Since asking this question to a friend at a recent conversation, I am haunted by this idea. As a kid, a fair amount of time was spent being bored. Holidays in rural France were boring. Maths classes were boring. Long weekends were boring. Being bored was natural, I would have all the space needed to let my mind go on the run. Hunting for random thoughts or resting my attention on vague ideas. That was the most common way to spend my time.
And as if I woke up from a long dream, I realized that I had not been bored in a long time. A really long time.
It was actually challenging to remember when was the last time I got genuinely bored. One, five, ten, fifteen years ago? No way to recall.
We have so many opportunities to do “something”. Something useful, or not. But I always have my smartphone reachable, mountains of articles to read, a stack of books to go through or catch up with awesome people. In previous posts, I have even written about following morning and evening routines. It is all about making sure to crunch as much productivity in the shortest period possible.
Around me, we start discussing about nurturing time to get bored. Appreciating and protecting these moments. We can aim at creating more value, but we shouldn’t stop cultivating boredom.
So, here is a challenge for you:
Would you sit back on your seat, put down your smart devices, stair through the window, and get bored a little while?
A few years ago, my own limits became clear. Work was overwhelming me – too many tasks, too many people involved. I wasn’t doing a great job at following up on projects.
The book Getting Things Done got me to realise that there are certain things a brain isn’t wired to do properly. That included memorising information, especially lots of bits and pieces of data. Instead, we’re naturally good at processing and making decisions.
Last week, we hosted a Community Leaders Academy in Beijing with passionate individuals. Most of them had been to a Startup Weekend before and some were considering to host one soon. More importantly, they are passionate about helping the next generation of entrepreneurs. Our three hours workshop started with “The Happiness of Community Building.”
I didn’t have a firm idea when I came up with the title but enjoyed the sound of it. These two concepts aren’t often tied together. And in practice, Community Builders don’t think of their happiness as they act and help others. A perfect opportunity to bring some debates to the table. Community Builders are often super-connector, invited everywhere, and extra insightful on the situation. But my own experience interacting with so many Builders throughout Greater China is very different. Community Building is lonely and challenging. There is no immediate reward, and large companies rarely consider it a hard skill.
My goal with this talk wasn’t to share a few tips but share a broader perspective to get the conversation going. These weren’t to be done at an individual level but agreed upon among peers.
The first idea was to refuse to celebrate constant hustle and around-the-clock work. The 24/7 or 996 (standing for working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week) aren’t healthy and can’t last long – especially with a high-pressure environment. I was toying with this question: “when was the last time you got bored?”
The second wish that I had for the audience was to get connected with other Community Builders. It’s a population that has so much in common that you often feel being on the same level. There is a lot to gain by getting together and celebrating our wins and challenges.
The final message was to start acknowledging and talking about mental health issues. In many places, it is tricky to openly discuss being burned out, depressed, and/or having a mental illness. Unfortunately, Community Builders are likely to pay too little attention to their situation. But we do have the influence to take risks and start that conversation.
With enough time, I would have shared my own story. I would have highlighted how developing a discipline helped me reaching harmony. Luckily, I will have a chance to talk about this topic at an upcoming conference in Shanghai (link here).
Have you started nurturing a community? Maybe for your job, possibly for fun. If you’re communicating with the same group of people on a common topic, the chances are that you’re part of one.
Are you a leader or a feeder? The leader would typically give the general direction to the movement and be aware of the small prints that get everybody on the same page. If you are the leader of a community, you should be observing that far from being a fancy position, you are facing some hard realities.
Your reach is only as strong as the individual’s engagement
There is a scale on how much you can expect from your community. Joining an online group being one of the simplest and expecting somebody to donate cash or their productive time being the trickiest. As you are lacking for direct incentives, you need to engage with people on many other ways.
Inertia takes time, momentum is bliss, memories are short
As you set up your community, it will take a lot of time to rally up people and get them on the same page.
Once the ball is rolling, the magic happens.
If you stop working and communicating, people will go a lot faster than it took to get them onboard
There is a way against loneliness
While the community best representation is a horizontal network, I found that you’d still have somebody behind the scene pushing the movement. For that person, it will be intense yet mildly rewarding.
The solution, mingling with other community builders. For some interesting reasons, brains of two community builders often click when they meet. They have the same set of values and interests and challenges.
This year, I read a lot — 38 books! Most likely a personal record.
I enjoy reading since I was young. First, reading science fiction and fantasy books — French ones that you never heard of. And as an undergrad student, reading business books was my thing. I saw each of them as a chance to accumulate some experience and opinion that I was lacking.
Starting in 2013, I have set yearly goals for myself. 2019 is no different but the most challenging and out-of-comfort-zone. Previous annual goals were inward-looking: I was working on myself by changing a habit for example. This time around, I will need to use everything I’ve learned and push myself.
A few years ago, I gave myself the goal to create a routine that I would stick to. The goal was to give my days a head start and make sure that I’d prioritize my health over work. It took approximately eight months to find what worked for me and start building that habit. It wasn’t a smooth journey but an important one. Since then, I have been casually helping founders and busy professionals to find a morning routine that would work for them.
Typically, somebody would reach out after one of my talks and share how they’ve been trying to get into a routine many times but unsuccessfully. The main reasons were 1/ hoping to get results by making significant sacrifices all at once 2/ lacking a structure they can stick to 3/ making this a social thing by announcing it everywhere.
Create a routine – build it for the long run
I have heard stories of professionals who would suddenly wake up at 4 am, workout for hours, meditate, and read the news. It often leads to a traumatic experience of the morning routine, the body cannot cope with such a sudden transformation.
The biggest challenge is to overcome the weakness of the mind. Fooling oneself is so easy. Creating a structure that doesn’t leave me a choice has been vital. For example, going to the gym every three days often end up being “any other day.” Whereas, doing some daily stretches doesn’t give you a chance to argue with yourself.
Some went on a full commitment by making it a social thing, probably missing the point that social pressure won’t work when it matters the most.
Getting into such a habit is accepting that results won’t be observable quickly. I wouldn’t see any improvement on my day to day without being consistent for at least three months. It’s also about starting things small, sticking to this new change, and increasing the intensity over time. Yep, it’s about committing to a new way of waking up in the morning and exploring this as part of a new journey.