Scaling Up in a World Stuck in Fast Forward

As the character Ferris Bueller said in his classic 1980s movie, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

Especially these days, life seems to be on permanent fast forward. Even when we're sitting still, our minds are racing with a to do list and a to don't list; what to make for dinner or what to wear to work tomorrow; did we feed the plant/dog/child, and how much longer before we can go back to bed?

Recently, I read a Quartz article shared by Susan Cain, where it made the argument that we need space away from being constantly overstimulated to think, dream, and decompress. It goes right along with the data of the most ideas are thought in the shower. This led me to dig a bit deeper on why we glorify busy so much, when the data says that those that are busy don't feel in control of their lives, have more depression symptoms, and are generally "over": overtaxed, overworked, and overscheduled. There's one study that highlights the need for humans to have purpose, which translates into doing activities for some sort of reward. While I agree that humans especially need some sort of purpose in life, I think we stretch this as much as we can, assuming that superhuman strength and ability to do 100,000 things at once is inherently human.

Whether we're keeping up with the Joneses or beating our own personal records, sometimes we need to take a step back and focus on the basics. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've started riding horses again after an 8-year hiatus. Though I grew up with horses and did a bit of everything growing up, riding as an adult is definitely different. This has been no more apparent now than ever, as I've started jumping again. 

As I mentioned in "Does your life need a half halt?", I've had some experiences with jumping before that have settled themselves in my brain. The night I flew over my horse and into the jump (thrice) is the night I also completely lost my confidence - in my horse, in my trainer, in my riding abilities, and in myself. Granted, I had two more years of showing to build some of that back up, but I had never noticed the scars until now. 

Each experience, good or bad, shapes us. We create and mold different connotations with events, people, and places. For me, jumping was always something that I aspired to do, but I never really thought I'd be brave enough again. As an adult, that insecurity is even more so; I think about how my health insurance could be a bit better, and after buying a $200 helmet, my head nor my wallet don't want to go through helmet-buying again. 

The catch-22 with equestrianism is that you're taught from an early age to essentially fake it til you make it. Your horse can feel fear, anticipation, nervousness, anxiety, happiness, joy, contentment, and everything in between. If I'm constantly fretting about the sad state of my copays lest I fall off, I'm not actually riding - in fact, I'm preparing to fall off. 

 Been there, done that.

Been there, done that.

My trainer has been absolutely wonderful. I trust her and the horse, and I'm slowly overwriting my scars and gaining some confidence back. I'm even showing the horse in a small local show next week, jumping 2'. But scaling up is - and always will be - an issue. Too fast, and you fall off. Too slow, and you have nothing to show for the hours sweating in the saddle. When I say that I'm training at an eventing barn, or that I jump horses, people automatically think of the professional rider sweeping over 4' fences. They take my words and try to associate it with what they already know - which I don't really blame them, since equestrianism is a bit of a unique sport - yet those assumptions may not be correct. They don't know the scars, the self-doubt, and the self-cadence that comes from years of training yourself to work alongside a two-ton animal, only to throw yourself at a structured training plan eight years later. 

But these assumptions don't just apply to equestrianism - it could apply to that super-technical startup idea, or to your side hustle, or to even a career trajectory. When we put the cart before the horse, assume, and scale up quickly, we tend to forget the basics just as quickly - with jumping, that's heels down, eyes up; with business, that's market research; with career trajectories, that's a combination of knowing and liking where you are, where you've been, and where you want to be. 

As with anything, there's a balance to strike between being busy for the sake of being busy and being idly busy. In this world of busy and fast, sometimes it's good to slow down, take a look around, reassess your purpose, and get back to basics.