The Problem At Hand

In my efforts to write more, I’ve also found myself reading more. In this piece by @oliverburkeman, I finally found some language I can borrow to explain a problem I’ve been experiencing lately. Talking about the Inbox Zero phenomenon and the pressure we feel to be more and more productive, Oliver writes:

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like — but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?

It will come as no surprise that starting my own business has been challenging. There are a lot of unknowns that must be discovered, rules that must be followed, and skills that must be attained. I find myself struggling in unexpected places. Things that are rather simple from a task perspective require far more motivation than they should. For example, getting a bank account for the business is rather simple: print the right papers, bring the normal identification, get $25 dollars, and bring it all to the bank. Simple requirements and straightforward actions, yet it was a task that I consistently delayed finishing. It lived on the TODO list for far too long.

Upon reading Oliver’s words, the problem at hand finally became clear to me. I wasn’t unduly stressed and anxious about the action of getting a bank account. I was stressed and anxious about about “larger, more personal dilemmas”.

Am I doing the right thing, tossing aside the “traditional” career path?

What if I crack under the pressure, where will I turn?

What if I can’t develop the hustle necessary to keep my ship afloat?

What do I pursue, what do I abandon?

How can I know I’m making the right calls?

Ultimately, I must accept that I will falter. I will mess up. I will lose bids, alienate clients, accidentally burn a bridge or two, forget something important, and take a fiscal loss because of my own ignorance or stupidity. This must not stop me. I must be accepting of myself particularly in these failures. I must not let them operate as an anchor on my ship. Instead I must patch any holes in the hull they may have caused, and throw the rest overboard, becoming a slightly more wise, slightly more capable pirate.

I have reflected upon my repetitions and found a failure. I must be careful with and cognizant of my larger dilemmas. If I continue to repeat this pattern where simple and straightforward tasks are attached to larger and more personal dilemmas, I will never get this ship out of port. I either need to find a way to disconnect them when this happens or find a way to simply ignore the connection. Sometimes I just have to deal with the problem at hand, regardless of I feel about it. Here’s to tomorrow and doing that thing that unexpectedly triggers all of my existential angst!