When the snow finally stopped falling this year, I compiled a list of creative endeavors that I planned to complete before and after work and on my days off. I was going to be a creative machine this summer and spend every free minute of my time hammering out a new project. Alas, it’s nearly the middle of July and I find myself falling short (as I actually do most summers) in completing many of those projects.
Why can’t I ever get my act together?
Seriously, though, there’s always a number of reasons for these perceived failures of mine. But usually it’s just due to a lack of time, energy, or because I’m already knee-deep in a large-scale project. In most cases, it’s some combination of all those factors. That, and my expectations are often too high for what I can actually accomplish during my off-time.
Producing quality work is demanding, after all. And by the time I clock out from my job, I’m pretty wiped out. I’m sure it’s no surprise to those who’ve gone before me, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to tackle anything mentally demanding after about 5 o’clock. I’m also starting to realize that as I get older this trend is becoming the norm!
I understand that everyone is busy. I also acknowledge the fact that most people have far more life responsibilities than myself. So I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining too much, especially since the reason I often run out of time is simply because I choose to tackle so many projects.
But I do need to remind myself every so often that there’s no way in which I could actually complete everything on my wish list. There’s just not enough time. Even if I was independently wealthy and didn’t have to hold a job, for example, it’s guaranteed that I’d still run out of time. “How is that possible?” you ask. Well, I’d just make my list that much longer! The universe won’t tolerate a void so the more space you have (i.e. time), the more space you have to fill (i.e. with activities).
So I try not to beat myself up too much about not accomplishing all of my projects. That said, the busy-ness of this summer does give me something on which to chew. I can’t help but consider the relationship between capacity, quantity, and quality and how they relate to each other.
Capacity, quantity, and quality need to work in harmony. You need to be aware of how much you can stretch a thing, whether that’s your mind, the resources at hand, or the time allotted in which to complete your work. That’s because at the point where you reach your capacity in pursuit of producing a higher quantity, the quality of your work begins to diminish. So, exceeding your capacity inevitably leads to producing garbage.
Now, I agree that pushing the envelope can lead to innovation and new discoveries. But you can’t expect to keep churning out quality stuff forever regardless of circumstance. There’s an ebb and flow to creation, and you have to be in-tune with that process in order to consistently (not constantly) produce quality work. If you instead choose to redline that machine in pursuit of a non-stop high volume output, that machine will break down. Guaranteed. And, you may discover one day that that machine is actually you. So we have to learn how to moderate and maintain the machine in order to maximize its output.
But maximizing output doesn’t necessarily mean making more or even doing more. Rather, I’d argue that maximizing output should yield better or of higher quality. Of course, “quality” is subjective so I’ll leave that up to you. But if you’re paying attention and making the necessary adjustments to the machine, chances are you’re going to produce something of value. And this is what I seek to do. I mean, what would be the point of squeezing a thing for all it has to give but end up with a final product that’s essentially unusable because its quality is of such a low grade? All that accomplishes is that it wastes time and resources.
Now, we do have to consider the opposite end of this equation in an effort to balance out the scales of quality. This would be the idea of producing something of absolute perfection. Rather than choosing the high volume route at all costs, we spend every waking minute and resource into making something so beautiful and perfect. The one and only. If it ain’t just right, we don’t ship it.
This, of course, is an unrealistic expectation and a trap because perfection is a myth. Well, let’s put it this way … perfection is in the eye of the beholder. And since everyone’s tastes are different, perfection is subjective. Besides, no matter how many people tell you that you produced something amazing, maybe even a masterpiece, your work will ultimately never be good enough for you. It’ll never meet your own standards. There’ll always be that nagging voice in the back of your mind saying that you should’ve done this or that. Don’t believe me? Just ask George Lucas.
The most important takeaway from this last bit is that perfection is the enemy of completion.
But how far can we take all of this regardless of the time allotted, effort invested, or our ability to live in the moment? Because, again, we just can’t do it all.
On a macro-level, what and how much can we accomplish in one lifetime? What’s the end result of us being here? Do we contribute in a positive way to those around us and to the world in general? Have we produced quality work? Or, have we just managed to reduce our lives down to a series of lists in which we can scratch off items?
And, then, what are we doing on a micro-level? What are our intentions from minute-to-minute and day-to-day? Are we doing good things, being creative, and inspiring ourselves as well as others to challenge our beliefs about what we can accomplish? Again, are we producing quality work? Or, are we just checking the boxes and marking time?
Obviously, those are questions that most of us (myself included) would need some time to answer honestly and thoroughly.
As always, though, this is the type of stuff I think about because if I don’t I know I’m going to wake up five or ten years from now and wonder where all the time went. Not because time flies. Rather, it’s just so easy to go on auto-pilot, make routine out of bad habits, and/or take shortcuts just to get through the day or work week. Clearly, none of those approaches to life are desirable for long-term growth and prosperity.
So this idea of routinely examining our lives (not necessarily every day) is that the process encourages us to learn to be present in the moment. As a result, we become conscious of the work in which we’re performing. And if you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, there’s a much greater likelihood that you’re going to do good things and produce quality work.
And this is good.
Because 2022 marks my third Big Year out of the past four years, I decided to write an article about participating in a Big Year (you can also click the image above to read it). The article is not so much a story about my experience, but rather it highlights some of the insight I’ve gained from doing Big Years. Even if you’re not thinking about participating in a Big Year, the article is worth a read simply for the fact that it’s essentially all about living an immersive life (something of which I often speak and write about).
Click the following link to see the current standings of the 2022 Tahoe Wildflower Big Year (for those of you who are interested, of course!). On the date that I published this newsletter (July 8, 2022), I was in second place with about 354 species. However, if you’re reading this newsletter five years from that day there’s a good chance that those rankings have changed. Or, at least all of our species counts have changed 🙂
Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…
Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.
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To broaden my audience and get more mileage out of these newsletters, I’ve begun to adapt them into short videos for YouTube. Here’s my second attempt at translating one (June 2022) into a video format. I’d like to eventually incorporate more short video clips into these videos since I often capture video of nature when I’m outdoors (but don’t use the footage anywhere else). Essentially, I want to make two different presentations with a minimal amount of extra work rather than just creating a 1-to-1 adaptation of these text and photo versions of my newsletters.
Really liked your wildflower pics! I have alot of wildflowers here where I live now! They each have their cycles of life! Didn’t know there were areas that were here that bloomed so many Russell Lupines!They are everywhere!
This is my 1st summer here..I moved here on September 30th last year and found it to be a spectacular area 4 fall colour!
I move into my tiny house on Friday and can’t wait to get everything rearranged to free up space in my shed! I found a pair of old gut snowshoes at the dump! They are in perfect shape to hang criss-cross fashion on the shed!
When I get more time I will take more pics of our trout lilies and red trilliums and start to hunt for lady’s slippers and morels as I am sure tgere are some here! We also have a population of pileated woodpeckers here! I found 2 trees so far that have their signature holes in them!
Better get moving here ..lots to do today!
Thanks again for adding to the conversation, Linda 🙂
I had to look them up to see what your wildflowers looked like as the specific varieties are new to me. But it looks like you have all kinds of amazing wildflowers around you! That’s cool that you have relatively easy access to watching Pileated Woodpeckers. They’re my favorite 🙂
Sounds like you’re having a great summer, so I wish you the best!
Take care, and keep in touch.