Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Step two! There's so much we can do

I didn't watch Parks and Recreation, so I know relatively little about Nick Offerman from that context. My introduction to Offerman was in his capacity as a writer. He spoke at ALA Annual 2015 behind Gumption, whose twenty-one chapters profile twenty-one historic figures. When I heard Offerman read from Gumption, I was struck by the eloquence of his prose and his admiration for the people about which he had written. He was funny, sure, but he was also wise.

Offerman owns a wood shop and in addition to being a writer and an actor, he does woodworking. You might've seen the clip of Offerman giving Stephen Colbert a table? If not, its right there.

In advance of his new book, Good Clean Fun, Offerman did an interview with Etsy about what it's like to own a wood shop and to be a woodworker. And while it does have some great wisdom on woodworking and living a DIY lifestyle, it also has some great wisdom about life. When asked about the most valuable lesson he's learned from woodworking, Offerman writes:
I'd say patience is the most important thing I've learned from woodworking. From the get-go, all of my great teachers, many of whom have only communicated with me through the writing they've left behind, have said: Slow down and do this one step at a time.
This segues nicely into something I learned about myself at an in-house training last week. We were asked to talk about whether we saw ourselves as big picture people or as a details people and then, later, if we saw ourselves as visionaries or implementers. I suspect you think you know what I would say, and I also suspect that you might not be correct. While I might come across as a details person who enjoys implementing, I actually operate more as a visionary who is interested in the big picture.

Honestly? As a big picture person, details sometimes fill me with a sense of overwhelm. I can envision what I want the outcome of a project to be or what I want a final product to look like with relative ease. But I find the process of getting from what I pictured in my mind to the the tangible, final product a panic inducing one. While I love writing the blog, the blank page that signifies the start of another post fills me with the smallest hint of dread because I'm not sure how I'm going to shape my thoughts into words that you (hopefully) want to read.

Offerman's quote reminds me that whatever the project or product, it isn't a good use of energy to be overwhelmed with how to get from the starting line to the finish line. It is important to have an idea in mind when you start, yes. But instead of obsessing about how to get to the end from the beginning, it's more valuable to think about how to get from the starting line to the end point of the first step. Then, when you've finished the first step, you can direct your attention to getting from that point to the end point of the second step.

I'm going to try to keep Offerman's advice in mind the next time I'm working on getting from the endpoint in my mind to the actual product of my work. Slow down and do this thing one step at a time.

Stay positive,

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