Slowing Down to Speed Up: Top Tips For Playing the ‘Professional Long Game’

I caught one heck of a flu bug this time two weeks ago.

You know the kind: a truly knock-down, stay-down kind of virus that had me crawling on my hands & knees to get from my bed to the couch where I would collapse & whimper entire days away.

To say this bug was a zinger would be the understatement of the year. I was felled & absolutely miserable. Usually active at work, at home, in the community – I had to stop. Not slow down. Not bring things down a notch. STOP.

Like running headlong into a brick wall, I was left with a wicked headache from the blunt force & found myself splayed out on the floor – unable to move, forced to concentrate on simply breathing & healing.

Simple, basic survival became seemingly complex. And, at times, mustering enough strength to sip some water drained me completely. I was so sick that I couldn’t even rage at silly people on Facebook who misdiagnosed me with a common-cold instead of a mountain-of-a-virus-that-would-crush-any-man-flu-known-to-humanity.

Gah! I can be a wimp at times, but this was the real deal.

If there’s anything I am, it’s constantly in motion.

Being so ill, I couldn’t do anything. Literally. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. Definitely couldn’t do anything I’d typically class as ‘productive.’ Which meant I wasn’t just unwell, I was also frustrated to the point of tears.

Most days I’m up before the dawn (between 3am – 5am). I read, write, gym, & plan for the day ahead. I find I’m most productive early on as I greet each new day. Plus, sorting through things early in the morning leaves time for the ‘meeting culture’ of modern corporate world where there seems to be little time for actual ‘doing’ in between all of the planning for the doing (there’s an entirely different post on meeting cultures coming!)

So, being home for a week without being able to muster the energy to do anything other than get better, was a wake-up call that I needed heading into a busy summer season ahead.

For the first two days of groaning on the couch, I tried to will myself well enough to do something. Laundry? It needed doing. Writing? Blank pages weren’t going to fill themselves. Work emails? They were calling my name. Wedding planning? Only a month to go, Cass… do something!

But I couldn’t. I played mental war with myself. Judged my own ability to heal quicker that I was. Talked myself into at least trying to do something. But, nope. Body says “STOP!”

So I did. I stopped. And, it was awesome. Oh hindsight, you’re a funny & illuminating gift. In stopping for a week to heal & in slowing down for the next two weeks – allowing myself to truly physically get better’ – I’ve been able to recharge & become more efficient with my time at work & at home.

I concentrate on specific tasks more readily, & I listen to my body more. When I’m tired, I slow right on down instead of pushing myself past the point of exhaustion.

I honestly think that the universe had something bigger in mind in choosing to give our household this gross virus. What was that something? I reckon it was learning a well needed lesson.

What did I learn? Mostly, I learned to quiet my own inner-voice of self doubt.

The world didn’t stop just because I did. Funny that. So, in the spirit of sharing life lessons & wisdom, below are some ways that I’ve found help me to embrace a slow-down (self-imposed, or otherwise).

Cracking the corporate world (or life in general) isn’t about burning out or burning up… it’s about those sprints & rest periods. Both are as essential to success as the other.

Slowing down to speed up? That’s the ticket!

  1. It’s okay to feel weird when you slow down

    Slowing down is weird for a lot of us – for so many reasons. We’re taught that, to be successful in corporate environments, we must always be busy. Busy in meetings. Busy with reports. Busy looking back. Busy forward-planning. I call this our collective ‘Glorification of Busy’ & have made an earnest effort to not use the word ‘busy’ when people ask me how I am. So it’s only natural that, when we are forced to slow down or stop, we feel somehow not worthy enough. Not productive. Not at the top of our game (which, if you’re ill – you’re not meant to be! You’re meant to be resting.) I think we need to start spending more time slowing down on purpose. We need to get comfortable with bucking the trend & shake off our collective burden of busyness. I personally am much more efficient, engaged, & creative at work when I slow down & take time out to think, create, & prepare. Even the fittest sprinters on earth can’t sprint all of the time – they perform in magical bursts of amazing athleticism, & then rest & recover. We need to work this into corporate life, too. Here’s an idea: let’s all feel weird together more often & revel in slowing down so that we can really hit the ground running when we need to.

