Split Focus & Superman Syndrome
I feel I’m pretty in touch with my audience at times. I know the majority of my listeners and readers are trying to figure out where to start or how to continue pursuing their creative work. I basically just said it in my intro.
The reoccurring pattern from my newsletter shows people like you want to know how to make time to focus on something outside of your daily commitments.
Today, I was going to write about the power of focusing on a project that you both enjoy and are relatively good at.
I wanted to write about how to get started with experimenting and catching a pulse to see if it was the right direction to pursue. However, this ended up turning into me possibly oversharing how my split focus has guided me to the current roadblock I’ve found myself at.
Yes, I’m going to share the benefits of what focus can do for your creative pursuits, but I'm no expert. I fell I can best share how split focus and doing too much can negatively impact your life as well.
I’ll admit it, I’m a wizard at piling shit high on my plate (I can't help but imagine a poop emoji on a plate). It’s been a blessing and more recently a curse in my life.
I’ve had this Superman Syndrome mentality that I could do it all dating way back to high school.
It started with a car accident my sophomore year resulting in me having to get a job at the age of 15. From there, I held down that job of pushing in carts at Hy-Vee while attending after-school programs and playing multiple sports.
I was excelling in school, standing out in sports, getting awards all while making some side cheddar. What couldn’t I accomplish in a day?
This mentality carried throughout college. My crazy ass was holding down my job at Hy-Vee, working an internship, playing / coaching football while having an overloaded course schedule with night classes.
With how much this private school was charging per semester, graduating in 4 years was my only option. Bring on the challenge and premature grey hairs—I can handle it.
Doing all the things and succeeding in them was my definition of success. I caught hits of dopamine chasing that ‘productivity high’ and I wanted people to know how busy I was.
I was the king of focus, split focus that is and it was a blessing in the beginning.
Here is where I want to tell you the value of finding one thing to focus on that you not only enjoy, but you’re good at too. (I can't recommend the book Essentialism enough if you want to learn more.)
Yet, somewhere in there, I’d be full of shit as I’m horrible at focusing on only one thing as I’ve wired myself to think I could do it all.
When it boils down to it, yes, it’s extremely important to have something to work towards each day. Giving your attention to something you both enjoy and are good at can radically impact your life and others in a positive way.
The thing I pour my soul into every day is Perspective-Collective. It started as a small side project back in April 2014 for me to create art under as I talk about in Episode 28: Make Your Name Mean Something.
Over the years it began to take on a mind of its own. It's since opened up new paths of opportunity such as blogging, speaking, teaching, freelancing and now podcasting.
Having something to focus on used to be an issue in the past. It had me feeling lost in my lackluster day-to-day routine. That lack of focus has since blossomed into an issue of split focus and spreading myself too thin.
Imagine the smallest slice of butter that you're trying to cover a massive piece of bread with and that's me.
There are so many things I like to do and want to accomplish, but there’s never enough time to pursue them all equally outside the day job...I'm sure you've said this a million times to yourself.
Queue the dreaded elimination game or as Stephen King says, "Kill Your Darlings."
Here’s a breakdown of everything I do under Perspective-Collective. I’m trying to be as transparent as possible so you can see how I struggle to find the essential thing(s) to focus on while eliminating the non-essential.
You have no idea how badly I want to get back to doing the podcast weekly. I feel if I was 90% all-in on the podcast, I could significantly grow it at a faster pace. Yet going all in on the podcast has its consequences that I’m not sure I'm ready for.
While my day job covers the basic costs of my day-to-day living, taking on freelance with the right projects is too hard to pass on. I have an absurd amount of student loans and other debt looming over me. Making time for freelance slowly works me toward some type of future financial freedom.
Personal work is what keeps me sane and allows me to find myself in my work and experiment. Sadly, there isn’t a whole lot of time for it.
Speaking gives me the largest platform to share my ideas and connect with people like you. However, the amount of time I invest in planning, preparation, practice and traveling takes a lot of time away from other things.
