BL&T No. 055: Operating Without Buffer

Borrowed, Learned, & Thought (or BL&T) is a weekly newsletter sent on Mondays. In every edition, I share a borrowed idea (quote, excerpt), a lesson learned from the previous week, and a thought starter heading into the new week. Learn more and subscribe here.

Borrowed

"Essentialists accept the reality that we can never fully anticipate or prepare for every scenario or eventuality; the future is simply too unpredictable. Instead, they build in buffers to reduce the friction caused by the unexpected."

From "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown [Book]

Learned

You're reading the third version of this week’s newsletter. I planned to write about my experience joining Seth Schmidt, my former Novus Global coach for a talk last Wednesday on Clubhouse.

Once I got going last night, I realized what I wanted to say was more of an essay than a newsletter. I thought I might wake up today with a new approach for simplifying the concepts, but when I couldn't find the words, I quickly pivoted. Twice.

It's probably no surprise that I find it's often more rewarding to share the outcome of an effort (in this case, the final newsletter) than to disclose the ups and downs along the way. Today, I'm taking the latter approach.

For 54 weeks now, I've been writing you this newsletter. In some ways, it's hard to believe we've come this far, and in other ways, I feel like I'm just getting started. At this point, I'd like to say that I have this incredible system that makes writing it every week feel frictionless. The truth is, I don't.

Sure, I have a Notion board to capture and evolve ideas. I have a workflow for getting the newsletter from draft to final. And the list goes on. Essentially, I have made the act of creating and sending a weekly newsletter as easy as possible. But when it comes to the writing, the path is never linear. Some weeks just flow more than others. Other weeks, I get stuck.

I wouldn't call it writer's block. There's no shortage of experiences to dig into and for the last 54 weeks, this newsletter has provided an opening to do just that. I'm grateful for the insights that may have otherwise never been discovered.

In the words of author Seth Godin, "People with writer’s block don’t have a problem typing. They have a problem living with bad writing, imperfect writing, writing that might expose something that they fear."

For me, that's where the friction comes in. It's harnessing the energy to write and re-write. And... re-write. It's finding peace between what's on my mind and on the page while moving past the insecurity that people won't find value in what I have to share.

The Monday deadline helps me commit, let go, and move forward. But when I sit down to write, I still never know where it's going to take me and how long it might take to get there. As I continue on this BL&T journey, I see opportunity to remove some of that unpredictability by taking stock in what's working, what's not working, and why.

I thought I'd give that a try today. I could look at this morning's pivoting and blame it on the weekend. I could say that my in-laws were in town, so it was a busy and I had no time.

While the weekend may have been busy, what a terrible outlook... For one, it casts negativity on a weekend I enjoyed and two, I'm taking no accountability.

The real story is that I didn't give myself any buffer. I knew the weekend would be busy and I chose to put off writing anyway. I waited until the last minute on Sunday. I was tired and it was the last thing I felt like doing. So I chose to sit with Dana on our deck for the first-time ever and enjoy a glass of rosé as the sun set. Not bad!

I thought waking up with a fresh outlook would give me the juice I needed, but unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky. At that point, I could no longer focus on writing without worrying about getting it done on time. When that happens, it's hard to break free. The harder I pushed, the harder it was to think clearly, hence the double pivot.

Now, here I am, writing just minutes before I hit send, choosing to embrace the rest of the Seth Godin post quoted above: "The best way to address [writer's block] isn’t to wait to be perfect. Because if you wait, you’ll never get there. The best way to deal with it is to write, and to realize that your bad writing isn’t fatal. Like all skills, we improve with practice and with feedback."

I wouldn't call this perfect, but it is another week of practice. If you have any feedback, I welcome it! Next week, maybe I'll remember to give myself some buffer.

Lesson? Whether it's writing my newsletter to go out on Monday, creating a presentation for an important meeting, or getting groceries for tonight's dinner, operating without buffer is always a risk. If we encounter the unexpected and there's no time to pivot, we make our lives more difficult. We can never know what might go wrong but we can give ourselves some buffer in case it does.

Thought Starter

Where in my life could buffer do me some good?