  2. You don’t have to fill every moment – let every moment fill you

    I know, I know. Talk about a syrupy-sweet bullet point. That said, I believe in this so very much. We get caught up in so many moments of stress, & tiny detail, & workplace politics that we forget to stop, look up, & really appreciate the amazing people around us. If you’re like me & head away from home each day to spend most of your waking hours in an office building, then you’ll know what it’s like to be thrust into a goldfish bowl of strangers from different ponds – suddenly working towards a shared objective or common goal by rights of working for the same organisation. So often we get lost in our own little moments by trying to fill them up, that we forget to look up, take a deep breath, and simply enjoy the presence & unique expertise of our colleagues. My personal brand at work is one I’ve chosen with my eyes wide open – I believe in heartcounts,  not headcounts. I believe we’re all in this together, & because of that, should treat each other with kindness, respect, & allow ourselves to be vulnerable, genuine, & have fun while we’re at it. Filling moments isn’t key to success in life & work – allowing moments to fill you is. Finding joy in the mundane. Celebrating wins with gratitude. And slowing down to get to know each other & build trust are fundamental to balance.

  3. Enjoy the small details (dew drops on blades of grass, laughter of colleagues, hugs from family & friends)

    I love getting lost in a moment & really honing in on the beauty of small details that, all added together, paint the bigger picture of the world we’re all living in. As a mother, I’ve been able to watch the joy of discovery for so many ‘firsts’ on my daughter’s face – and her joy has consistently reminded me to look for awe in the minutia of our daily routines. Some of my fondest memories of work over the past 15yrs have been when colleagues and I have fallen to the floor in fits of laughter – exhausted from project work, but in it together & therefore able to enjoy time together literally ROFLing. On the weekends I desperately search out time to spend walking outdoors. There’s absolute magic in how the colors of the leaves on tress don’t change at all, but then seemingly do so all at once. Slowing down can simply be reveling in a long hug with a bestie, or complimenting a colleague. Little moments of awareness make up a life fully lived.

  4. Read actual books (tactile)

    Yep. The kind with pages & no instant notifications (AKA distractions.) I’ve always loved reading, but have drifted towards e-books over the past wee while. I can’t tell you how amazing having a physical book in my hands – & making the time to read it uninterrupted – is. Sometimes I can only steal away 15 minutes or so, but even a little bite of the bigger pie in a world of being time-poor is a sweet-fix for the mind & soul. I’ll also bring my books along to the gym & read them whilst on the elliptical or stationary bike. Books are magical portals into other worlds, realities, thought-patterns, & emotions. If you’re keen to slow down more & still do something, my advice is turn off your device & pick up a good book.

  5. Drive to the beach

    This is my absolute, go-to, zinger-of-a-remedy when I know I’m burning out. Going a million miles a minute isn’t something you can do forever. It’s also not something  that most people do at the beach. But, deep thinking, meditation, & getting lost in daydreams is. There’s something soothing in the rhythm of the waves that slows the body & soul at once. Sand underfoot, salty air being breathed in. It’s like a big ‘ol RESET button for busy urbanites. I love how powerful & grounding it is to feel small next to the ocean. When problems & worries add up & feel bigger than Ben Hur, sitting on the shoreline helps me feel tiny & reminds me that the stresses & problem of now aren’t as big as we all think. Sitting next to a living, breathing entity that is ruled by the pull of the moon is a salve for even the weariest hearts. When a re-set is needed, find your place.

So, there you have it! Some tried-and-true advice on slowing down in order to speed up. We all have to feel as though our proverbial cups are full – full of passion, purpose, love, energy – and when they start to drain, it’s up to all of us individually to take the time (and the responsibility) to slowly refill & refuel.

Resist the urge to glorify the state of busyness. Spend time on slowing down.

~ Cass

Welcoming Disappointment

Being an adult (a happy one) is a many faceted thing. Happiness being an individual construct, we all get there on our own time, taking our own roads, and learning different lessons along the way that help us distill the good-stuff into such a potent potion that all we’re left with is appreciation.

