I did something really hard last week. I stopped writing my first book. And, I have never been so proud to stop something that I had started. Let me explain…
While isolating at home last year I found myself watching too much cable news. I was drawn (and perhaps addicted) to the madness that was unfolding outside of the safety of my home. At first it was COVID, then it was civil unrest, then it was the election. It was like witnessing a really bad accident, and another, and another. I couldn’t turn away, and I couldn’t unsee what I was seeing.
The days in lockdown turned into months, and I slowly lost myself. I sat there glued to the television – night after night – in disbelief watching what felt like the world on fire, wondering why no one was doing anything about it. Who was going to lead us out of what was burning all around us? Sadly, no one did.
There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had too many of those days. I started to experience anxiety and panic for the first time in my life. Some days, I would just cry. I would cry about everything and nothing. There were some moments when I couldn’t find my breath. I would sit with my head in my hands, trying to find air through my tears and fears. It was all just too much, and yet I felt like I should be so grateful. Grateful for my health, for my family, for my work, for my privilege. I WAS grateful, and I was also in a lot of pain. Shame ensued.
A decide-and-doer by nature, I felt paralized by the fact that I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be the change, but didn’t know what that looked like. I wanted to contribute to a better future, but didn’t know how. I wanted to feel better, but felt utterly hopeless by my failed attempts to do so. I wasn’t just stuck; I was spiraling. My people were worried about me. I was worried about me.
On one magical day, I felt a jolt of energy shoot through my veins. This energy wasn’t fear, or worry, or panic. Instead, it felt more like inspiration. I opened a google doc and started to write. I feverishly typed an entire outline for a book that I felt galvanized to write. The outline took all but five minutes to type. At that moment, my fate was sealed. I was going to write a book that would help people to be the change, to contribute to a better future, to feel better about their leadership at a time when there was so much suffering. It felt like my entire career had led me to this moment. It felt SO right.
My Type A tendencies washed over me. Not only was I going to write a book, I would do it in 6 months. I convinced myself that writing this book would provide me with the meaning and purpose I was so desperately seeking during a really challenging time. I had my new BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). My book would be another shiny object that I would add to the ever-growing list of worthwhile accomplishments I had pursued with vigor in my 42 years.
I was all in. I wrote every day. I hired a writing coach, and then an editor. I was firing on all cylinders. I was getting shit done. And, I was miserable. I thought that writing would fill a void that it couldn’t. Instead, writing became just another thing on my list of things to do that I felt like I should be doing. It wasn’t something that I truly wanted to be doing. My anxiety only grew, my panic more frequent. In pursuit of trying to solve a worthy problem, I was sabotaging my health and my happiness.
I realize now that the book wasn’t the vehicle through which I wanted to elevate humanity. It was the vehicle through which I thought that I should elevate humanity. There’s a really big difference between wanting to do something and thinking that you should do something. I got caught up in shoulding, and shoulding never really pans out well for anyone.
So, last week, I stopped writing. I stopped doing what I thought that I should be doing in favor of doing more of what I want to be doing. I managed to short-circuit a cycle of overcommitting that I have been hardwiring for most of my life. It was hard. It was also liberating. Saying NO can free us up to saying YES to opportunities that will better serve ourselves and others.
I reached out to my editor, and shared my decision to take a beat. I have put the book to rest for now. Instead of writing, I am fully committed to doing the work that I genuinely want to be doing in this season of my life.
We just launched 10X Leadership Lab, and there is a ton of really important work that I want to be doing in pursuit of our higher purpose to transform work into a vehicle that elevates humanity. I am both liberated and empowered to say that today, I am ALL IN on co-creating a world class firm that does really important work. Perhaps, one worthy of writing a book about some day.