Dune 2021

The release of the movie Dune is a big deal for me (yeah, yeah- it doesn’t take much). My absolute most favorite story of all time, my absolute favorite character of all time, brought to the big screen with integrity paid to the themes of the book, is an exciting treat.
But the only way I could see it was with my sister, who shares my love for the story. Since she lives in Syracuse and my current semi-permanent home is Somers, CT, some travel plans were needed. Not a problem. I enjoy the travel and it turned the weekend into something closer to a real adventure.

BY TRAIN

I have never been on a train and was excited to make this my first time.
It’s a much slower form of travel than I expected. Apparently, I watch too many sci-fi movies where trains travel above cities at 200 mph. In this reality, with stops, a 3.5-hour drive is 6 hours by train. But that’s okay. I found the steady, elevated travel inspiring.

I wrote this as the train made its way from Springfield, Mass into the countryside:

“A train is a romantic way to travel. I’m thinking of Laura Ingels, her sister Mary traveling by train to and from her school for the blind. How different the countryside of the Midwest from the North-East? How different now from then?

Fall is setting in. The leaves just turning. Mostly green to contrast the changing colors. The sky bright and clear and blue. The fall typically means rain but not today. Today the universe wants me inspired. Today, I ride a train.

It’s the little things that can so largely influence perspective. Sitting up, higher than the freeway, higher than most roads, one can look down and out and across and away over the land. The golden stalks of harvested corn are like amber waves. The closeness of the trees, of the dirt and grass, makes the path much tighter than the many lanes paved for cars. At first disappointed we wouldn’t be traveling at 100 mph, I’m now glad. There is a peacefulness to this pace, to watching the land slip past.”

INCLUDING FRIENDS

Opening day is Friday, October 22 (we’re ignoring the blasphemy that HBOMax allowed an early release time). Friends that are going to see the movie with us can’t go until Saturday. Not okay.

So, we’ll go twice. Friday night and Saturday night.

Opening night, it’s a mostly packed house. The crowd is varied, which is fun to see. Couples my parent’s age sit near groups in their twenties. I wonder if it’s Dune they are here to see or just an epic-looking science fiction movie.
It starts. The first chord of music tingle through the darkened room. Hans Zimmer is a master. Tears are in my eyes as the first scenes reflect from the big screen. The music is perfect. The sights are perfect. Already, I’m glad to see it again tomorrow and the first line of the movie has barely sounded. I know there will be too much to absorb from a single sitting.

SATURDAY

I’ve called home to talk about the greatness. There are a few flaws I can speak of, but petty overthinking and more for the point of conversation than that they tainted the film in any way. But I can’t talk about these specifics because I can’t give anything away to those who haven’t seen it yet. A third viewing is planned.

Watching it a second time is better than the first. All the details you can watch for when you already know the overview.

BACK ON THE TRAIN

Headed East and North, the train is delayed and I’m worried there won’t be time to see the movie again this evening. There is always tomorrow, but I’m hoping not to wait. Sure, I’ve seen it twice but I want more!

WHY DUNE

Paul Atreides is arguably one of the best characters in fiction, especially if you’re arguing with me.
“A great man doesn’t seek to lead. He is called to it,” his father says to him before they leave their home planet. At that moment, in all of Paul’s fifteen years of wisdom, he feels he will never have the need. He has a moment of peace when the future he’s already glimpsed isn’t real.
When the need does arise, when Paul is called, he is both compelled to sabotage the moment as well as take up the mantel. The horrible acts he sees in his future, a future, if he accepts, will subjugate atrocities on all of humanity, is weighed against what that future would be without it. So great is his burden, he considers allowing his own death to eliminate his responsibility for the future.
It is Paul’s prescience, a genetic inheritance come a generation early, enhanced by the psychedelic properties of the spice harvested on Dune, that allow him this sight. Even before he steps foot on Dune, glimpses of possible futures plague him. Once the spice enters his system, just the small amounts caught on the wind of the planet, he sees more and more; sees multiple paths that he might play god and decide the fate of all.

I’ll leave it to that. If you haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t read the books so don’t know what’s coming, I won’t spoil it. There is so much to explain, I won’t do it justice anyway. It’s really hard to talk about things in a blog post…

Tell me what you thought of the movie. Do you know the Atreides story, or is the movie your introduction into herbert’s universe?

