Yesterday, I believe I did some of the best work I have ever done, in my (now extensive) professional career.  I did the hard work: several weeks of careful, painstaking research, then I distilled it and simplified it for sound bite-like consumption and supported it with instantly understandable infographics.  I did the work I do best, which I am pretty sure nobody else in the organisation can do.  I’m pretty sure it’s a relatively rare skill set amongst human beings, truthfully.  I turned the complex and confusing into clarity; the overwhelming into the obvious.

My aim was to add the most value I could contribute.  What I do is act as way-seer and envisioner.  Yesterday, I presented it, with confidence and assurance, in a six hour meeting, during which I stood and talked for the entire time.  I took questions and objections.  At most interjections, I had supporting research to hand to draw upon, laid out clearly on previously created slides that were supplemental to my main presentation.  I was very well prepared.

My work is aimed at causing positive change.  I think many of my messages hit home.  Many of the previously believed and fervently held articles of collective faith have been challenged and replaced with a more realistic story about ourselves and where we are.  This is a better starting point for heading into the future.  The way ahead has been demystified and clarified and people seem to be on board with it.

Today, I am exhausted.  Fortunately, I booked some holidays a while ago, so the timing turned out well.  Rather than feeling elation, every last bone and muscle in my body aches, my head is sore and full of brain fog and I am very, very tired.  Last night, even though I had a medicinal snifter of Armagnac before bed, I awoke at 4AM, with my mind buzzing and filled with thoughts.  The cogs of my brain were whirring at a thousand revolutions per second.  It felt like lunacy.

This is what I have found, when you deliver some of your most creative, imaginative, detailed, innovative and foresighted work.  Rather than feeling deep satisfaction and relief, there is a sense of a dark, empty vacuum that occurs instead.  I have so many exciting projects I could be doing today (upgrading the tuning machines on my baritone guitar, changing the strings on my newest guitar and setting it up the way I like it, upgrading my digital audio workstation to the latest specification, buying electronic and guitar design CAD packages), all of which I wanted to do on my time off, but I find that my mind and body won’t let me.  I’m too distracted and too depleted to do that work well.

Reaching the peak is not the end of the journey and there are always new peaks to scale, but I think it’s only human to need to stop to draw breath, reflect on it all, give yourself the accolades for the work which others seldom do and let your mind and body decompress and recover.  Nobody can create at full tilt, with pedal to the metal, the whole time.  I find I need a quiet, contemplative day just to recharge the batteries of creativity.

So, here I am – decompressing.  A little recreational writing is a tonic, but so is my habit of chain-drinking cups of coffee.  It’s not even particularly good coffee, but functional, none the less.

People react in strange ways, when you deliver something remarkable, unexpected and unlike what they had ever seen before.  They’re almost never the reactions you expect.  Everybody comes at new information, like this, from their own perspective, their own state of personal growth and their own experience and maturity.  It doesn’t actually mean anything about the quality or other of the information and presentation.  It’s more about them and where they are, as human beings.  That’s useful to remember and something I didn’t realise until quite late in life.  Shame and small jealousies are as much a part of the mix as getting excited by ideas that hadn’t occurred to them.  The job, though, is to present the best information you can find, the best way you know how.

Next steps, from here on in, could go either way.  You can never tell.  All I know is that today is the wrong day to concern myself with that.  Today is the day I relax, unwind, refresh, recreate and decompress.  Job done – for now.

Do you find coming to the end of a major creative project is like this for you too?

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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4 Responses to Decompression

  1. James Leger says:

    All the time Michael. You nailed the last phase of a major project to a T. Relax, retune, recooperate. You earned it.

  2. Jason says:

    Before my most recent art show even opened i made sure to secure a compound in Big Sur to have a few days to decompress. Like you, this recent work was some of my very best and I saw it through to some pretty terrific success. The decompression time, for me at least, was not so much to relax or take my head out of the game but rather to remove my head from even getting near the ballpark. Decompression equals forgetting [for a little while at least] the language you were speaking in before.

    Check this week out! A 360 degree time lapse of video of the show from set-up to showtime.

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