What, you say? What happened to giving a 100% effort? Or some of you Type-A types may be wondering why you shouldn’t put 110% effort into everything you do. Well, let me explain via an anecdote from entrepreneur Derek Sivers.
Sivers tells the story of living in Santa Monica, California and biking each day on a pathway along the Pacific Ocean that starts in Venice and ends in Malibu. Having run many times on a big chunk of this path, I can vouch for its beauty. It meanders along the beach for miles and features the roaring ocean on one side, a sloping tree-lined hill on the other.
For Sivers, there was just one issue. Being super competitive, each morning he biked the path as fast as he could go and it would take him 43 minutes. He would really try to push it, and the course would still take him 43 minutes. It got to the point that he was dreading his morning routine, he felt worn out both physically and mentally.
So, Sivers decided to try another approach to his bike ride. He decided to slow down just a little. Since he wasn’t getting any enjoyment from his “superfast” bike rides, he decided to back off and slowed his ride by two minutes to 45 minutes, in effect giving less than a 100% effort.
Something amazing happened. Sivers found that by slowing down just a hair, he began to look around more and notice things he hadn’t see on his usual rides. He noticed the swaying palm trees and fauna. He saw a flock of pelicans gracefully flying by. He glanced at the ocean and saw two dolphins leaping in the surf. His enjoyment of the ride increased tremendously and he also felt less stressed about it.
How often do we go buzzing through our own lives at breakneck speed, petal to the metal, oblivious to the beauty and small wonders that surround us? Is it possible that our senses become dulled by following the same routine day in and day out?
Let me share a personal story. One night, I got home late from work as I often did, and sat down to dinner, my only focus on the meal in front of me. My wife sat down next to me and asked if I noticed anything new in the room I was sitting in. My eyes quickly scanned my surroundings. I saw nothing new.
She pointed up and that’s when I noticed it. Perched atop the dining room chest was a small wooden statue of a red mermaid. She informed me it had been there for two weeks and she had been waiting for me to notice it but had given up hope.
This incident got me thinking: How many mermaids was I missing? By getting so caught up in my job and spending too much time focusing on work, I was shutting out the small details and moments that enrich our lives and take them beyond the mundane. I pledged to slow down and start paying more attention.
Is there anything in your life you might better off doing with a 95% effort?
You might consider leaving work 30 minutes earlier each day and devoting that time to connecting with a loved one. Or backing off that morning run a little to really take in your surroundings. Or maybe even taking the longer, scenic road to work, sacrificing a little time for a higher quality experience. You might find that when you stop to notice the details, life becomes a lot more enjoyable.
Credit: The Derek Sivers anecdote comes from the Tim Ferriss book Tool of Titans which I highly recommend. It’s packed with valuable life tips from a host of contributors.