Happy Reading (and watching) 🙂
CMM

*Sign up for my newsletter and stay up-to-date on my goings-on. This post is an extension of my latest letter.*

Sharing: How To Reduce Decision Fatigue

It’s crazy how long things might sit before I get to it. This email sat in my inbox for almost a year before I actually clicked on it. I guess this was the time I needed to read this article. Maybe it will help you as well 🙂

Click the link, or read the full article below.

How to Reduce Decision Fatigue
by Daniel Parsons

Everyone wants “it all,” but you often find that the few people who have everything they want actually filter a lot of seemingly important activities out of their lives. According to Psychology Today, this is because the average person is constantly making decisions – possibly up to 35,000 a day – and each one negatively impacts our focus and willpower. Therefore, when top performers minimise the number of trivial decisions they make per day, they retain more mental energy, which allows them to excel in their chosen fields.

On this topic, Eminem admits that he does practically nothing else when working on an album, and that tactic has made him one of the most accomplished rappers alive. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly wore the same turtleneck every day to free up his decision-making power, a habit he attributed to his success as the head of a global company. Showing a similar mentality, Bruce Lee once said, “The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus.”

On a fundamental level, we all understand the power of simplicity. Think about the most common advice bestselling authors give on podcasts: writing a new book is the best way to market your last one; produce lots of content in one genre; advertising is easier when you have a bigger backlist. The message there is clear. Those who write lots of books in one genre tend to experience success.

So why do we continue to distract ourselves learning social media tricks, genre hopping and watching Netflix? Why do we make so many needless decisions and leave ourselves mentally frazzled? Understanding this particular ailment of the human condition might be a little ambitious for one blog post. What we can do, though, is treat the symptoms. Read on for tips that will help you reduce your decision fatigue and optimise your productivity.

Prioritize One Thing

In a meta way, your first priority should be to identify your priority work. What activity will have the greatest impact on your author business? It’s probably writing, of course, but you need to be more specific if you want to make a goal air-tight against excuses. If you have lots of unfinished manuscripts then settle on one book and don’t work on another project until it’s finished. If you have several incomplete series, consider writing more instalments in whichever one generates the most income. No multitasking or project-switching. Only then will you see your results advance at lightspeed.

Your one thing doesn’t have to be writing. That’s just a common factor that will benefit most authors. If you’re already prolific then learning how to advertise profitably might deliver you the greatest results, at least in the short term. For an author with 15 books and a stable stream of royalties, mastering Facebook, Amazon or BookBub ads could double book sales overnight, even without a new release. Whichever ads platform you choose to learn, committing to one at a time is the key to mastery. Not only does a singular focus make you less likely to be overwhelmed by decision fatigue but having only one brand of ads running at once will make it easier to track cause and effect, which will make you a better marketer.

Disconnect from the Internet

Everything is online: all the information and all the entertainment. And it only takes a momentary lapse in concentration to slide from book research to cat videos. Not only does this impulsive behaviour eat into your time but it also drains your capacity to think clearly. Every click and scroll contributes to your expanding brain fog. Websites and apps are essentially display cases of brightly coloured buttons, images, GIFs and videos. Browsing just one page can force your brain make dozens of choices:

Should I like that post?

Should I enter my email address?

Should I Google the lifespan of a platypus? (It’s 17 years.)

This approachable, all-knowing vampire will suck you dry. What’s worse, each unnecessary decision you make saps you of a little more willpower. This means that every second you’re online you become more susceptible to the temptations of passive browsing, you make more low-quality decisions and you become more likely to abandon your writing altogether because it requires too much brainpower.

Science indicates that once this spiral is set in motion, it becomes increasingly difficult to escape. Willpower is not enough. That’s why avoiding the internet altogether during your dedicated work hours (preferably in the morning) will drastically improve your energy retention and allow you to keep making wise decisions later into the day. Once you’ve achieved everything on your to-do list, you can swipe, browse, like and share as much as you want, confident that a good night’s sleep will fully replenish your willpower for the next morning.

