I want to share a personal story with you that I think you’ll probably resonate with, and I’d love to hear from you.
About ten years ago, I was sitting in my apartment on Kong Georgs Vej in Copenhagen in Denmark with my newborn daughter (I love you Flora) and my now-ex wife.
I was developing a new software product for my startup with a co-founder who lived in Silicon Valley, who had written my favorite user interface design book, and led the UI team at Yahoo. I was so counting on her and the startup being my ticket out of “here”.
Each night, as we were sitting in the living room watching TV or whatever we were doing, I’d be on the computer, coding. We had this cool black Eames eggshell rocking chair, which I’d always sit in and code code code. At night I’d dream of being acquired by Yahoo for $100M.
The reality was that the market our product was targeting wasn’t really big enough to make it sustainable. That our business relationship was working like shit, we were not a good match, and 9 hours of time difference certainly didn’t help. Even if the market had been big enough, our take on the problems and how to solve them were way off-base.
There were all these problems with the setup, and a lack of code wasn’t one of them. And yet, there I was, night after night, writing more code. It was the only tool I knew of in my toolbox. Any problem I faced, I was hoping I could fix it with more code. In reality, I was only digging my own grave deeper and deeper.
It’s like those roadrunner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote finds himself running mid-air, only belatedly realizing there’s no ground under his feet. Thats’ how it felt. I was trying to run ever faster, not realizing that my feet weren’t touching the ground, and all the spinning of legs in the world wouldn’t make an ounce of difference.
In my coaching, and in my life in general, this is something I see a lot. We’re running and running, not noticing that we’re mostly running in place. Even if there’s some movement, we’re still spending way more effort than Is needed.
It’s painful to realize when we’re doing this (and we all do it from time to time), but it’s much better to realize it now than later.
How do you know you’re running? You’re tense. You just gotta do this, get to this point, get over this, then things will be better and you can relax and stop to look around a bit. You always feel like you’re behind, or things aren’t quite good enough yet.
What are you running away from? I was trying to run away from a life I didn’t like. I loved my daughter from the moment I met her. But I was living in a country I did not want to live in. I was in a highly dysfunctional relationship, though I didn’t quite realize it at the time. Mostly, of course, I was running from myself. I was so committed to hating myself, to the idea that I was a worthless piece of scrap, and only through generous helpings of daily punishment and whipping was there any hope for me.
What are you running to? I was dreaming of a life where I had lots of money and I imagined that would make all my problems go away. I had this fantasy that the super rich lived in a world with no traffic jams, no logistical problems ever, no relationship issues. With enough money, I figured, you can just have everything exactly the way you want it all the time, and never have to experience any pain or upset or frustration. I also believed that with enough money, all my insecurities and self worth issues would go away. Yeah, right. But I believed it, without ever having examined the assumption.
How do you turn it around? It’s simple but not always easy: You stop. You sink into the present moment. You notice everything. You feel everything. And you love everything. Or at least open up to the possibility of loving it. That right there immediately gets your feet closer to the ground. Now you can start moving more slowly and deliberately, where each step actually counts.
It’s something you can do in an instant, and it’s something that takes a lifetime of practice.
I’d love to hear from you. If this resonated with you at all, tell me:
- What are you running from?
- What are you running to?
- What is your version of “coding”—what do you do that you know isn’t really working?
I’m serious. I really want to know.
Thank you so much.