Stepping Back From Work And Stepping Into Your Story

I’m back from the dead. After a good week and a half of the SxSw festivities in Austin, I’m hanging out in Dallas for the day before I’m back to Chicago. Quite a few friends have already done write-ups on SxSw so all I’ll say about it is that you should come next year :).

If you know me, I can tend to have workaholic tendencies and somewhere last week I was getting frustrated at trying to balance work while also trying to spend the limited amount of time I had in Austin with the people that were there. I’m not sure who said it, but either Nicky, Karol or someone else just told me to stop worrying about it – that it’s okay to take a break. So I did. I took a break from work and made catching up with friends and planning the next part of my story a priority for the last 10 days.

The Result: I had one of the most fun weeks I’ve ever had and it was one of the most productive weeks business-wise I’ve ever done. Instead of running around, answering emails all over the place, I had 2 business phone calls – one where I closed one client deal and another where I found out we increased revenue by 20%.

It’s tough to take a break break, but when your story becomes work, work, work, work, work, work, work – even if you work for yourself – it’s hard to see the bigger story and it helps to step back from things a little.

Stepping Away From Work

Step Away From The Email!

Email is a never ending list of to-dos of what other people want or need  you to do – not what you need you need you to do. If you don’t set your own agenda, people will be more than happy to set it for you. Don’t let them do it. I have lots of email hanging around my inbox (I read & respond to every one), but I need to set my own agenda and work on other things first.

Do Something Fun

I went to parties, randomly had lunch with people I never met before, got my butt kicked in trail running and a lot more. I had a few client phone calls, but that was it. 95% of the time I was hanging out with amazing people and eating obscene of amounts of delicious and terribly unhealthy food. It was awesome.

In addition to just having fun and meeting new people, I spent a lot of time walking around and exploring Austin while asking myself a question I asked myself a few years ago:

What Story Am I Telling?

This question changed everything for me 2 years ago. It made me start a blog, jump-start my life and start attempting impossible things. Lately, I’ve been so enamored with work that I’ve started to forget what type of story I’m telling. There were 3 main questions I kept mulling over.

What Do I Want?

Even when you don’t work for anyone but yourself, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing things others think you should do or simply letting other people set your own agenda. Don’t fall for it. Set your own. What do you really want to do? Do that or start working towards that.

How Much Conflict Am I Willing to Overcome?

The more precious something is to you, the more conflict you’ll likely have to overcome to achieve it. How much conflict are you willing to overcome to do that? Are you willing to make the sacrifices you might have to make in order to do do it?

Is It Worth It?

Is it? Sometimes it definitely is, sometimes it isn’t. You have to decide for yourself. That’s why wanting something is so important – because if you’re pursuing a big enough adventure – it’s almost always worth it.

Step back from your work for a second and ask yourself what story you’re telling. Is it a good one?

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  1. says

    Lately I’ve been using the phrases, “make your life a story worth the telling,” and, “live to die with no regrets.”

    You’ve got to define what you want.

    You’ve got to know the price you’ll pay to get there.

    You’ve got to know that it’s worth it.

  2. William Dulitz says

    Joel, another gem of a post.

    I was just thinking of this all weekend, especially after completing my first organized 5k and hitting two other secondary goals.

    Spending the last 7 years working constantly and thinking how short the time was had me scared. I have very few highlights to remember of the last 10 years…time to make the story better!

    Thank you again!

  3. says

    Joel, nice reading this here.

    Having lunch with someone for the first time might sound weird but its fun like you said.

    Keep on doing the impossibles and live a life that does not suck.


  4. says

    Love your 3 questions at the end. I’m trying to build my dream-job on the side right now, which often leads to a work, work, work, work mindest. If I’m not at work, I’ve got to be working on my dream-job so that one day I won’t have to… work :)

    I should build more vision setting time into my monthly routine to make sure everything is on the right track.

  5. Asia says

    Hey Joel! Have you ever read this quote?

    “We, The Unwilling, Led by the Unqualified, Have been doing the Unbelievable for so long with so little, We now attempt the Impossible with nothing…….”

    I don’t know who wrote it. Years ago I read this on a rickety old boat in the Caribbean and quickly wrote it down.

    That quote and a few seashells were the only souvenirs I brought back with me.

  6. says

    Smart advice. Sometimes taking a step back for some fun can be the most important part of taking a step forward.

    As to the story I’m telling, that’s the most important question of all. You could say that I recently switched to use a different pen. *grin*

  7. says

    The second question, “How Much Conflict Am I Willing to Overcome?” is pure gold.

    I’ve been dealing with a lot of conflict – learning how to manage (especially different personality types) as we expand our start-up – which has me questioning myself, this impossible idea, etc.

    I’ve been stuck in a woe-is-me kind of story arc, but I’m starting to shift that this is the obstacle before the breakthrough. I/we can overcome it.

  8. says

    Your question, “What story am I telling,” is one that too few people ask themselves. All too often, people just drift through life only to look back near the end and try to make sense of their story.

    The story you want to live should be the compass that guides your life, not a map of where you have been. It is amazing how much we do in life that does not coincide with our goals. Thanks for the great post.

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