The Rhythm of Achievement

The other day I had the common experience of feeling the “rhythm of the beat” of someone else’s music when sitting at a stop light.  You know what I mean, my car neighbor had his music at such a high volume/bass combo that not only was his car shaking, but mine was as well. I could literally feel the the beat, the rhythm in my bones.

As I sat there, it hit me that just as music has a rhythm and a beat that is just right for that style of music and that particular song; so there is a rhythm of achievement.  All songs are governed by certain principles and limitations: there are only so many notes and so many rhythms to build a song on, but the variety that can be created within those principles and laws is seemingly limitless.  New songs are being released every single day (all using the same basic materials).  The same is true of achievement, leadership, and innovation.  The basic principles and laws of achievement are pretty well established, but how we use those principles and how we do our work is wide open.

I recently read an excellent article on “Early to Rise” about how more productive we can be if we get up early and get to it.  The author encouraged everyone, even night owls to get up early and get their important work done while most people are just waking up and warming up.  For me, that was a great encouragement.  I love getting up early and getting my most important work done, but I am a morning person.  I do my best work early and have to really push through to do as good a job later in the day.  And here is where I disagree with the “Early to Rise” article.  I know some people who do their best work at night and they do really good work.  I obviously did not know Winston Churchill, but it was well known that he loved to work late at night when it was quiet and others were sleeping. That is when he created those historical speeches.  We know Thomas Edison would work throughout the night, taking short naps.  Other people I know quite well, simply do their best thinking and creating at night.

Now, the rhythm of achievement is not just about the time of day we do our work.  It is also how we best “flow” when working.  Many great writers/creators have a set time when they do their work; whether they feel like it or not. They do not wait for inspiration, they work until inspiration comes.  I agree with that.  I think Steven Pressfield calls doing the work when you don’t feel like it, being a “professional” compared to an amateur.  But in his very enlightening book “Imagine”, John Lehrer gives many studies and real life examples of flowing with different types of work rhythm’s in the creative process.  In short, he prescribes the “do it no matter what” attitude when refining an idea, song, project, or word piece.  However, to get the creative juices flowing on the actual project or idea itself; it helps to get in a different environment or into big space or into a warm shower.  In a relaxed state the brain makes connections that it normally would not, to gain a fresh insight.

What I’m trying to say is there is a rhythm to achieving and each of us needs to try out different approaches until we find the rhythm that most often works for us.  Some people do great with the same basic schedule everyday.  Others need great variety to stay alive and fresh.  I am somewhere in the middle.  I need a schedule to help me get more done in less time, but I have to vary when I do what fairly often or it just becomes drudgery.  I’ve discovered, I hate doing the same thing at the same time every day and it really shuts down my motivational juices.

How about you?  What have you discovered about yourself?  What have you discovered in working with other people?

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