STOP: The Counter-Intuitive Secret to Success

We read and hear so much about how to be more productive and efficient, and to stay motivated, and to do more. Gary Vaynerchuk tells us to always “hustle,” to sleep less than six hours per night, and to skip vacations. Meanwhile, one of the most important skills in the toolbox of success gets passed over: even more important than being able to slow down and increase strategic behavior is the ability to actually stop. Let’s begin by stopping running around like headless chickens.

Let’s stop feeding our minds with endless material to obsess on. Let’s stop focusing on how we have been wronged. Let’s stop engaging in arguments that are intended to never end. Let’s stop responding to trolls.

At night, when my eyelids are heavy, and my mind is craving the comfort of my bed, my body is telling me that it’s time to stop. It’s time to sleep. It’s time to regenerate, recuperate, regroup, and return to the world refreshed and ready to contribute with skill and care and quality.

Often, it’s only when we stop that we create enough space to realize that we need to stop other things. Some of my most productive time has been spent in hot-tubs doing nothing. At times like that, times when my mind has been still, I have suddenly realized that some project I was working on was overly complex and was wasting my time and energy.

Persistence is important. It’s also important to go fast and to go slow, just as on a racetrack it’s important to slow down before a turn and then to accelerate out of the turn. What’s the use of a race-car that’s smashed into the stands at the end of the straightaway? It’s also important to regularly pull your car into the pitstop to change your tires. It’s important to change your oil.

We need to stop our work at a pre-decided time so that we can focus and be productive before that time; we need to stop working so that we can play. We need to stop playing so that we can work. We need to stop smoking, stop drinking, and stop everything else that thwarts our effortless success. We don’t need to hustle more. Actually, we usually need to hustle much less.

We need to stop the busy-ness so that we can hear the quiet voice inside that whispers, “I want to spend some time with my children” or “I want to read a book.” If we don’t stop now, then we’ll be forced to stop later, through illness or divorce or through other catastrophes. If we don’t begin stopping now then we’ll be forced to stop completely. We’ve been saving-up all of our stopping for one big and painful stop. Let’s begin letting that stopping out now. Let’s allow the curve in the road to guide us away from the crash barriers that would otherwise permanently end our progress.

We also need to learn how to stop sleeping, to stop eating, to stop spending, and to stop talking. It took me a long time to learn how to stop talking just a little bit. You don’t have to say everything that passes through your mind. You don’t have to sleep through life, you don’t have to eat everything that’s available to you, and you don’t need to spend every penny that you earn.

We need to stop focusing on what we don’t want so that we free our attention to focus on what we do want. We need to stop worrying about outcomes that we don’t want so that we can even more powerfully choose outcomes that we do want.

Stopping is a powerful meta-skill that we can develop in one area of our lives and deploy into all the others. Begin practicing stopping today. Stopping will give you the space to start something much more important. What do you really need to stop right now, if only for a few minutes?