You have a quote in your book, “One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call ‘crazy-busy.’” Elaborate on this concept.
‘Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.
I see it a lot when I interview people and talk about vacation. They talk about how they are wound up and checking emails and sitting on the beach with their laptops. And their fear is: If I really stopped and let myself relax, I would crater. Because the truth is I’m exhausted, I’m disconnected from my partner, I don’t feel super connected to my kids right now.
It’s like those moving walkways at the airport — you’ve got to really pay attention when you get off them, because it’s disorienting. And when you’re standing still, you become very acutely aware of how you feel and what’s going on in your surroundings. A lot of our lives are getting away from us while we’re on that walkway.
You also write about the perils of being a perfectionist. How can people fight that inclination, and should they? Some might say that type of drive is a good thing.
When I interviewed really successful leaders, what I expected to hear was a lot of perfectionism. But what I heard consistently was, “I do not attribute my success to perfectionism. In fact, it’s the thing that I have to watch the most, because it will stop me from getting work done.”
Healthy striving is about striving for internal goals, and wanting to be our best selves. Perfectionism is not motivated internally. Perfectionism is about what people will think. And you do not see effective leaders in corporations sitting on an email for three hours to make sure it’s worded just perfectly. You don’t. They have work to get done.
You don’t see elite athletes letting themselves be discouraged by a bad workout or a single bad performance. It happens all the time. They’re accustomed to winning, they’re accustomed to losing. Once perfectionism becomes the goal, they’re out of the sport. I couldn’t find a single example, when we talk about what perfectionism really is, where it serves us in leadership or in getting work done.
Let’s go back to the example of the executive on the beach—could you walk through what that person should do to let life, as you say, catch up?