One of the biggest moments of clarity in the realm of being at peace and finding happiness part of my life came when I realized that everyone’s a little bit messed up. And I mean, everyone. The people you love, the people you don’t. And even the people you most look up to. And it’s this imperfect perfection that binds us all together in empathy and confusion.

Being at peace with the messed-uppedness of the world around us is liberating. Truly. When you’re able to accept that disappointment & futile attempts at understanding the intentions of the universe might either break you or make you – then you’re well on your way to finding firm footing in a world always in flux.

I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that everyone’s imperfect from a very young age. It was almost as if, as a child of summer and heatwaves, I had a super-powered empathy switch that let me see other children and adults as beings who were searching for something they’d never achieve. Was it perfection they longed for? I think it was. In their quests to become as close to perfect as they could, they stumbled. Often. And, each stumble or misstep broke them. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes they were just a little bit broken. So, while many couldn’t see them, I clearly saw the cracks in their facades in eyes that didn’t dance while lips tried to mislead us with false smiles on rosy cheeks. Both the light and the darkness pushed and pulled in a tug-o-war of shadows across strained, stressed out faces.

They were trying to hide disappointment. Disappointment. Gah! It shatters people – I’ve seen it. I’ve been it. And, over time, I’ve learned to quickly move on from it.

I decided a long time ago, before Pinterest and pithy internet quotes, to not just forgive others for their fucked up states or for disappointing themselves/me/each other. But, to forgive myself first. We carry so much in this world already – why carry guilt, anger, stress, or negativity? Those things are so laden with solitude. With sadness. With bone crushing exhaustion. I instead carry curiosity, forgiveness, and understanding. As cliche as it sounds, we all do get to choose how to act and react to life. To moments. To sadness and joy. This isn’t to say that I never grapple with frustration, soul crushing despair, and other negative feelings. I do. I just accept these feelings. I stop where I am, acknowledge them. Work through why I’m feeling them. And then drop them. I will not carry them – not for long.

Many times in life, recognizing when to close a chapter versus when to keep putting pen to paper will be the difference between being happy – and not. My advice is simple: let go of what you cannot change. Hang onto the people who make you feel invincible and silly. And, forgive yourself quickly – even if you’ve fucked up royally. Beauty is all around in the random, unchangeable, and irreverent ways of the world. All of my heroes have feet of clay.

I know this much is true.

Below is a video I shot recently on the very topic of Disappointment. Have a watch, share it if you like. And, remember to go easy on yourself.

The Day That Changed Everything

I recorded my first vlog last Thursday (New Zealand time.) It’d been a long time coming. A reaaaaaallllllllllllllllllly long time.

You see, I’ve been writing long-form and short-form blogs on topics ranging from fitness, to parenthood, to leadership, to feminism, to Dad Jokes for nigh on a decade now (yes, I am THAT old). So it just made sense that vlogging would be the next step for me when it comes to embracing the tickle of creativity in new forms and channels.

That said, there’s always been a little hitch in my proverbial get-along when it comes to posting a vlog. Writing has always come naturally, almost easily, to me. Words are comforting. In them I find routine, familiarity, and power. Discovering new words and marrying them together with those I’ve written a million times over to form a rhythmic sentence is a joyful experience. Blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, and Tumblr posts are malleable, editable. And, they allow me the freedom to re-jig a sentence or a paragraph if the first version wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined. In short: even though I can am fearless behind a camera, and in facing a blank page that yearns to be filled with emotions and dreams and pain… I am shit-scared of looking down the lens of a camera and opening up.

I’ve got all of the whiz-bang gear that any self-respecting Youtuber in the making needs. A sharp DSLR camera. Lighting rig. Heavy-duty tripods all around. And an opinion on most things (with, unlike many young content creators, decades of experience to back up said opinions.) That said, it took something big, frightening, and altogether maddening to get me into the DOING the doing. The only way I was truly going to allow myself to feel vulnerable, unprotected, and open to criticism, was in speaking up for others more vulnerable than me.

That’s why I had to do it Thursday.

Thursday was the day that the President of the United States decided to strike out at a brave community of already marginalized people. He, in a series of hateful tweets, tried to crush the aspirations and professional journeys of 15,000 trans Americans serving in our military back home. I know that this was a diversionary tactic meant to distract from his other criminal behaviors. But, this time he picked on the wrong people. At the wrong time. On the wrong platform. I for one had finally had enough.

