Thursday, May 20, 2010

Take a Day Off

I can still hear the brogue, rough and smooth at the same time. "Take a day off" my grandfather would often say. Yet he, Patrick O'Connor, was one of the hardest workers I've ever seen. Clearly he knew the reality of balance and his wisdom is essential in our 24/7 environment.

Technology pushes us to be constantly present. Reports of people sleeping with their PDAs by them on the pillow is not uncommon. As technology allows us to stray from the office, simultaneously it binds us to our work late into the evening and on weekends. There is a societal expectation of immediate response to a text or email and often if we don't respond immediately the person will call to find out why we did not answer. This is not healthy especially when trying to unleash personal greatness. Why?

Without the mental and physical down-time there is no rejuvenation. We need time away both mentally and physically to allow our bodies and minds the rest they deserve. Beside, though we think we will accomplish more as we toil away 24/7 it is simply not true. We are less creative, vulnerable to stress, and gradually unable to function.

Simply taking 20 minutes at lunch to GET AWAY from your desk can drive more productivity in the afternoon. But taking a full day off, to most of us that is not possible. Yet, taking time to be quiet, to think, to rest is one of the most powerful, productive strategies we can employ. It is in those moments that new ideas blossom, relationships develop and the body replenishes. It's not easy. I know. But over the past month I've explored taking quiet time in the morning, before turning on the computer, my PDA, or reading the news. Creative ideas came in those early hours, along with some necessary soul searching.

My grandfather was right. Take a day off. It will do you good; body, mind and soul.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Great, Almost Great and Perseverance

Over the past week I've encountered the famous, not-so-famous, and possibly-going-to-be famous and I've been reminded of probably the most important factor in greatness: perseverance. Our perseverance might just determine how successful we will be in unleashing our personal greatness.

Last week, Bruce Springsteen walked right by our window in Asbury Park checking out a courtyard that is next to our bookstore. There was no one with him, no hordes of crowds following him and he seemed a bit lost. Yet later, on the street with his wife, we saw the Bruce that everyone knows waving to people and shaking their hands. A police officer who has been in Asbury Park for years told me he remembers Bruce sitting outside of the stores on Cookman avenue with his guitar case open playing for quarters. Tough to imagine but Bruce persevered and became "The Boss."

On May 2nd we hosted Junot Diaz, author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" which won the Pulitzer Prize. Junot shared the reality of coming to the United States from the Dominican Republic not knowing the language, putting himself through college and then spending 11 years writing his book. There was one point where he stopped and couldn't write for years. But he persevered and finished his book. Junot said "As a Hispanic, I have to do everything three times better than the next guy just to get noticed."

Freddie Vargas, who was also present on May 2nd, is a film writer and producer and is also from the Dominican Republic. He came to the States, learned English, put himself through college and still works multiple jobs so he can pursue his passion: making movies. He just won an award for his short movie "Hispaniola." When I asked Freddy how he succeeded he told me "You have to have a passion for what you do. And you have to persevere through everything that's thrown at you." He persevered and is now working on his first full length film.

Sometimes I think that as a privileged white male I haven't really learned about perseverance. It is easy for me to gain access to people and put my ideas out there. What would happen if things got tough? How about you? Got a dream you've put aside because it was difficult? Or are you still pursuing it in the face of all obstacles? Persevere!