Stripping Down

No, this post has nothing to do with nudity. If you’re let down, I’m very sorry! Today I’ll be writing about another kind of stripping.

Last week, my kids had a fall break from school, so taking benefit of the writer’s life, we made plans to head out of town. For the first three days, we stayed in the big city, eating good food, going to museums, and filling ourselves with the trappings of civilization. We were surrounded by plenty.

Then, we spent the next three days in the wilderness, with bugs, wild cats, mountains and lakes, eating smoky food cooked over the fire.

Camping meant more because it gave us room for depth. Here’s why.

The city brought conflicting demands for our time and energy. Abundance got in the way of appreciation. We bounced from thing to thing, touching the surface but never finding the depths.

In the countryside, our lives were brought back to basics. We woke up, ate, hiked, canoed, napped, fished, played, read, and chased kids. We ate what was available and appreciated it. Our acts had a different depth. Nothing was rushed and everything felt meaningful. We did the essentials.

In the city, my kids were scattered. In the countryside, they were focused. My daughter, who is five, fished for three hours — without a break.

Again and again, they surprised me by the power of their focus.

And that’s the key takeaway from my week away. Stripping down to essentials gives you the room you need to succeed.

Researchers found, years ago, that satisfaction goes down as options increase. More choice does NOT lead to more happiness because more choice = more distraction.

We live in a world that’s abundantly distracting. Shiny objects, prospects, projects, and subjects surround us. And distraction keeps us from engaging and committing.

I see this all the time in new copywriters who don’t choose a niche. In the search for income, they chase every and any project, never giving a project its due. It’s a poor way to work and a poor way to live.

When we choose a niche, we gain focus. We get to go deep on a subject or a type of project. We develop expertise and acumen.

And I’ve realized we gain worth by stripping down to essentials.

If we jump from thing to thing, from task to task, we’re in effect saying, “None of these things are worth my full attention. None of them are worth my full effort. And none of them are worth my commitment.”

I don’t know about you, but I want work that’s worth something. I need my actions to show that what I’m doing is worthwhile. Jumping from task to task, from idea to idea, without full engagement — just doesn’t seem worthwhile.

So, slowly, carefully, I’m reflecting on stripping down to essentials. My first idea is that I’m deleting everything from my task list that’s not essential to what I do. But I intend to strip down my work life even more.

What can you do to focus on essentials?

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Published: October 17, 2012

1 Response to “Stripping Down”

  1. Great job Brian!

    Finding a quiet place with my laptop while listening to classical music helps me to "strip down". I think a better description would be relaxed concentration. Ironically, the complexity of the music is incredibly soothing. Even liberating. And the words just seem to pour out onto the screen.

    Thanks again, Brian!

    RNin2013October 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

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