Over the last three decades, I've been fascinated by how personal energy impacts work. And as I glance at my bookshelf, I'm not alone: The Living Company, Flow, The Advantage, Flourish, Jamming, The Art of Happiness, Linchpin, Built to Last, Blink, Drive, Unstuck and more are titles that directly or indirectly look at how energy influences our work.
McKinsey also conducted research in the early 2000s around organizational energy in times of transformation. Not surprisingly, 57% of executives involved in successful transformative efforts felt that their companies had maintained positive energy.
Based on my often limited personal energy (e.g. I tend to function best with ~9 hours of sleep per night), motivated by a variety of challenging autoimmune diseases in my family, and influenced by books like those above, I've become even more curious about personal energy, especially as applied to how we spend the majority of our time -- our work.
I also had a moment of illumination recently, brought about by a gift from my good friend Bo Durickovic. As we were literally "going to the mountain" (hiking Mt Humphreys in Flagstaff, AZ) and talking about life, nature, business, entrepreneurship and more, he stopped me on the trail and said something like, "Dude, you're the energy guy. Why don't you do something with it?"
Simple words, but like most profound challenges they left me stumped. What should I do? Is there a product here? A new take on research? A gift I can bring to the world? A book? A talk? What is it and does anyone care?
Further, what do we really mean when we use loose terms like "good energy" or phrases like "I'm feeling energized?"
As I started digging in more, I felt even more convinced that I needed to better understand how we build positive personal energy that can both fuel great individual work and ripple through those we serve. And I felt compelled to start a journey of research, meditation, reflection and writing to provide perspectives that might help others.
This blog post is my first attempt to inch towards Bo's challenge. I think there's a bunch more here and I'd love to hear from you. Is energy something that you think about? How do you build and maintain your personal energy? Is too much energy a bad thing? How might darker forms of energy (e.g. like anger and anxiety) actually serve us in certain times?
There are so many questions that I'm playing with and I'd love to glean any of your thoughts via a Comment below or an email (steve at alder dot vc).
To begin, I'll initiate the conversation with a set of incomplete perspectives on Energized Working. I view these as an initial attempt to put some initial thoughts on paper. Please bear with me.
What is Energized Working?
While I love the state of Flow, I often find that by its very definition it's not maintainable over extended clock nor calendar time periods. Energized Working, at its best, keeps us going over extended periods.
In a nutshell, I'd offer that Energized Working is the intersection of Focus and Optimism.
Specifically, when we're focused on something clear and meaningful, and we're optimistic about the outcome, we have the potential for Energized Working. But in my experience, there's more that's required.
Energized Working requires a highly tuned vessel for delivery. The body generally needs to be in good working condition to enable Energized Working. Factors that influence my physical state (and these are generally somewhat different for everyone) include sleep, moderate caffeine, aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, moderate alcohol, nutrition and more. As I start to gain more data on how others experience Energized Working I'll look to share more about physical priorities -- and techniques around long term, reasonable enablement.
While our physical requirements can be high, our psychological needs are arguably higher. In my experience, I need to feel grounded, appreciated, innovative, sharp, articulate, creative, included, visionary, productive, committed and more. I'm hoping through both secondary and primary research to better understand the collection of feelings, emotions and nudges that equip us to engage in energized work.
While our bodies and psyches have requirements, the work itself generally also has a set of conditions that give us the best opportunity to find and maintain energy. For me, purpose is paramount. There needs to be meaning in the cause itself. Second, impact must be big -- either dramatically changing a few people or moderately helping huge audiences. Third, I find that the new trumps the routine; innovation and creativity build energy. Finally, results matter. The work needs to win and grow in measurable ways (typically through revenue as a market indicates their value in the work by paying for it).
Per above, this post is meant to start to scratch the surface. By intent, it's incomplete, scattered and high-level. Accordingly, I genuinely appreciate you for bearing with me as I start to publicly play with concepts, learn on the fly, and work to bring you something of deeper value. If you're still with me, and if Energized Working is of interest to you, please do let me know!