DECISION SEASON: THE GRAVITY OF SEPTEMBER
Across the world, and especially here in the U.S., August and September are an annual period of important decision making. The potential of new opportunity dances with the possibility of missed opportunity as our paths diverge. Doors of desire open and close as certainty hides in the shadows of commitment. September has a kind of gravity that pulls many of us towards it. While due partly from the start of the academic calendar, the source of the gravitational pull extends beyond that. Once September hits, we know we will blink our eyes exactly three times before we are suddenly neck-deep in “the holidays” of November and December where we are usually faced with another time of introspection.
As summer work and summer trips are coming to an end, harvest season is ramping up, and many people are reflecting on their context within the start of this new cycle, it is natural to ask: How will I finish out this year? What did I get out of my summer time? Am I prepared for the winter? Do I really want to start this new degree? Do I want to go back to school? Do I want to take a new job? If nothing is changing for me while things change for people all around me, is that OK?
A pressure falls upon many of us to produce work, submit work, show work, share work, declare work, renounce work, find work, or otherwise shift within the context of our energy. It is during times such as these when we ask more of ourselves in terms of our where our time is spent, and why. When trying to answer these questions, where do you turn? A notepad? A to-do list? Friends? Family? Music? Nature? The need for having a place to turn when in these moments of decision is part of why Legacy Command exists. The Planner and Game create a way to review priorities, progress, and get organized in a way that brings context to life decisions.
During these periods, we are often supremely aware of our PROCESS. Our process of achievement can become second nature. Our process of achievement can become a lifestyle. A mode of being. We can easily slip into the comfort and safety of process without holding ourselves to a timeline for actual completion.
Completion matters! And often, the steps nearest the end are the hardest. But completion builds confidence and self-esteem. Completion opens channels to new opportunity. The rewards of completion are worth the separation anxiety and disorientation we may experience temporarily as we relinquish a process we love.
Let us take a closer look at the mechanics of process, and how remaining in process perpetually can be a payoff that amounts to little more than virtue.
Working on passion projects can be satisfying, which in and of itself has value. But without a timeline, this recurring flurry of activity can be a great way to end up lost at sea chasing a phantom ship called “Meaning.” We have but one life, and we only get to live it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. Right now. Whether with a passion project or self-development work, process gains value and context by being contained in a timeline. To quantify and measure process is the key to understanding your cycle of achievement. Much like academic education itself, at some point, you have to graduate from the process and apply the fruits of your labor. In Legacy Command, we refer to this cycle as “The Sonic Cycle.” For more on The Sonic Cycle, visit my 2-part blog post from last month.
Development for the sake of development is only useful when it comes to an end.
Whether with internal work, passion project work, or professional work, serious projects take time and consistent attention. Achievement is like building a palace. And if you spend your entire life working on the pillars and perfecting the foundation, at the end, you can’t really call it a palace. Of course being present with process and growth is important, but when that is all you have to show for the expenditure of your finite time and energy, what have you really done? When does the agreement extend to include actual Completion? Isn’t it fair to expect that at some point we can shift away from learning and growth to embrace application and use? Maybe the foundation and pillars are meant to be left behind for someone else to use to complete their own palace? And, maybe that is fine. The important part is whether you keep checking in with yourself within the process to match your expectations to the context of your work.
I continue to return to what I think is a perfect way to discover the dynamics the decision feelings we experience. This involves a bit of a social experiment, if you’re willing. If you can set yourself up for this small test, you can discover the truth of a project timeline and how deeply you are entrenched in the mirage of its process. Or, maybe you will realize you have made great progress and are quite close to completion. Either way, it will bring insight.
Experiment: We are all familiar with the experience of making small talk with a stranger at a party. Sometimes it is with someone we only know as an acquaintance, or it can be someone we met for the first time at the party. Once you are finished talking about work, family, health, your car, the weather, and whatever other surface level tinkering the mind comes up with to avoid exposing your vulnerability (<3), just start talking about a passion project you are working on. The other person may respond very favorably, encouraging you to share even more. It feels so good to discuss! Doesn’t it? To be heard and feel important feels good. As you talk, you may realize, in your head, that you have been spending entirely too much time in general just talking about the project and not actually working on it. Alternatively, you may discover that you have actually achieved quite a great deal. Be vigilant of your words and language in this conversation. You may witness yourself making excuses to this near-complete-stranger relating to why you have procrastinated. Suddenly, you feel judged even though you're the only one talking? Weird, right? Hang on tight! The alchemy of awareness that occurs if you’re observant of your words here is always going to be a valuable take away. You will be affected emotionally. You will think about it on the car ride home. Meanwhile, the person you were talking to will likely have no idea how profound an effect the conversation had on you. I highly recommend journaling about the experience once you finally do arrive home. Catch that lightning in a bottle.
Outside of the experiment, however, I recommend only careful, metered discussion of passion projects. I think it is worth mentioning the risk of sharing ideas. In our experiment with our acquaintance friend, we allowed ourselves the liberty of sharing freely and openly. Maybe you do this already quite a bit anyway, but I’m going to suggest that you reconsider sharing these passion project broadcasts. Don’t take my word for it though. Zip it up just once, and resist the urge to passion puke. Even a willing victim will sap this energy away from you, unknowingly. Try it. If you feel more confident, that is the magic I’m talking about.
Why does this happen? Consider that we can get addicted to getting positive feedback about a thing we are in love with. This positive response is something we generally don't want to end - under any circumstances - sometimes including allowing that thing to be completed. This can become a “fear of success,” and by sharing our progress it can be toxic to the vision itself. Instead, attempt to resist the urge to share. Withhold and protect that energy. Experiment with holding back. The silence can be uncomfortable, but it can be invigorating.
The mind doesn’t know the difference between the pleasure we receive from talking about a project, working on a project, or completing a project. But the cost is the same. Talking about it spends the energy you need for working on it.
I urge you to be mindful and cautious of this energy budget.
That isn’t to say there aren’t occasions where speaking about it allows you to network for the benefit of your work. The key here is to develop a kind of “elevator speech” about your work. Something 10-15 seconds long that summarizes the work, and at the end, you ask them a question about their work, in return, to shift the energy away. If they pursue to question you about your work, try to stick to facts about your present process, and feel out the exchange. If they seem genuinely interested, make an offer to exchange contact information to talk about it privately. This ensures that you can protect your energy while still securing possible opportunities and expressing that you have greater respect for your project than a casual, cursory summary at a social or networking event. Talk very little about any future aspects of the work. Allow them to use their imagination.
The party example, and these other social context examples, are part of a skill set that we all need to keep sharp as we pursue achievement. But the rest of the skill set happens in solitude.
As part of the Legacy Command system, the Campaign Planner uses “Zone Maps” to allow for the design of a week based around single points of action called “Charge Crystal Locations.” The Locations are places on your weekly and daily schedule where you can carve away distractions and interruptions to set the conditions for favorable odds at actually completing the task. Once the Location is marked on the Zone Map, and it moves to the Charge Crystal Map, the strategy is in place and we can build the rest of the week around empowering and facilitating these crucial moments of progress.
The practice of focused schedule design creates a living, dynamic, and beautiful “time mandala.” Each of us has a unique mandala of activity, passion, purpose, and vision. You are the designer, and the result is an imprint of you that is your Legacy.
However you land your ship on the planet of September, remember to clear the decks by completing some projects. Opening new space will bring fresh, vibrant, life energy into your world to stir up new passion and ideas you would not have otherwise arrived at. Surrender fully to the power of Completion.
As the great Stairway teaches us, “Yes, there are two paths you can go by. But in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”