I spent this week traipsing back and forth across Pennsylvania, literally the whole width of the state. My Grandpa died over the weekend, so I had a funeral to attend in Delaware Water Gap, which is on the New Jersey border. The next day I had a very long meeting in Williamsport. As home base for all the driving around I was in State College. For all the driving, I could have made it clear back to Portland.
I finally made it back to the squat Thursday night around 10:30 – 11:00 or so. I crashed by around 1:00 am and slept almost straight thru until 1:00 pm today. I had the worst time dragging my ass out of bed to go get Zeke from the kennel, and after I got him squared away I was so tired I went back to sleep around 3:00 pm, and slept again straight thru until about 8:00 pm.
When I did finally wake up I was so tired I could hardly think or function. I figured I needed food but I was way too tired to cook anything so I went to Subway — a huge no-no in my extrication efforts — and then, even worse, I broke down and bought a pack of smokes after not having smoked in over a month.
I hit a crash-and-burn energy wall today. I just simply ran out of energy for anything, even just to maintain what I already had going. The driving, the funeral, the meeting, being separated from my dog, sadness over my Grandpa, all of it beat me right the fuck down.
I was tempted to beat myself up over crashing so hard & being so undisciplined, but I’m not doing that. Instead I decided to try to learn something from it and I came up with the idea of ”personal energy distribution.” And so I fired up Illustrator and sketched out my own personal energy distribution.
I’m sure this is elementary and obvious to most conscious people but it’s a new perspective for me, so please bear with me.
The basic idea is this: everyone has 100% energy, and various demands of life eat through that energy on a daily basis. I crashed today because of the physical and emotional demands of the past week depleted my energy.
But more than that, being disciplined about something — such as avoiding unnecessary restaurant expenses or quitting smoking — requires a redistribution of personal energy, because discipline requires effort. If you’re already running at capacity, adding something new for which you need to be disciplined will almost certainly result in failure. An equivalent amount of energy has to be taken from something else in order to be successful; or, alternatively, extra personal energy has to be added from the outside, which typically ends up being in the form of coffee, high doses of B vitamins, or some other stimulant. Personal energy capacity can also be increased by improving health, but this has to start with discipline, which requires a redistribution of existing energy.
I’ve been approaching my whole extrication project from the point of view of money, but now I think that’s wrong. It’s not about the money, it’s about the energy. Downscaling expenses serves the larger purpose of freeing up my energy.
What’s interesting is that the concept of EROEI applies here. It’s possible to spend energy on things that actually give you more energy in the end. Improving health, as mentioned above, has a net positive return on energy investment. For some people large social gatherings may provide a positive return on energy investment, while for others it might be sex, and for still others it might be solitude.
What I also found interesting in sketching out my chart was that there wasn’t any place for a time component. Time seems to be irrelevant to personal energy. I can spend 16 hours drawing and have used up the same energy I would spend on 4 hours of client work. So for example in my “goal state” bar, I have “work” and “creative & intellectual pursuits” taking up the same amount of energy — but to achieve this, the time distribution would have to be 4:1.
Right now my energy distribution sucks. Intuitively I’ve known this for a super long time, but seeing a visual presentation makes it much more clear. I’m investing all this energy in client & agency work and getting back almost no energy return. I do get money, but again, reducing my expenses means I need less money and therefore don’t have to spend so much of my energy working. I spend almost no energy on anything that will increase my personal energy. No wonder I feel like shit most of the time!
To complicate matters, I have significantly less energy than most people. It has never been otherwise. Back in the day I had every medical test known to man to try to figure out the problem but to no avail. After extensive research I diagnosed myself with low thyroid function even though all the blood tests come back saying my thyroid is fine. I take a fairly intense herbal remedy for it, which helps a lot, but has not resolved the issue by any stretch of the imagination. I also have nut-case insanities that sap my energy and which are probably also unresolvable, even though they take up very little time. So on the whole I have to set my goals and plans and such at a much lower bar than anybody else. Which totally blows but what can ya do.
So I guess my next step then is to figure out something that increases my personal energy, and redistribute existing energy to that so I can be disciplined about it. At this point I have no idea what that might be. I’ll have to sleep on it I guess.
Redemption 03.03.2012 4-ish pm — I made up for yesterday’s Subway/smoking blunder:
- I chain smoked until I induced myself with nausea and a monster headache, at which point I put the rest of the pack down the (working) garbage disposal.
- I refused Girl Scout cookies from actual Girl Scouts. I am not enjoying them this very moment.
- I stashed away $50 toward my $1000 parachute fund.
- Looks like I may be free of my most problematic client.
I still don’t feel great, but I feel better.
To Ran’s comment: Declining empires are poor people! Now that I can see it, it makes sense that the aggregate macro would atomize down.