Falling With Style

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One of my favorite childhood movies was Toy Story. It was one of the few tapes we owned on VHS, so I watched this film over and over again. Toy Story is a classic – it was so good that Pixar has made multiple sequels (some worse than others…looking at you Toy Story 3).

The first Toy Story movie begins when Andy gets a new toy for his birthday. This isn’t just any toy – this is the new Buzz Lightyear action figure! It was the toy that all of the other boys Andy’s age coveted. The other toys, especially Woody, are skeptical towards Buzz. They are concerned that Buzz will steal Andy’s attention away from them, and that they will quickly be forgotten at the bottom of the toy box.

To make matters more interesting, Buzz is convinced that he is not just a popular action figure: he believes he is a real Space Ranger. Woody is appalled by this claim and challenges Buzz to prove that he can fly. In a turn of events only possible in an animated children’s movie, Buzz utilizes a Hot Wheels car, a toy ramp, and a ceiling decoration to soar through the air at seemingly breakneck speeds, to the amazement of every other toy watching….except for Woody. Still concerned about the possibility of losing his status as the “favorite toy,” Woody fights back with a quote that we all know by heart.

“That’s not flying! That’s….falling with style.”

Here’s the question I want to consider today. What if “falling with style” is actually a very good thing? What if it’s a strategy that we can utilize to our advantage? What if it’s a technique that will help us become more productive and devote more of our time to the things that are most important to us?

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Last month, I read the book “Finish” by Jon Acuff. Acuff writes that although many people create goals, only around 8% of those people actually finish what they set out to accomplish. Throughout the book, Acuff gives various tips and pieces of motivational advice designed to help people reach their personal and professional goals. For me, the most helpful piece of advice in the book was not an instruction on what to do, but a caution against what not to do.

Acuff says that we need to “decide what we are going to bomb.” For him, it’s his lawn. He acknowledges that many men take the appearance of their yard very seriously, spending countless weekend hours mowing, trimming, edging, and weeding. Their reward is the improved curb appeal of their house and the jealous looks of their neighbors.

When it comes to taking care of his yard, Acuff is “falling with style.” He is utilizing failure to his advantage, and turning it into a success. He doesn’t mow himself – he hires a company to come and do it. He doesn’t weed. He doesn’t edge. He doesn’t have the best yard on the block. What he has instead is additional time to do what’s more important: writing his books, perfecting his speaking abilities, and spending time with his family.

Nobody can be good at everything. As painful as this may be to admit, it’s true for each of us. We are all forced to pick and choose what matters most in our lives. When I was in college, I remember hearing often that I could not have good grades, good sleep, AND a good social life, but I could pick two of the three. I’ve learned that post-college life requires similar choices, with many more options to choose from.

We need to learn how to fall with style.

So, how can you “fall with style?” What task or assignment do you need to intentionally bomb, so that you can focus on more important things? Here are three areas that I am deliberately “falling”:

  1. Movies and TV Shows – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve embarrassed myself by not being familiar with a popular movie or TV show. Even worse are the times when I try to make a reference, and then get it completely wrong! I don’t really watch TV or movies anymore. My wife and I have two TV shows that we watch together when we want to have some down time: The Office (we’ve seen every episode several times) and Impractical Jokers. We refuse to start any new TV shows, because we don’t want to become “hooked” and spend too much time behind a screen. This small sacrifice has given us large amounts of time that we’re able to repurpose towards other important things.
  2. Breakfast and Lunch – I used to eat out for lunch almost every day. After I took time to decide where to go for food, got in my car to drive to the restaurant, order the food, eat the food, and go back to my office, I had wasted almost an hour. Not only was this an unwise use of my time and money, the mental energy spent on choosing a place to eat left with me less energy for my afternoon projects. Now, I pack the same breakfast (two bananas) and the same lunch (a sandwich, piece of fruit, and one serving of Wheat Thins) every day. This food is easy to eat while at my desk or on the go, and I no longer to spend significant time deciding and acquiring what I will eat each day. Now, I will only go out for lunch if I have another person or group of people to go with.
  3. Golf – I used to golf at least once a week. It was a good way to spend time with others, but I also occasionally went to play by myself.  It was one of my favorite hobbies. Today, I still enjoy playing golf, but I have decreased significantly the amount of time and money I devote to the sport. I have played only twice since the first week of August. Although I miss the time spent on the golf course, I have enjoyed having extra time to work out, study, and spend time with non-golfers.

I have seen the effectiveness of this discipline first-hand. However, I know I still have room for growth. Here are three more potential that I am trying to give up, but have found to be more difficult.

  1. Email – I check email obsessively, but more often than not, I don’t find anything urgent or overly significant in my inbox. When I check email 2-3 times per hour, I force my brain to disengage from the project I am working on each time. It may take several minutes for me to get back to the level of focus I had before.  I could get much more done if I wasn’t so tied to email. One method I have found helpful is to view my windows in full-screen mode with my “do not disturb” settings turned on. Although I still may scroll to the other screen to check my email every so often, this helps me avoid clicking on each email as it appears.
  2. Social Media – Social media is a trap! It is good for many purposes, but can be the ultimate distraction and time-waster. The most frustrating thing about social media is that there is ALWAYS something new appearing. I can log off Twitter for a half hour and miss anywhere from 20 to 100 tweets. I will also confess that I sometimes turn to social media for a “mental” break during the day, instead of relying on healthier options for rest such as taking a walk or striking up a conversation with a co-worker. I am working on sacrificing my social media involvement and awareness for the sake of focusing on more important things.
  3. Cleanliness – I am a neat-freak. Mary will be the first to tell you. Everything in our house has a place, and once I walk in the door, it will quickly find its place. Sometimes, I lie to myself and say, cleanliness is important because when everything is clean, you will be able to relax. Just like social media, this is a trap. There will always be one more closet that could be decluttered, one more box in the garage that could be cleaned out, or one more area of the yard that could be touched up. It will never all be done. Sometimes, I would be better off to leave a dish in the sink or a dirty shirt on the floor if it meant that I could spend an extra moment in prayer or be fully attentive to a conversation with Mary.

Now that I’ve reflected on my stylish fallings, I would love to hear from you. What do you think about this idea? What do you wish you had the strength or self-control to “bomb?” How do you think this discipline could help you?

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