Diving headlong into dread

dog jumping into kiddie pool

Now that it's safely behind me, I can confess that I was not looking forward to my trip to Washington, D.C., last week.

I made my plans a few months ago, when I was still excited about the prospect of working at speaking, working at consulting, working at this thing I've been working at for the past couple of years, helping people wrap their heads around social media, for want of a better descriptor. I jumped at any chance to speak, and even more quickly if the trip included travel. And to D.C.? A place I hadn't seen since my eighth grade class trip...from Chicago...on a bus?

Yes, I would very much like to do this job.

Only there were some problems. I was aware of them from the get-go, just like I'm aware of all kinds of other warning signs I choose to fuzz out or otherwise overlook: the diminishing sense of return I got from consulting; the dimming enthusiasm I felt for various self-promotional endeavors; the increasing intake of alcohol on school nights.

Worse, there were the spikes of enthusiasm for things which pointed in the opposite direction, like increasingly non-marketing-oriented blog posts and newsletters. Or the odd, one-off personal-coach-y coaching session I was talked into (and secretly loved, and told no one about). Or my bright and shining moment of pure truth and beauty on the stage of the Bagdad in Portland. talking about poop and love.

So week after week, I found myself not re-working the presentation, but working some damned fine excuses. Exhaustion was a good one, as was my being ridiculously overcommitted, as was every procrastinator's favorite trump card, the holiday season. And then finally, in the new year, which I'd cleared out in anticipation of needing to close some loops, my personal life went into a tailspin and, well, you gotta deal with that.

I boarded that excellent airliner to D.C. with no small amount of dread, sweating out that first half-day in town. And then I made a decision: I might go down, but I'd give it my all before I did. Because if nothing else, there were people who had stuck their necks out to bring me in for this talk, even though it wasn't strictly inside my proven area of expertise. I went to bed Wednesday night thinking, "You will come up with the framework that ties this together, and you will tie it together the best that you can."

An interesting thing happens to me when I really and truly give myself over to an idea: it starts taking shape. To be fair, I'd had the talk in the back of my head for weeks; I knew where things didn't line up. And I'd had a couple of in-depth conversations with the organizers, so I knew what kind of help the attendees were going to be there looking for. Still, I went to bed with nothing and woke up, at 2am, with an idea. And because I had no pen and paper by the bed, I made myself feel my way to my friend Jared's office where my laptop lay sleeping, pulled up a text file and spewed out everything that had bubbled up. And then all day Thursday and most of the day Friday and very early in the morning Saturday, I did not sightsee or lounge about or cocktail it up with my peeps: I worked.

And lo, it worked. Ten or 12 or 15 hours of me and PowerPoint, me and Photoshop, me and Firefox later, it came together and helped connect the dots for people the way I'd hoped it would (and, from the sound of it, the way the organizers had, which was only slightly less important to me).

I learned a great deal this past week about work: both how I like to handle it and how I end up handling it when I don't handle it as I'd like. I'm both thrilled that I'm at a place where I know my stuff well enough to pull things together swiftly, and aggravated at my entrenched habits of procrastination. It's something I really want to look at this coming year (starting tomorrow! on Groundhog Day!).

I also learned that sometimes, as I did when I signed on to help Cliff Atkinson with the first L.A. Presentation Camp, sometimes you have to let that crazy, impulsive side of you jump out and say "YES!" even when the prudent side of you might not. That is stretching of the good type: you, taking what you do to the next level. After which you're free to enjoy the clean air and fine views on this new plateau, or take your snapshot for posterity and head back down the hill (or to another hill entirely).

The world will never want for cocksucking boulders to push or motherfucking hills to push them up. That is what the world is made of: cocksucking boulders and motherfucking hills.

May you put your shoulder to the right ones this year; may you enjoy the view at the top, and everything in between...


Image by hotfield via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.