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September 3rd, 2018
Take a break for break’s sake, but not for the sake some low-living activity that’ll sap your soul. Like a Facebook feed.
Apparently Salvador Dali and Benjamin Franklin would hold a set of keys and time the duration of their breaks from creativity this way. When the hand naturally loosened it’s grip after a couple dozen minutes and the keys fell, this is when each knew to go back to work.
Taking a break is an exercise in THE WELL-OILED ZOOM.
Often we need a break because we are so enmeshed in our work, or a specific problem in the work, that we cannot make sense of our basic orientation or location. We essentially get lost in a maze of our own making.
Taking a break is akin to hitching a ride on a helicopter to get a birds-eye-view of the situation. After that relaxing and lofty ascent, chances are high that when we look at the problem with a grander, more generous perspective, we are more likely to see the solution to our little problem. Looking down at a maze makes it much easier to solve relative to being in the maze.
The subtle art of the break comes from knowing when to push through frustration, and when to take a break instead.
This is similar to the sunk-cost fallacy that perpetuates a lot of poor human decisions. It happens when we’ve been standing in a grocery line for a few minutes after debating which one would be fastest and then finding that the one we’ve chosen is slow. The question becomes: should I continue to wait in this line since I’ve already put in the time waiting, or should I PIVOT and switch to a different line that is faster even if it has gotten longer?
If we translate this back to our efforts regarding some project or some particular problem we find ourselves hung up on, we might come up with a flexible formula that we can test for effectiveness: perhaps we PERSEVERE with a problem until we have felt frustration for fifteen minutes with the understanding that if no BREAKTHROUGHS occur during that time, then it’s time for a break.
The other side of this formula would have to dictate that we must continue to work on the project or problem while feeling frustration for a certain amount of time. Otherwise, if we took a break at the slightest feeling of frustration, it’s likely that we would simply constantly be giving up on all the things we attempt.
We might think of resistance training at the gym as an analogy. Too much weight can cause damage, and too little does nothing.
This episode references Episode 54: The Well-Oiled Zoom, Episode 72: Persevere vs. Pivot Episode 116: Breakthrough the Cloud Cover. If you’d like to explore those references more fully, please check out any of those episodes next.