Saturday, October 10, 2015

Finding Buzz Time (with Steve)

I met Steve Iffland through John McInroy and my interest in the Unogwaja Challenge. I was thinking of applying and Steve had done the inspiring cycle from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades Marathon (followed by the run). I am no athlete, so I was trying to wrap my head around what I would be getting myself into. I didn't crack the team for next year. An awesome bunch of people applied and I have um, cough, work to do. I am going to attempt a debut Comrades and spend some time on my bike with an eye to the 2017 team. I also met Tiago when I was in Lisbon. Another red-sock wearing Unogwajan, it is clear that the thing that binds these characters together is Buzz. Steve respond to the post I wrote about finding 'Time for Buzz' with this comment. The comment became a chat...


Steve:
I constantly face this question. My answer is there is always things that can 'give' to make sure you have time for the things that make you buzz! The trick is prioritising what is important to you while not compromising work, friends and family. That may mean no lie-ins, letting go of the golf club membership, less telly, less pub, whatever... if you list what gives you the most buzz to the least buzz... culling the bottom of the list frees up plenty of time for lots of fun at the top of the list! (P.S. I always smile when a weekend golfer says that running marathons is selfish in terms of family time!)

Trev:
The challenge comes in the ranking of buzz. Some things are obviously more important when viewed with perspective. Clearly a child, a parent, a grandparent, a partner, or a friend are more important than a meeting with your boss or a scheduled catch up with a client. But we often assume family, for example, will be there. 'Reality' gets priority. I suddenly realised I was great at making sure I called clients four times a year, and saw most of them at least once. I was less great at doing the same for people that mattered to me. That seems upside down.

Steve:
Yes, ranking the buzz is hard. But when I rank things that make me buzz they are mine, and not my family's, or my works. Family and work time is non-negotiable. It's up to your relationship with both of them to make sure they are receiving enough attention. Tricky that. My buzz ranking system is for 'my time' (which we all need!) as I get busier the ranking and culling system has to get more brutal! Play hockey had to give for Unogwaja last year. Unogwaja gave the possibility for more buzz. Simple.

The Red Sock Friday, Unogwaja Peloton

Trev:
Simple. You are a luckier man than me! It always feels like I want to be doing everything. Accepting that a few things are non-negotiable does reduce the burden of choice though. Ensuring there is some 'my time' seems the trick in the tricky. Many of my buddies are slap bang in the middle of raising families. I heard one executive say once that he loved it when staff got a family and a mortgage. They got much easier to manage because life had rung the bell to indicate that 'my time' was over. Without some 'my time', the other time is lower quality. 

Steve:
Lucky... well yes, VERY! But not because I get to do everything I want too, that list is still long. Rather because I have a family (especially wife), friends and colleagues that get your point... "Without some 'my time', the other time is lower quality." The thought of ringing the bell on life between say 30 and 55 and focusing on work and family with no 'personal buzziness' in your life scares me. That approach will grind you into a depression! On the upside, managing this issue will be easier as my guess is nobody will want to spend time with you then anyway!

Trev:
'All work and not play makes Jack a dull boy'. I just get a little frustrated with how busy everyone seems. I am now in the fortunate position of having a lot of time on my hands to spend with people I care about. It means I can be flexible and fit into when people have a moment. Still, it feels a little some of the brutal time prioritising is required (This for family, this for work, this for me), means there isn't much time, if any, just available for 'what ifs'. You say work time is non-negotiable. Why? This is a societal sacred cow. We often define ourselves by our work and it is our one default habit. Are we scared of free time?

Steve:
A lot of questions there! I don't think we are scared of free time. I also don't think we all want to be particularly defined by our work. I don't. I think society defines us by our work, or degree, or education, or lack of any of the above! Like it or not. Bin man, Doctor, Teacher, Blogger or Banker. Just hearing the words makes us form a picture and probably an opinion. Work is non-negotiable in the system we live in. Unless of course you have capital, then it's negotiable and probably not called work... but we need to work to save that capital. Until we have the capital, it has to be a balancing act, and I guess the Buzz part of life often gives first. Perhaps the trick is that we don't need as much capital as what we think? Or maybe it's that the capital doesn't need to be just money?

Trev:
'Enough' is a moving target. I would like to do some work on an absolute 'enough' target. What is the minimum capital you would need per person to be safe, eat healthily, be clean, have a place to sleep and access to the shared wealth that is so plentiful (running trails, rivers, parks). Most people aren't aiming for independence. We are fighting fires. Living hand to mouth with nothing left over. I don't want to sound too negative. I am not a 'We are all corporate slaves' kind of guy. I just think breathing room and space is very powerful. The music is in the gaps. The gaps and the connections, relationships, and buzz they allow.

Steve:
Once you know the answer to how much is enough, how do you get there? Do you graft for 15 years working hours with no buzz knowing (hoping) that you'll get to 'enough' (if the goal posts don't move!) and then be able to fill your time with all the good things? Or do you accept that hopefully you'll get to enough at 65, enjoy a little buzz and balance on the way, and still have enough life left to enjoy it. A friend of mines Dad told his wife when they married in their twenties that he was retiring when he hit forty. She probably didn't see much of him between that day and forty. But he did retire, he obviously now has the capital and it all looks rosy. Having said that, I bet there were a few rocky periods in those 'working years' and this option isn't available to the majority. For most, balance must be the way. Being brutal with 'negotiables' and recognising how important they are to happiness should make the non-negotiables (which often offer a bit of buzz too!) a bit more acceptable.

Trev:
Stefan Sagmeister got me thinking a few years back, with a completely different way of thinking about how to build a career. He spreads 5 years of retirement out over 35 years by taking a year, every 7 years. Rather than saving enough for a full stop, save enough for a comma. I think the idea of building buffers is a powerful one. This does feel like a 'velvet problem', privileged conversation that only the really wealthy get to think about. But I don't think that's true. I think all of us can learn to build in gaps and spaces. The fires may then go out without us fighting them. And the buzz will follow. 

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