Eradicate Lifestyle Decisions

Earlier in this post we touched on Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, and how he habitually wore the same black turtleneck and jeans every day. Look into it and you will find that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg follows a similar regimen. So did Barack Obama during his time at the oval office. The reason isn’t laziness. Actually, it’s the opposite. They all realised that, by stripping unnecessary decisions from their lives, like which clothes to wear, they became more able to make effective billion-dollar decisions.

This habit isn’t exclusively for the one percent, ether. It doesn’t require cash, a private jet or superhuman strength. Anyone can pre-plan what clothes they wear all week, what to cook and when to exercise. In fact, doing so will make you more likely to get ready quicker, eat healthily and train consistently when everything is already organised and sticking to your plan becomes the path of least resistance.

Keeping your laptop stationed at the same workspace every day will have a similar effect, reinforcing your writing habit by minimising the effects of decision fatigue. Try it: find and eradicate as many unnecessary choices from your day as you can. It will make you more likely to start work and more able to stay in the flow state once you have begun.

Take Proper Breaks

Self-development “gurus” talk a lot about structuring your work blocks but they rarely address how you can benefit from structuring your breaks. That might seem counterintuitive at first glance. “I thought the point of a break was to forget about structure and relax,” you might say. And, in part, it is. But if you don’t consider setting some rules and limits, your breaks can easily become the Achilles heel of your productivity plan, and I don’t just mean when you let them run for longer than intended. Long or short, a poorly-executed break can actually have a detrimental effect on the time you do spend working.

Think about it this way: how do you take a break? Do you close your laptop, push it aside and immediately start browsing the internet on your phone? Don’t worry, we all do it occasionally. While passive browsing might feel relaxing because it soothes our internet addition, as we have already learned, the internet is an energy vampire. Thus, it doesn’t count as a proper break.

A better option would be to do something that doesn’t involve a screen. Perhaps sit quietly in the garden or brew a cup of tea. Fold laundry. Stroll around the block. Just be sure to keep a tight rein on how long your breaks last or that short relief period can easily turn into more than an hour. Set a timer if you need to. Think of it as a reverse-Pomodoro, a way to concentrate on true relaxation for a specific block of time.

Get Moving

Speaking of strolling, according to studies conducted at Harvard Medical School, walking once a day will boost your mental capacity in the short term, such as before a test or creative writing session. In addition, it also slows your brain’s decline over a span of decades, therefore enabling you to stay sharp for longer.

For writers, walking has two standout benefits. Firstly, a walk (without your phone) forces you to step away from screens and reduces the temptation to trawl the internet during a break. Secondly, it stimulates subconscious thought. Have you ever noticed that eureka moments often arrive when you’re jogging or traipsing around a shopping mall? That’s because aerobic activities, much like sleep, encourage you to enter a meditative state. In doing so, your subconscious mind starts to wander and process ideas you’ve accumulated throughout the day. What this means is that exercise will both distance you from distractions and help you overcome story issues that might have been halting your progress.

Using just one of these strategies can enhance your energy levels during a writing session. A combination of them has the power to supercharge your productivity, discipline and stamina, meaning you will be able to write better, faster, and for longer than ever before.

First Drafts Can Suk it!

Writing is hard. Like, seriously.

One of my favorite quotes come from All The Bright Places and comments on said fact.

Writing is so difficult that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.

And first drafts. Seriously, they can suk it. Like, all of it. They make me wonder if my brain even works. Do I sound like this big of a moron when I speak? I need to stop speaking. Like, when you go back to some quickly jotted notes, and you can’t decipher your own writing, that’s what a first draft is to my thoughts. I’m reading what must be a sentence. There’s a period at the end of a string of words. That’s a sentence, right? But this makes all kinds of sense that is nonsense. How am I supposed to EDIT this into coherency when there isn’t even a base coherency to be found?!

But, somehow, it gets there. Probably with multiple missed chances at brilliance. Those pure moments of genius that didn’t form themselves well onto the page because my meager human existence struggled to decipher, it and it’s now lost forever. Who knows? Maybe my basic fun, adventure novels were meant to be more, if only I’d trained my brain to translate from the muses better.

