quickly as life slows down.

I spend a fair amount of time just sitting and staring. Wondering if this is for real.

Going faster, doing more, being busier no longer makes any sense. All of humanity is being asked to stay home.

The lie I’ve told myself over and over is revealed in neon. “Michael, you need to push harder, go faster, work more.”

But it’s not really possible to do that right now. So what else?

I begin to make some space. It feels awkward.

Then, I say “yes” to some new opportunities that come along. Whew… just in time. I won’t have to face the uncomfortableness of having space.

I spend plenty of time and energy convincing myself that these are important new things to do. New things to plan, coordinate and do.

And then it hits… fatigue, boredom, lethargy. All the signs that tell me I’m swimming against the current.

I send the difficult emails, telling those I’ve committed to that I need to withdraw from commitments I’ve made. I feel terrible and free all at once.

Readjusting. Letting go of what’s not working for me.

I acknowledge a deeper level of truth that does it’s best to elude me.

“I need more space than I think I do.”

The paradox I know to be true is: I need to slow down to speed up. And yet, I struggle with it.

Just like when I wanted to be a coach and no one seemed to take me seriously. They thought me silly, perhaps a bit eccentric.

But that did not mean it was the wrong thing to do.

I think of how happy I am that I trusted my path – though it seemed like a crazy thing then, too.

Right now I’m sitting here rethinking my priorities as I write this. I’m taking a close look at my life, my business, my hobbies, my health, my habits, my routines, my desires, and the fact that, apparently, I’m really attached to being busy, filling my calendar and saying “yes” to things because it’s easier than saying no.

Maybe you’ve been re-evaluating your priorities, too. Or wondering why things feel “off.”

Right now is a time for lingering thoughts; for lullabies; for simplicity and returning to a time of innocence.

And it’s also a time for seeing things more clearly than ever. What happens when you strip back all of the busyness and see what you are left with? Who are you left with? And does any of it actually matter?

Oh, these are hard questions to ask.

But the worthwhile ones always bring you to tears.

At first it scared me when a quarantine didn’t noticeably change my life. At a time when everyone else seemed to be trying so desperately to figure out how to adapt to this new reality – staying indoors, cooking all the meals, homeschooling the kids – my life seemed pretty much the same.

And then, slowly, I began to feel the urge for a shift. I thought about how I’ve kept my life so full. I have rarely made space for doing nothing in particular.

I’ve done less in the last 45 days than I can remember. And it’s opened up so much beauty.

Space for reading.
Space for thinking.
Space for walking.
Space for playing.
Space for experimenting.
Space for conversations.
Space for appreciation.

And I gotta say: I’m feeling more inspired than I have in a very long time. Times are challenging for sure, but this doesn’t mean we need to stay committed to doing things the way they have always been done.

I hope you’ll use this time to pull back just a little. Just remember that you don’t have to keep moving all the time. Now, more than ever, is the time to reflect and ask yourself if you’ve secretly been coveting a change.

I think of how this work we do is often called “entrepreneurship,” but what it really is is ownership. Ownership over how you show up. Ownership over what happens next. Ownership over the way you use your time, your talents, your skills, your desires, and even the meaning you make of navigating the hard stuff – right now, more than ever.

Use this moment in time as motivation. Use the pandemic as a reason to do something beautifully drastic.

Things may be challenging right now, but challenge creates opportunity.

A global pandemic can feed your status quo, or it can wake you up.

Live bravely,

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