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Attaining Breakthrough

Attaining Breakthrough

It’s been a tough week. I’m trying to finish the draft of a book explaining the principles of Slow Leadership. There seems to come a point where ideas you once thought were clear and powerful start to look tired and superficial. Maybe it’s something like the point runners say they reach in a long race where it seems impossible to go on; a barrier you must break through to get anywhere near the winning line; the victory over yourself that must precede any other victory.

I began formulating the thoughts behind Slow Leadership in the fall of 2005. When I look back at some of the early articles I wrote on the topic, they seem almost naïve. It’s come a long way since then — a long way along a path that has added a good deal of depth and complexity to the starting idea.

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What began as a simple plea to slow down and take the time to think has become a contrarian style of leadership : one based on dropping the quick-fix, “just-get-it-done-somehow” style of leading, with its emphasis on short-term profits and “grab-and-go” ethics. Today’s textbook styles of leadership have dumbed-down the process into a series of rules-of-thumb and fashionable panaceas.

Breakthrough demands you push beyond the obvious and the conventional. It’s going places you don’t think you can reach. It’s getting to your limit — then going still further. We have a world of work populated with more MBAs than ever before. Yet there has been no appreciable improvement in management over the early part of the twentieth century — maybe even the latter part of the nineteenth.

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No one will find new ideas and better ways to run their working lives by focussing on the ideas of the past, which is what most business schools teach. Education is precious, but it’s not achieved through being able to repeat the details of ideas that now have only historical interest. It comes from the willingness to push into uncharted territories of the mind, seeking newer and better questions — and refusing to be fobbed off with those old, worn-out answers.

What holds you back from achieving breakthrough? Untested, old-fashioned assumptions certainly do. So do the false certainties of fashionably pseudo-scientific management techniques. Let them go. There’s only one way to break out of your current limits: challenging yourself to go deeper and further than you’ve ever gone before. The entry to breakthrough and mastery starts with being a learner — a person who knows only that he or she does not know what matters; at least, not yet. True learners give up all the established certainties and challenge every dogma. They risk everything in the search for knowledge.

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Are you willing to do what it takes to reach your own breakthrough?

Adrian Savage is an Englishman, a writer and a retired business executive. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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