It’s a question I often see on author posts, asking what part of the processes is their most and least favorite. I could never answer. Well, I can now. First Drafts can SUUUUUK it.

Needless-to-say, I’m a little bit with the struggles right now on my current first draft. It’s not even that I don’t know where its going, or where it is, or what I want to happen. I have a plan for this story. I’ve even written the ending. But I just can’t get the words onto the page.

Maybe I should be the one sukkin it. Maybe I’m just having an aversion to work, because the first draft, I think, is where the most work goes in. The literal creation of something from nothing. I like when it’s finally here, when I can go in and fine-tune, when I can sculpt a clean product from the ragged suggestion of it. That means, finishing this first draft. *insert annoyed, toddler-tantrum expression here*

What do you think? Are you sukkin first drafts, too? Or you just think I don’t have the chops? Go on, be honest 🙂

And here. Let’s all suck it…

One Becomes Two Becomes Eleventy-Billion

I started a task list. Another one, if we’re being honest, but this one was meant to be more detail-oriented; to help break items down into smaller parts. The task list that might actually facilitate progress and completeness.

I didn’t even realize all the things stacking up. Talk about overwhelming. One item became two became four became eleventy-billion.

So, it was serendipitous this popped up:

(An article from Weight Watchers)

3 Reasons to take a mental health day

Taking a day off to ease your mind isn’t irresponsible—it’s a necessary part of staying healthy.

Everyone agrees that you should stay home when you’re not feeling well. (In fact, your co-workers will probably appreciate it.) But what about when you’re not feeling mentally well? Here are our tips to taking a day off for literal peace of mind.

1. Take (the right) time off.
The goal of taking a mental health day is to lower your stress levels and come back to work (or school or even parenting) feeling stronger and healthier. Think about why you need this break—if it’s because you’re trying to avoid your boss, you might want to think of another way to cope. On the other hand, if you’re feeling totally burnt out and distracted, then taking a day to clear your mind could be exactly what your body needs.

2. Be productive.
What do you need? If it’s catching up on sleep, do it. If it’s a massage or yoga, prioritize that instead.

It’s also fine to take this time to tackle the nagging tasks on your to-do list. If your finances are stressing you out, try making a budget; if your house is a mess, carve out a few hours to clean the bathroom and do laundry. It’ll all make you feel better.

3. Don’t overload yourself.
Taking a mental health day should help you solve a problem, not add to your guilt and anxiety. Don’t pack on the pressure to get an absurd amount of chores done. Just prioritize a few things and try to enjoy the time away.


This caveat of not feeling guilty about taking a “day off” is big. That’s often my problem. Doing this instead of this adds more stress because I don’t trust my decision. Relaxing rather than getting something done makes the relaxing worthless.

This week, a book I’ve waited to release drops. I’m taking an entire day to concentrate on reading it (that’s how I read. All at once 🤣) By scheduling it, I hope to avoid any thoughts that I should be doing something else, or even that I haven’t earned this down time.

I’m not sure just writing a to-do list warrents a mental health day. Maybe I should check a few things off the list first. Still, being aware, knowing taking a step back is actually good for productivity, is helpful.

What do you think about mental health days?

Sharing: How I Apply My Pacing Mindset…

Dealing with diving back into figuring out book marketing and social media, I found this medium article very helpful. Maybe you will, as well 🙂


How I Apply My Pacing Mindset as a Runner to the Rest of My Life

“No surge” revolutionized how I run. Then it revolutionized how I live my life.

By: Ryan Fan

Without trying to be productive, I became more productive. Without trying to maximize my life, I started maximizing my life. Something changed and I didn’t feel prone to procrastination.

What changed? I had started applying something I learned from competitive running to how I lived my life: a pacing mindset.

As an accomplished long-distance runner, “no surge” is a mantra that runs through my mind when I run. It’s the mantra that I have carried with me in my most successful races. I used the mantra when I ran a 15:36 5K. I used the mantra when I ran a 2:40 marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon. And I used the mantra when I ran a 33:03 10K.

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

It’s a mantra used to stop myself from erratic, sudden surges that sap me of my energy. It’s how I pace myself. My Achilles heel as a runner, historically, has been very poor pacing. Whenever someone passes me, I feel the need to overtake them again. When a big crowd is roaring in applause and motivational cheers, I have to impress the crowd and speed up.

