Pictured: The oldest and youngest members of the Slim canine family, Shoki and Rocky, demonstrating how we need each other, despite our differences
Have you ever gotten stuck in an endless loop in your own head?
You start out excited to complete a new project. You get properly caffeinated. You choose the perfect background music. You crack your knuckles and smile over your keyboard.
Then … you start to feel some nagging doubt.
Words don’t come out right.
Your design feels clunky.
You look awkward in the video you are trying to record.
You start to need some Girl Scout cookies.
You wonder if tomorrow would be a better time to start.
You wonder why you ever thought you could do this in the first place.
And if you don’t watch yourself, you begin to head down a path of bleak thoughts, yucky emotions and lots of empty beverage or ice cream containers.
Before you get too far gone — reach out
The antidote to many productivity death spirals is a brisk walk around the block, or a moment of meditation.
When these techniques don’t work, I suggest reaching out to a peer mentor.
I recommend that everyone should have the following (in addition to your beloved spouse + kids/pets):
- 2 people you can text at any time day or night
- 2 mentors you can call when you have great challenges or opportunities
- A smart, challenging friend who will pick apart your ideas without crushing your confidence
- A best friend you can whine to, or celebrate with
- A strong, clear-thinking analytical friend who can help you solve complex problems
- A pocket full of creative thinkers who don’t mind being pinged on the phone or Skype
Of course you can have a lot more people in your circle, but if you have these bases covered, you are in excellent shape.
What can real, live people do that books, videos or your own brain cannot?
Hold you accountable
For some wonderful reason, my friend Michael Bungay-Stanier, author of Do More Great Work, has taken interest in my own crazy writing process, and has been my accountability partner for writing my book. Our methods have included daily email check ins about the number of words written, as well as scattered Skype chats when I get stuck or overwhelmed. Knowing that Michael is investing his time in my success makes me feel extra motivated to do a great job on my book.
Challenge your thinking
You want people in your life who will help you to think in new, different and more nuanced ways. My friend Barbara Saunders always has a unique perspective on my work, and takes the time to offer detailed comments. (Incidentally, our podcast interview about how we misjudge introverts is one of my most popular).
Balance your strengths
Chances are, if you have tremendous strengths in one area (strategic thinking, graphic design, quantum physics), you also have noteworthy weaknesses in other areas. My highly detail-oriented friend tax attorney Kyle Durand has done the unthinkable: made this liberal arts major get excited about legal contrats, partnership agreements, and water tight financial statements.
Remind you of your true path
Best friends like my Desiree Adaway remind you that no matter how dark the current moment appears, there is a better day ahead. People who know you very well have a unique perspective about your patterns and your true self.
Kick your ass
I have written about my dear friend Andy Pels on my blog. Andy refuses to let me do anything less than my best work. He actually pre-scheduled motivating emails last August to hit my inbox at the time when I was due to be finishing my book.
I have many more dear friends and trusted colleagues, but these are a few examples of the kind of people who can keep you moving forward, despite your valiant efforts to shrink back from your greatness.
Where can you find these people?
If you don’t already have strong circle of peers around you, I suggest looking for them:
- In past organizations: work, college, spiritual or hobby groups
- In classes: often you can find great peers in online classes or programs
- In your local community: look for meetup groups, professional associations, co-working spaces or conferences
- Online: fellow blog readers, Facebook buddies, Twitter pals or LinkedIn connections are great sources of peer mentors
A great circle of peer mentors reminds you that we all need each other.
When each of us operates from our strengths, invests in each others success and sees the world as a series of creative collaborations, we all win.