23. Cabin In The Woods

Is it 5:00 yet? On Friday? Man, it’s only 1:30 on Wednesday. How many of us wish is was Friday? Why is that? Why do we hope that days pass us by like a meteor shower? John Lennon was right. “Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.” So, it’s Wednesday afternoon and you wish it was Friday. Maybe it’s as simple as…you’re bored.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

A 1985 study by the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center found that there are many reasons we are bored at our jobs. Let’s see how many of these apply to you. Under-utilization. People with higher intelligence find tasks boring because they are able to process information too rapidly to fill their time. Repetitiveness. Performing the same tasks repeatedly makes our minds tired and leads to daydreaming. Age. You heard it! Younger people tend to get more bored because their minds work faster than us older folks. Extroversion. Extroverts require more mental stimulation than introverts. Monotonous tasks deprive extroverts of the stimulation they require to remain mentally sharp. Unpleasantness. The more unpleasant the task the quicker tedium sets in to make a worker lose focus.

This boredom is what leads us to think that the clock is moving slow. In a study by McBain of long distance truck drivers – now there’s a job that rings the boredom bell – it was found that an underestimation of time was prevalent. They found that the more narrowly people focused on a task, the slower time seemed to pass. The Navy should stick to running air craft carriers and leave the simple stuff to us. We all know that the more we watch the clock the slower it seems to go. That’s not the question resilient leaders need to address. Resilient leaders need to seek ways to minimize the boredom in their even most monotonous tasks.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on boredom. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Go to the cabin in the woods. You heard it. Go to the cabin in the woods. This theory has been endorsed by one transcendentalist living on his own in Walden Woods.
Many of my listeners will probably think that by sending you to the cabin in the woods, I sending you to meet Jason from Friday the 13th. Trust me this isn’t a slasher movie littered with awkward teenage sex.
On July 4th, 1845, Henry David Thoreau set out to live in Walden Woods in a hut he built for himself. Thoreau felt a need to concentrate and work more on his writing. Let’s say that again. Thoreau was bored working in his family’s pencil factory in Concord, Massachusetts. So, he chose to leave to tap into his creative resources.
Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live.”

While on his exodus and seeking inspiration at his cabin in the woods, Thoreau wrote what is arguably the most politically charge work of the 19th century, Civil Disobedience. In these pages, Thoreau argues that governments are typically more harmful than helpful and therefore cannot be justified. No, I could rant about government for five podcasts, but this one is about overcoming boredom in our jobs. Thoreau used the extreme measure of living in a cabin in the woods for two years to find his inspiration. I had a similar epiphany… but it took about seventy-two hours.

Last month, I went to a cabin in the woods in North Bay, Ontario to attend an event titled Speaker Jam. The event was hosted by Penny Tremblay, who teaches people to play nice in the sandbox. That’s her skill. She speaks on building productive, peaceful and profitable relationships at work. Also there was a Scott Armstrong, who formerly was an operator of Canada’s largest rehabilitation center for exotic animal and now uses those experiences to speak to audiences about tenacity. Lastly was Roxanne Derhodge. Roxanne is the host of the weekly podcast, Authentic Living with Roxanne Derhodge. Me…well you already know that I Develop Resilient Leaders.

The four of us gathered and each presented an hour long speech. Several friends attended in Penny’s living room to watch some pretty impressive deliveries by virtuosos. This had the feeling of a Led Zeppelin studio session, complete with groupies. So what was the point of going to this cabin in Canada? To create my own inspiration.
The problem many of us have is that we are waiting for inspiration to come to us. It’s tantamount to looking at the heavens and listening for God. We want inspiration to come to us to relieve us of our boredom so we can live more fulfilled lives.

Resilient Leaders know that this works the opposite way. You need to create the environment for your inspiration. Go to the zoo, drive a different way home, listen to a different radio station, try a new vegetable, kiss your lover a different way – these are only a few ways to bring inspiration to yourselves.

Quick show of hands – how many of you have driven the road to work on a Sunday and by hypnosis took the exit you would normally take on Monday through Friday? My magic mirror shows me that many of you have? Why? This phenomenon has a name, it’s called Road Hypnotism and psychologists recognized it almost one hundred years ago…when half the country was still riding horseback. The monotony, boredom and fatigue are the primary factors….the same items that are making us wish it was five o’clock on Friday.
We need to head to our cabin in the woods, physically or metaphorically, so we can create, so we can recharge, so we can be inspired. Because, I’ll tell you – I feel absolutely stupid when I take the wrong exit because of road hypnotism.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. Please check out my brand new website www.trenttheroux.com . You can find my podcasts and some videos. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe.

Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.