It looks good in the moment. It’s terrible in a race. For a long-distance race, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And short, sudden bursts of energy sap you of your finish later in the race. They lead you to burn out and die at the end of the race.

I know this because it has happened to me many times. When I make sudden surges to respond to my competition, my finish is weak. Several times, I have been passed by over 40 to 50 people 50 meters from the finish line. I thought I had to give my all in every race, all the time.

It took my high school cross country coach to make me realize how wrong I was. He told me, the week before my junior year cross country championship meet, that he noticed I made six or seven sudden surges in the middle of the race. He said these made my race worse, and I didn’t perform to the best of my potential because I was nervous, antsy, and needed to try to win the beginning and the middle of the race. By the end, I had absolutely nothing. And that was because of all those surges.

And so, at my championship cross country meet, I started a lot slower than I normally would have. My whole team started in front of me, and I didn’t panic. Midway through the race, a lot of guys I normally would have beaten were ahead of me, and I didn’t panic. I didn’t surge. Going up a hill known as “Cardiac Hill,” I didn’t surge. I didn’t go as fast or as hard as most people did at the end of the hill, but I kept my composure. I maintained my energy.

And then in the third half of the race, I started picking people off piece by piece. I started seeing guys I never had beaten before and passed them. Not only that, but it felt absolutely effortless. I felt like I was on a jog, running the easiest race of my life.

“Well, this race is going to just be OK,” I thought. But it was much more than just OK. In the end, I finished ferociously, maintaining the same effort, but naturally speeding up and going faster. Because I judged my whole race on the effort I exerted, the whole effort was consistent. I out-finished a lot of people who normally would have destroyed me and ran a personal best of almost 30 seconds — the top performance on my team.

“No surge” revolutionized the way I ran. I stopped training so hard and burning myself out. I started training smart. I stopped getting injured as much because I wasn’t burdening my body so much. I didn’t get mentally phased whenever someone passed me or a race wasn’t going my way. And above all, I ran the best races I possibly could have.

But during my senior year of college, I started to apply “no surge” and that pacing mindset to other things rather than just running. I applied it to my writing. I didn’t need to be super productive all the time, but write slowly and whatever came naturally to me. I applied it to my academics, and whenever I didn’t feel like studying or doing an assignment, I would start super slowly, super steadily. Usually, I would build significant momentum later on. If I couldn’t it was my body and mind’s way of telling me I needed rest.

Not everything became perfect. But I stopped forcing everything. I went to sleep every day genuinely knowing I did the best I could. And the approach was sustainable too — I didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. I felt like I was just flowing downstream, doing what God intended me to do. And I stopped burning out whenever I used the mindset and applied the “no surge” mantra.

According to Elizabeth Scott atVery Well Mind, burnout is accompanied by a deterioration of mental and physical health, leaving people feeling utterly exhausted and unable to cope. It makes it difficult to function in daily life and leads to a loss of motivation where you start to become disillusioned with everything.

Scott notes burnout signs include alienation from work-related activities, headaches and stomachaches, lack of energy, and generally reduced performance and difficulty concentrating.

As a teacher, burnout is very, very real. It’s normal to feel like you worked so hard in September and October, and feel fatigued and constantly overwhelmed later in the year. I’m much better at pacing myself in my second year rather than my first year.

This is how I applied my “no surge” across my life:

  • Prioritize rest.
  • Work slowly.
  • Don’t force everything.
  • Recognize your limits.

Prioritizing Rest

Part of pacing myself to avoid burnout meant taking easy days very easy. I never started out running fast, but on easy days, I went even slower than I usually did. My coach told me I only had two hard days a week, and I didn’t want to expend my maximum or 90% effort any other day.

Running easy was my way of prioritizing rest. Some running coaches say runners can’t go too slow on easy days. And other coaches say the most successful runners have a huge chasm between their training pace and their workout pace. Many successful runners run very easily — sub-two-hour marathoner, Eliud Kipchoge, runs his easy runs at four minutes per kilometer pace, or around 6:30 mile pace, which is a very far cry from his race pace. Running coach Dennis Barker doesn’t send his athletes out on short runs on easy days but makes sure to rein in their pace.

