As a kid, I remember being told the story about the tortoise and the hare. I remember hearing slow and steady wins the race. Then again, as I grew older there was another saying. “Nice guys finish last,” which sounds a little conflicting if we think about it. As a matter of fact, I have seen production lines. I have been a part of crews that built machines. Come to think of it, there was a year in my young adulthood where I spent my time on a farm and at no point in any of these equations did anyone tell me “Slow and steady wins the race.” I was told to move faster. I was told “Hurry up,” but to be clear, the only time I was ever told to slow down is when I was firing off in too many directions. I was wasting energy and trying too hard. (Enter contradiction here.) Then I was told to slow down. This is when I learned about the rules of efficiency and the benefits of energy conservation.
Unrelated to my work life, there was a hike that I went on at a place called Catamount Mountain. This is not too high of a mountain but this is still a good hike, especially for a beginner. In full disclosure, I had never been on a hike before. I never walked the trails in these parts and at best, I thought a hike was some kind of a leisurely stroll. So, I packed my backpack with all the so-called essentials that I thought I would need. The pack was not very light, but hey, I could carry it, right?
It’s just a big hill, right?
I began my walk with a friend. Of course, I began this with confidence. Additionally, I began this trip while being a little more than slightly overweight. The summer air was thick with humidity and the sun was high and very hot. Put simply, the more we paced up the incline, the more I realized that I had not thought this trip through. The farther up we went, the more I realized that I might die on this one. My back was aching. My legs were weak. It was hot. And meanwhile, my friend who was in shape, was effortlessly walking ahead. And do you know what? I hated my friend on this day. I cursed him straight to hell. I kept asking “How much farther do we have to go?”
“Almost there,” he’d say.
What a liar!
I never thought much about the conservation of my energy. In fact, my only other relation to this is when a city-wide blackout hit New York. At the time of the blackout, I was part of a team that had to walk up the stairs in a commercial office building. Our mission was to escort some of the older tenants down the stairwell. It would be nice to report that the tenants were on the second or third floor; however, that would be dishonest. No, these tenants were somewhere on the 30th floor (or maybe higher) in a commercial high-rise. This meant that I was part of a team that had to walk up the stairs.
I began to march quickly. I wanted to show that I could make this trip ahead of some of the younger, more in-shape staffers. I began strong but in all honesty, I ended poorly, quickly and nearly failed my mission. Halfway up, I was trailing behind the team members. And again, I thought I was going to die! Once again, I failed to think ahead. I misused my energy and by the time I eventually made my way up to the tenant’s floor, I was huffing and puffing. I could hear my heart beating in my chest like a hollow drum. All I could think to myself is “Good God, man! I have to get in shape.”
One of the younger coworkers explained that in my haste to show everyone that “I could do it,” I wasted my energy trying to show that I was unafraid of my inabilities. “All you had to do was walk up the stairs at an even pace and you wouldn’t have burned yourself out,” said the young man.
Now, moving away from physical tasks and thinking about intellectual projects and deliverables, energy conservation is still an important part of our strategies to achieve our directives. Plus, understanding the differences in energy is a key element to our success.
It is important to understand the difference between the two:
Anabolic and catabolic energy; in which case, anabolic energy promotes growth.
Catabolic energy tends to break down.
For example, my idea to show these “Youngsters” that I could rush my way up the stairs was based on a draining mindset of fear and ego. I was not focused on the task itself. I was focused on emotional ideas that distracted me from the overall goal.
This drained me. However, had I simply taken the task and allowed myself an honest pace while focusing on the strategy of my plans; perhaps, I might have made it up the stairs without so much difficulty.
We have been talking about our communication skills and the way we think. We talked about strategic thinking over emotional thinking. We have talked about the benefits of good leadership and bad; however, it is important that we understand our energy and how we contribute to either one of two things: completion or incompletion.
We talked about people who yell. And by now, I am sure that we’ve all been yelled at. I know that we’ve all had bad days at work and at home. Life happens to everyone. However, the benefit of anabolic energy is the promotion of growth. This is what builds us. Meanwhile, catabolic energy is what breaks us down. I plan to discuss this more to promote a better personal understanding of this topic. In the meantime, forget about negative or positive energy. Forget about right or wrong. In this case, think about what serves us best. How do we conserve our energy and build? How do we navigate away from catabolic thinking that drains us and keeps us from delivering our best?
For the record, my first hike was tough. To be honest; I hated it! I was down on myself. I hated my friend for walking so effortlessly. I was uncomfortable with the fact that I did not have a strong physical ability. I was beaten both physically and mentally. I nearly quit. Perhaps if I was alone, I would have quit. More importantly, I learned from this. I learned to think ahead, pack appropriately, keep hydrated and conserve my energy. Later that year, I was doing 10 mile hikes up Panther and Horse Stable Mountain. And to be clear, I loved every minute of it.
(See where I’m going with this?)