Teaching allows me to discover things I like to help people learn and possibly monetize with an additional revenue stream.
I realize I'm doing too much and one of the darlings I had to kill recently was my weekly Fresh Slice Friday pizza drawings on my @pizzadrawingsonly account. It was personal work but it was taking too much time away from the podcast, freelance and time that could be spent with my wife.
Killing my darlings is hard, but the essential tasks matter most. This is something I battle against daily as I want to do it all.
I'm only 29 and I need to remind myself that it's okay to not have it all figured out yet. Everything I’m doing is one massive experiment in trying to find ways to elevate Perspective-Collective to my full-time job...and dammit, I'll make it happen someday.
Progress is progress. If my experiments with teaching aren’t catching the right pulse, then that’ll be on the chopping block to narrow my focus and free up time. Right now, I don’t know so I’m going to continue to dip my toes and test out the water.
I share this with you so you can see the various levels of focus and the opposing side of focusing on too much.
While me venting about split focus may seem like a very basic issue, it goes a lot deeper and does more damage behind the scenes.
Let's peel another layer of the onion and get real. This is probably the oversharing section...
Funny story, I started the New Year off with the motto, “Do less, but better.” I even wrote that shit large as hell on a whiteboard as a daily reminder. That whiteboard was then stashed in my closet 4 months into the New Year...whoops.
While I’ve become increasingly aware of my Superhero Syndrome, changing and acting on it is another story.
It’s safe to say I’m borderline obsessed with Perspective-Collective and the multiple channels of what I can create under it.
I want to do all the things.
I tell myself that I got a late start in discovering what I was capable of so now I need to double down on my ‘hustle’ to catch up.
There’s that buzzword ‘hustle.’ That word is trouble.
I was blinded by the 'hustle' and the progress and possibilities of Perspective-Collective. It caused me to lose sight of the bigger picture of what was at stake.
I’ve learned the hard way that I was neglecting and damaging relationships with people that mean the most to me like Emily, my family and close friends.
There grew an absence of date nights and being physically, mentally and emotionally present with my wife. My family began to expect me to not show up to functions anymore. The phone calls and invites to parties and gatherings with my friends slowly disappeared.
Here I am, trying to convince myself and Emily that I’m 'hustling' my ass off now in the present so we don’t have to work so hard in the future.
Who am I kidding, this was total bullshit.
In reality, this was an excuse for me to disconnect from the real world and work on making my dream job a full-time reality.
It doesn’t feel like work.
People shower me in affirmations sometimes when I share my work.
I'd be crazy to not invest all my time in this pursuit right?
This Superman Syndrome has created a trap and I’ve been trying to claw my way out of the hole I dug for myself.
Progress started by admitting to myself then owning up to it with multiple long conversations with my wife. She wanted to be supportive and not be the person to tear me away from my dream, but hearing her side of things really put things in perspective of how selfish I’ve been.
With my hectic travel schedule lately, we’ve been making more intentional date nights and uninterrupted time together. She’s been amazing and insanely forgiving...I owe her everything for that.
I’ve since been attending every family function possible to reconnect with everyone. That means even all the niece and nephew birthdays no matter how many hours away they are on a weekend. Editing the podcast can come at another time.
I’ve also start reconnecting with my local circle of friends who I hadn’t seen in months. Making time for football on Sundays, drinks, dinners and low-key hanging has been great.While some friendships are gone, the ones that matter are still around.
I still have a hard time accepting that I can’t do it all because if I have open time, it takes everything in me not to schedule something to fill it.
I share all this because I want you to find something to focus on that lights you up. However, I want you to see that there's gotta be a balance as tunnel vision on a dream can do damage.
You can’t do it all.
Trying to do so comes at the expense of neglecting other things in your life.
Imagine building an empire for yourself only to turn around and have no one to share it with?
That’s the shit that scares me and what I try to keep top of mind each day.