“‘Pace is the most important thing to keep easy on an easy day… Many runners can still recover if they run a few more miles, as long as it’s still at an easy pace. But from my experience, they can’t recover if they run at a faster pace, even with fewer miles. So pace really needs to be governed on easy days.”

The rule, on easy days, is to achieve 65–70% of your max heart rate. That’s how you recover while running — but recovery also comes out of running. For me, that “no surge” mindset means rest. And rest does not have to come in the fancy form of high-tech foam rollers and compression sleeves.

Rest comes from the basic forms of recovery — sleep, nutrition, and hydration. Ashley Mateo at Runner’s World argues most of the fancy recovery bandwagon movement in infrared saunas and percussion guns are placebos. Instead, sleeping seven to nine hours a night aids our thinking and concentration, memory, mood, and immunity. If you are an athlete, you need even more sleep to avoid injury and have better overall performance.

Ryan Skidmore at Simplifaster notes that sleeping like an Olympian involves a wind-down routine. That might include reading a book, stretching, or yoga. To me, the wind-down routine has changed the way I sleep. I used to hit the bed like a rock, and then get really disappointed in myself and think a good night’s sleep was over if I didn’t fall asleep in ten minutes. I still take many afternoon naps.

However, the “no surge” pacing mindset allows me to realize going to sleep is not something that needs to be done immediately, and it’s difficult to go straight from work to sleep. It’s a gradual process where your body and mind wind down from 100 to 0, not a sudden process. That ritual particularly helps for days before big, anxiety-inducing events, like races or exams.

Prioritizing rest is one way to apply my pacing mindset as a distance runner, but it’s not all about what I do while resting. What I do during the day matters too.

Working Slowly

I used to try to speed read. In high school, I was very insecure about my reading speed and how I couldn’t read 1,000 words per minute like John F. Kennedy. I tried and forced myself to read very fast, which I did. But I didn’t comprehend or understand any of what I read. I kept overthinking it, and reading became a task I had to force myself to complete.

When I try to do more, like be more productive or get more tasks done, I try to work faster. I try to bulldoze my way like a wrecking ball to conquering the world, and it works for a little bit. But then two hours later, I’ll be tired, burned out, and disillusioned.

Recently, I’ve seized on the benefits of working slowly. I don’t need to type like a speed typer when I write, and I don’t need to be at an all-out sprint every time I run. Instead, I’m much more intentional about taking my time and working slower than I need to. Now, I get the most out of what I read, in terms of learning and enjoyment, when I read slowly and take my time.

According to Faisal Hoque at Fast Company, working slower actually makes you more productive. Feeling constantly rushed and like you’re short on time is natural when you have a lot on your plate, but constantly being in a frenzy leads to more mistakes and more burnout.

Slowing down is a solution not only to stop burnout but to be more creative and productive. In a long-distance race, you don’t put pressure on yourself to sprint at any point — only at the end.

“Jumping rapidly from one unfinished task to another isn’t just exhausting — and can take a serious psychological toll over time — it’s also inefficient,” Hoque says.

Working slower also leads to more rational thinking and activation of our parasympathetic nervous system over our sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is slower and more logical while the sympathetic nervous system is fast and automatic. Hoque notes it gives us more time to think and takes our minds off of autopilot.

And lastly, when the brain slows down, we start to conserve mental and physical energy, which leads to the next point.

Don’t Force Anything

You may think that sprinters function differently from long-distance runners. Sprinters are more associated with force, with explosiveness, to win. But even 100-meter sprinters don’t exert 100% effort all the time during their races. You can watch sprinters like Usain Bolt to see how tired they look at the end of a race — Bolt is usually cheering, celebrating, sometimes even sticking his tongue at his opponent, all while running 100 meters in less than ten seconds.

According to Jeff Haden at Inc. Magazine, sprinters aren’t often giving it their all during the race. Throughout a race, Usain Bolt is relaxed. His shoulders are loose, his hands are unclenched, and his face relaxes. Above all, watch any Usain Bolt race to see he almost always starts close to last place — in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he won a gold medal and won a world record in the 100 meters, he starts behind the two guys next to him. He is not fast off the gun in the “drive phase” of a race due to his height.

Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis was also a poor starter who trailed opponents at the 40-meter mark of the race. People thought he had to push harder to overcome his starts, but he actually relaxed. He didn’t give extra effort.

Hugh Jackman said the 85% rule was what he took away from Lewis’s performances. If I were the coach and Hugh Jackman was on my team, I wouldn’t put more pressure on him, push him more. I wouldn’t yell at him, scream,” Jackman says.

While I’m a long-distance runner, I’ve always lived my life as a wannabe sprinter. I tried to put all-out, 110% effort all the time. Any time I don’t meet my goals, I assume I have to work harder and push harder. I assume I’m not working hard enough.

However, in a long-distance race, that’s a very misguided goal. You will have a terrible race if your mindset is all intensity all the time. And that’s true for me after lunch every day when I think I just have to push harder to be productive and stay awake.

So when I started applying “no surge” to my personal life, I stopped the whole task of pushing harder as a solution to all my problems. Yes, you need to work hard. But working too hard is counterproductive. By applying “no surge,” or my version of the 85% rule, I can take a step back and slow down. I don’t need to suddenly fix everything not going well in my relationship with a band-aid. I don’t need to bulldoze my way through a checklist.

I can just be, and actually enjoy a bit of what I’m going through, when I recognize my own limitations.

Recognizing My Limits

A big part of pacing yourself to avoid burnout is knowing when to stop. Ever since I started using “no surge” as a mantra, recognizing my limits means recognizing I’m doing enough and the best I can in the moment, and going easy on myself. It means recognizing there’s nothing wrong with me and that I’m exactly where God intends me to be.

Susanne Dillman at GoodTherapy says recognizing your limits leads to greater self-compassion. We all have personal limits, such as the amount we can sleep, the time we can go without food, and the patience we have for slow drivers. And it takes recognizing your limits to be able to know whether you’ve pushed beyond them. One of our limits is usually a need for a break every three or four hours, and another one is a day off from work.

While running, recognizing your limits means listening to your body. It means cutting a run short if you feel like that’s all you have for the day. It means not pushing through that knee pain that’s been bothering you for a while. It means not running on an injured hip because you’ve worked too hard not to run (which I’ve done before). It means asking a friend to slow down if the pace is too much for you.

As much pride as we all may have, our bodies and minds are much more important. As my girlfriend always likes to remind me, there’s nothing sexy with failing to take care of yourself. Suffering is a natural part of the human condition, but it shouldn’t be romanticized.

Everything you feel is valid and legitimate. That’s what pacing myself as a runner taught me. If I’m hurting way too much and I’m only one mile into a marathon, then that’s a sign to slow down — a lot. Again, a huge burst of energy and being on overdrive mode is simply not sustainable.

I have a limit for how much I can work, for example. I make sure after 6 p.m. every day, I’m done with doing anything teaching-related. I stop answering phone calls from parents. I stop lesson planning. I stop grading. I stop IEP writing. The worst that can happen is I do what needs to be done later.

“Self-compassion is grounded in the ability to recognize that you are in pain or distress and that this pain or distress deserves and requires attention,” Dillmann says.

So when we’re in pain and suffering, recognizing our limits means validating that pain and attending to ourselves. It means slowing down. I learned that as a runner before anything else.

Takeaways

My pacing mindset as a long-distance runner has aided me not only as a runner but through life. I tell myself “no surge” throughout the day to not panic, to take everything one task at a time, and to slow down. Pacing yourself means avoiding burnout and treating every day like a long-distance race where the race is meant to be taken gradually, the whole day, rather than with one big surge.

To follow through on using the “no surge” mindset for the rest of your life, make sure to prioritize rest, work slowly, not force everything, and recognize your limits. What works for me might not work for you, so it’s important to not over-generalize the way I live. But if you’re an obsessive perfectionist like I am, avoiding burnout might be a difficult task. At the end of the day, I take away these Hugh Jackman words:

“If you tell most, sort of, A-type athletes to run at their 85% capacity, they will run faster than if you tell them to run 100 because it’s more about relaxation and form and optimizing the muscles in the right way.”