This is a week of change. My two daughters are back in school, the older one now in middle school. My wife and I are back to teaching for the Fall 2014 semester, and I have a new course in “Physics of Community”. The MOOC on “Creativity, Innovation, and Change” that I am co-teaching — with more than 58,000 students enrolled — is ending. It’s a time for both nostalgia for a great Summer, and hope for a great Fall. It’s a time to set new a new WIG (Wildly Important Goal). Not 10 WIGs, not 5 WIGs, and probably not even 2 WIGs. 1 WIG. What is yours?
This afternoon I spent 4 hours doing tedious, time-consuming, boring work. It had to be done. I could not delegate it. It will form part of a package that will be outstanding and beautiful however. There are times in our work when we have to “clean the latrines”. Today was my day. I took a nap, started at 2 pm, and promised myself that I would keep working at it until it was done or 6 pm. And it is done. Are you willing to spend the required time doing drudge work? Don’t let all your time — or even a lot of it — slip in that direction. But a helpful saying from the famous athlete Jerry Rice might help: “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” Finish the tedious work, if it helps to make a beautiful product.
Recently we returned from vacation at the beach — a beautiful week with no emails and no phone calls, and lots of family time. Now comes Fall. For me as a professor, that means school schedules for my family, and courses and students at Penn State. In short, a lot more discipline and deadlines will be needed. And I can’t wait. There is a time for relaxing, but there is a time for digging in, for working hard, for excelling at something you love to do. Knowing that the seasons come and go helps me to stay tenacious toward my dream. In times of battle, I know there are times of relaxation coming, and in times of reflection and revitalization, I know that I will soon be able to jump back into the battle with gusto. Yes, invite the seasons!
Most mornings I wake up ready to “make today my masterpiece”, as the famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooden would say. But there are days — maybe you have them too? — when my courage wavers, or my energy drains. How to keep going? Here are a few tips, which come in part from my friend Brian Cunningham, who wrote the book “Never Give Up!”:
– vision. I keep my vision in front of me, literally, by writing it down and reading it each morning. My overall vision is to help others turn dreams into victories. More specifically in any season, I might be teaching a course, or writing a book, or developing new science. I draw that connection to my vision.
– first step. Before I go to bed the day before, I write down the FIRST step I will do, after my personal meditation time. By having that first step, and iterating its importance to myself, I make sure I have a reason to get out of bed!
– someone to love. I always try to remember my family, and the importance of leaving them a better world. If you don’t have close family, build close friends. Find people with whom you can share you life and your love and your passion. They will give you the boost in critical moments.
Two additional notes. 1) My friend and collaborator Professor Kathryn Jablokow loves the saying, “Keep moving forward.” Many times those words have nudged me ahead at critical moments. 2) Seth Godin has written a great book about Tenacity, called “The Dip”. It is a “Velegol top shelf book”. Short but powerful.