Building Blocks Every Morning

Guess what this week’s inspiration involved? Yep yep yep: a podcast.

Actually, it’s the relationship between two podcast episodes. One was the episode titled “Juggling and bicycles” from Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast. The other was an interview with Helga Davis, conducted by the one and only Lucy Dhegrae (my coworker/director of Resonant Bodies Festival) for the Resonant Bodies Podcast.

In “Juggling and bicycles,” Seth argues that focusing on the end result of acquiring a new skill hinders our ability to successfully acquire that skill. Using the example of juggling, he claims that novice jugglers, when learning to juggle, tend to focus exclusively on catching the multiple objects that go into the air, because that’s what real jugglers do. This is at the expense of simply learning to throw a single ball into the air, and then catch it. The simple building block of juggling: throw, then catch.

The novice juggler may then feel ashamed or embarrassed when they inevitably drop the ball, believing that because they can’t catch the ball in this moment, they will never be a juggler. Fixed mindset, rather than growth mindset.

The takeaway is that anyone attempting to acquire a new skill needs to focus on repeatedly practicing the foundational building blocks of that skill, detaching from achieving any particular end result. In this particular case, the argument is in favor of quantity over quality.

Which leads to the interview with Helga Davis. I actually listened to this interview several weeks ago, but one bit of conversation stuck with me in particular. Helga briefly discusses her daily morning routine upon waking up:

  1. She immediately lights a candle and gives herself a designated period of time—15 to 30 minutes—to let her mind wander.

  2. After this set period of time, she writes a single page in her journal, reflecting on her thoughts.

This morning practice stuck with me because I had just started this blog when I listened to that interview. I was just embarking on something I’d never done before, and I was feeling some major Imposter Syndrome:

“Who do I think I am? There are SO many blogs out there; what could mine possibly contribute that hasn’t already been said?”

“I don’t/won’t have anything to write about.”

“No one, including myself, will want to read this.”

These are all real thoughts that I thought and very much still think on a daily basis regarding this blog.

So I decided to try Helga’s morning practice myself. After several false starts, I’ve now successfully gone one week of doing this every morning (though I’m currently at 10 minutes, slowly working my way up to 30). My hope is that, as a novice writer trying to develop my writing skill, I can focus on the building blocks by:

  1. Starting each day from a place of creating, giving my mind the time and space to generate its own ideas, and then

  2. Setting myself down to write those ideas out every single day, regardless of how inspired I’m feeling (or not feeling).

I struggle with this practice, because, as I’ve mentioned on several occasions, I am a per-fec-tion-ist. Focusing on the building blocks, rather than on the end result, is a huge challenge for me. Just in the writing of this single blog post, I’ve gone back and re-read what I’ve written upwards of ten times, and it’s been all I can do to release the thoughts of “not good enough” and “quit while you’re ahead” and just keep writing.

In the writing of this blog, I’m choosing to just show up, rather than be perfect. So here I am, on a Monday evening, constructing something that is far from perfect—but it’s a start.

Question of the week: What’s a skill you’ve had to develop by stepping away from the end result, practicing quantity over quality as you develop the skill?