From the moment I woke up to Trump’s idiotic, bombastic tweets I actually felt a both a physical and emotional response in myself. My eyes cried angry tears. My next blushed red with anger. And, I felt completely hopefully to do anything to help anyone. Being so far from home, I couldn’t join in the marches, or help the cause on the ground with my physical presence. And, I didn’t think something as simple as words on a page would be enough to let our trans brothers and sisters across the world know that they’re not alone. That I’m here for them. That they’re burdens on no one.

And then it hit me, this was the time. I needed to give those who feel like they don’t have a one, a voice – by using mine. For the first time ever, I needed to make a stand and speak up.

Trans people are not a burden.
They are brave.
They are strong.
They are worthy.

When simply leaving the house in the morning is an act of defiance, then I could face an unquestioning camera in an empty room and add my voice to their fight. Thursday (and, for that matter, every day) was as good a day as any to reaffirm the beauty in our differences. All of us. In my vlog, I ask my fellow Americans – as well as other global allies and citizens –  to stand with me in protecting our most vulnerable.

It was touch-and-go there for a moment when I thought I might break down into tears. Or spout expletives in rage. But, for those without a voice, I tried to use mine in the most respectful way I thought possible at the time.

Below is the video I made. Please watch it, and if you’d like, share it. If only one person watches it and sees that there’s help and love in the world for them – and they realize that others will stand with them and help carry the weight of their world – then I’ve done my job.

Our country was founded on the acceptance of difference. On different-ness.  Creed, race, religion… all of it. We need to go back to celebrating that which both binds us and makes us unique. We need to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.

Kindness first, always.

#NotMyPresident #TransRightsAreHumanRights

Where do you go when the universe is too heavy to carry?

Where do you go when the universe is too heavy to carry? Some people head to the mountains, to the bottom of a bottle, or search out a dark desert road to see the stars.

Me? I go the ocean.

Without fail, when I feel like the world around me, or inside of me, is on the verge of crumbling – my heart (& feet) lead me to the sea.

I go there to feel alive.

As alive as anything could ever be, without questioning why we’re all here in the first place. No inner-voice. No inner-critic. Just the world, the universe, this moment – and life. We get so busy with trying to balance the needs of others with our own inherent needs. And, often, we forget to give ourselves the space and time needed to simply feel. To simply be alive. To be human. The ocean reminds me to slow down – almost to stillness. Even with a seaside din around me, silence becomes a constant, mind clearning, companion by the sea.

I go there to feel small.

As small as a single drop of water dancing, uncontrolled, through waves and white water. The water transfers the taste of salt from invisible sea-spray on my lips. And, the sting of sunlight on my face is intensified. When I feel small, my problems – even the gargantuan ones – feel tiny. Palatable. Less palpable. When you stand beside a heaving piece of the universe, one that always has been and always will be bigger, bolder, and more brash than you or any human on earth, happiness becomes imminent and present. And, I find, so do I.

I go there to listen to the Earth.

Can you hear it breathing? In and out. Out and in. In and out and in again. Birds, people, wind, water, the shore… all crashing together in a beautiful ballet of sonorous sensation. Harmonious chaos. Perfection. With eyes closed, I’m able to drift away to different times – those gone, and hopeful ones ahead. I can also hear echoes of people past. Their lessons come back to me and echo in my mind. Why give into stress, hurry, worry, and the modern glorification of ‘busy?’ By the ocean, it all falls away. All of it. There’s no busyness or fear of deadlines pushing you under the waves. If you’ve got a board underneath you, you ride the waves as if you’re a part of the actual fabric of the earth. When you listen without interruption, you’re able to take every whisper and laugh in and hold it close to you.

It’s been a rough week. But here, by the ocean, my soul feels light again. Toes in the water, I’m simply here. The sea heals. It forgets. And, it shoulders the weight we oftentimes can’t.

So, where do you go when the universe is too heavy to carry? Some people head to the mountains, to the bottom of a bottle, or search out a dark desert road to see the stars.

I go to the ocean.

Keppel Island Sunset