The Fine Line Between Working Hard and Letting Go

Plus the Simple Heuristic I Use to Know When to Press in and When to Back Off

Some of my favorite memories of growing up are building model airplanes with my dad. I remember him showing me how to assemble, sand, and paint them. I think back on how proud I always was when we finished a project together.

On one occasion, I remember struggling to get two parts to fit together. I tried several different angles. Nothing seemed to work. I grew increasingly frustrated.

Calmly, my dad said, “Son, don’t force it.” I stopped what I was doing, looked up at him, and instantly knew he was right.

I relaxed, set down the parts, and started working on some other aspect of the project. An hour later, I returned to the obstinate parts and clicked them into place with no trouble.

Life is often like that, isn’t it?

Push any Harder and You’ll Break It

You do your best, but often you get to the point where you are in danger of breaking something if you press any harder. Then you realize that the best strategy is to let go—at least for a while.

I had an experience like that a few days ago.

I have been wanting to get more involved in Facebook live streaming for some time. I’ve done a few broadcasts during product launches but nothing fancy. I thought, “If I could figure out how to do side-by-side interviews, I could create a show based on guest interviews.” That got me excited because I love doing live video.

I tried a couple of different programs (OBS and Wirecast for you geeks). But I just couldn't seem to make them work the way I wanted. I would get 90 percent there, but no matter what I tried I couldn't nail that last 10 percent.

I grew increasingly frustrated. I kept thinking, “I just need to push a little harder.” Then I remembered my dad’s words. “Son, don’t force it.”

So, I relaxed, walked away from it, and decided to do something else. It’s just not worth breaking something. Instead, I had to believe that it was not meant to be. At least not for now.

Step Away and It Might Just Click

Interestingly, a few days later I stumbled across Vicky Lashenko on Facebook. She is the host of The Mompreneur Show. She was doing exactly what I wanted to do: side-by-side interviews.

So I reached out to her, and she graciously agreed to walk me through the process. After a thirty-minute video conference, I was all set. Just like the experience with my dad, everything clicked into place.

In life, we have to learn there is a fine line between working hard and forcing an outcome that isn’t meant to be.

How can you tell the difference?

A Simple Heuristic to Guide You

It’s mostly art and zero science, but I find one simple heuristic helps me avoid catastrophe: I monitor when my thinking turns from the problem I am trying to solve to me.

As long as I am focused on solving the problem and thinking about it, I’m okay. In fact, I find it stimulating. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle. But when I starting thinking about myself and start assuming the problem is me, that’s when it becomes unproductive.

There are two indicators I’m veering into the danger zone: my frustration level and my self-talk.

  1. Frustration is helpful if it motivates me to persevere and stay focused. But if it rises to the level where I get distracted and anxious, then it’s time to walk away.

  2. Self-talk is also an important gauge. If I start saying things to myself like, “I’m such an idiot,” or “Why can’t I ever seem to solve these advanced technical issues?” then I know I need to walk away.

That doesn’t mean the problem can’t be solved. But it does mean I’m not in a good state of mind to solve it. At that point I probably just need to crock pot the problem and let it simmer in my subconscious for a while.

If we don’t push hard enough, we never experience the breakthroughs that take us to the next level. But if we push too hard, we risk breaking something important—our physical or emotional health or even a relationship. It’s just not worth it.

We have to trust we’ll solve the problem eventually or that we’ll be fine even if we don’t. After all these years, it's a lesson I am still struggling to learn.

Where are you frustrated right now? Is it time to push harder or relax and trust?

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