BL&T No. 083: 7 Minutes in... Heaven? The Power of Pacing


This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.

Borrowed & Learned

Every morning when I brush my teeth, I review my Readwise daily digest, a collection of six random past highlights I created while reading e-books. What I love about this ritual is the opportunity to revisit concepts I found meaningful in the past and take away something new in the present.

One of my favorite excerpts from last week was from Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday:

"Pacing is something athletes are often forced to come to terms with as they age, while young athletes needlessly burn themselves out because they think they have a bottomless well of energy. Yes, there is purity and meaning in giving your best to whatever you do—but life is much more of a marathon than it is a sprint. In a way, this is the distinction between confidence and ego. Can you trust yourself and your abilities enough to keep something in reserve? Can you protect the stillness and the inner peace necessary to win the longer race of life?"

I'll never forget my first burpee — it was May 2018. I attended a free intro session at a then local gym called Park Slope CrossFit. Coach Dave kicked off the session by explaining CrossFit and functional fitness. Then, we learned how to do a burpee and a few other movements before closing out with a 7-minute AMRAP. I had no idea what an AMRAP was (as many reps/rounds as possible) or what I was about to experience.

By the end, I was amazed it had only been 7 minutes. I remember feeling like I'd just gotten the best workout of my life in less time than it took me to find street parking every week. I joined the gym that day and never looked back.

Over the next couple of years, I'd spend 4-5 days/week there, eventually joining the Barbell Club and making great memories with great people. I'd be lying if said it didn't change my life, but that's a story for a different time!

During that 7-minute AMRAP, I learned the power of pacing. When the clock started counting down, I'd given it everything I had, motivated to get as many rounds as possible and get to the end faster. Well, no matter how hard you go, 7 minutes is 7 minutes.

I don't remember my score, but I remember feeling gassed out within the first couple of minutes. I'd given too much too fast and had to push harder to keep going. These days, I end every workout with a high-intensity session like this. No matter how I'm feeling, I remind myself to breathe and keep a steady pace.

Revisiting the Stillness is the Key excerpt took me back to those 7 minutes in heaven, but I also realized what I'd learned goes beyond the gym.

In last week's newsletter, I wrote about taking aspects of my work slow now to go fast later. With our recent restructuring, I'm temporarily taking on new direct reports, helping build a new department, strengthen another, and contribute to evolving the way we work. It's silly to think that progress on any of these initiatives wouldn't take time, yet I still feel the same pull as when the clock starts counting down.

While bringing energy to any new initiative is critical, sustaining it is just as important. I'm mindful of this for myself and the team. I don't want it to feel like we're racing now, only to stumble later, trying to catch our breath.

For me, good pacing is the path to lasting change. It helps us focus on how our behaviors, habits, and mindsets need to evolve to get to the desired future rather than mindlessly charging toward a solution.

Below are some methods I've used to pace myself while leading team initiatives lately. My goal is never to go too far or give too much without enough data or insight.

  • One-on-one "interviews" to get a sense of where everyone stands on the topic
  • Team workshops to uncover these viewpoints as a group, highlighting any disconnects
  • Enter every conversation with questions, not answers
  • Create new rituals, even if temporary, to create space to continue discussions on the topic and follow up on any next steps
  • Deep thinking and writing sessions to make sense of where I stand on the topic
  • Get input on my ideas early and often, even if they're not ready for "prime time"

I hope these connect for you. Gradual change takes time, but I believe we all feel better when we feel energized every day and even better when we start seeing the impact of our daily actions. The small wins add up, and before we know it, the AMRAP is over, and we've set a new high score.

Let's take a look at some of last week's progress.

Thought Starter

Where am I on the brink of running out of steam? How can I pace myself to keep up the momentum?

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