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The Works

Do you know this ratio?

Notice what’s working

Do you know this ratio?

Here’s how runner Alexi Pappas was coached to think about how to manage the ups and downs of striving to be an Olympic champion.

“Whenever you’re chasing a big dream, you’re supposed to feel good a third of the time, okay a third of the time, and crappy or not great a third of the time, and if you feel roughly in those ratios, it means you are in fact chasing a dream. If you feel too good all the time, you’re not pushing yourself enough, and if you feel too fatigued, you might be burning out or having a mental-health challenge and need to reevaluate.”

This week I start working on the final substantial draft of my new book. It means I’m spending plenty of time in the okay/crappy thirds. I’ve been wrestling with this thing for a year, and it’s still (in bits) flabby, confusing, and meandering. To be clear, none of these are adjectives to which I’m aspiring to be as a writer!

I do appreciate the permission that this rule gives. Not only is crappy to be expected, it’s actually a necessary part of the process. So too is ho-hum-ness.

What’s hard is managing that experience, particularly if you’re an overachiever, or a people-pleaser … or now I think about it, if you’re human. The stuff that isn’t working tends to get magnified.

Here’s one way I try to manage the ebb and the flow. At the end of the day, my alarm goes off (Bob Dylan, Crossing the Rubicon in case you’re interested) and it encourages me to do two things. First, stop working. 🙂

Second, stop and notice one thing that’s worth celebrating from the day. I write it down in my journal. Just a sentence or maybe two. But it helps me see the balance between the grind, the confusion, and the joy of it all.

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.