You start feeling uneasy at night. Thoughts come rushing in, options, people you have to meet, e-mails you have to send. You wake up energized, but in the back of your mind is the feeling that maybe that energy is not being well spent. Almost as if you are trapped in a running wheel, but don’t know about it yet. On the outside, everything seems ok. There is growth, there is progress, and you have good people interactions. A pat on the back, a nice lunch, a good career development coaching. The wheel spins faster. Something inside of you tells you that you are being led by chance. As if, in case there would be 10 other people doing your job, 9 would be doing more or less the same things. You are still in the same place. And you are not making a difference. Your instinct is crying like Spider-Man’s sixth sense, but you don’t know why. You are on a foggy island between success and failure.
You’ve hit a massive roadblock. Because you can’t see it, you can’t deal with it like you normally do with the other issues/challenges you face at your normal job. You are structured, experienced and a leader. You can deal with things. But this is an invisible menace. This is The Crunch.
A crucial point or situation, typically one at which a decision with important consequences must be made.
Dealing with The Crunch starts by realizing you are facing one. As soon as you get to that stage, and having been there myself, here are a couple of guidelines that might help you to deal with it.
Be an Athlete, not a Robot
The solution is not just “work harder”. This is the mouse wheel trap. Moving faster by doing the same thing will just get you tired and out of focus. You need to sleep well, eat well, and exercise well. You need to pull up your sleeves and work hard, for sure. But this is about productivity, not about spending every waking minute at your desk.. Getting over The Crunch must start by enhancing your judgement capability.
As soon as you’ve uncovered it, keep it in front of you. This is no time for denial. And no time for soft approaches. You are at a critical point and need to take action. Along the way, you might have the “this is nothing” type of thought. From my own experience in facing The Crunch, the one thing I regret is not to have taken action sooner. It is not about knowing what to do. But it is about stressing out the situation as clearly as possible and embedding in others, and yourself, a sense of urgency. People will get it.
Albert Einstein once said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Thinking about the context around will help getting a clearer picture. Also, be curious towards other people’s opinions. Don’t dive into a “I’ll solve it myself” attitude. Sometimes verbalizing things helps to shape them.
Communicate openly with others
People around you will get sucked into The Crunch. Now they feel it as well. You need to keep communicating with them in a transparent, factual and positive way. It is time to lead, not to blab around generalizations.
Get away from it all once in a while
Change your environment, go for a walk, read things you would never normally read. They can shape up problems in a different way. For example, I was reading now a book called “The Future of Life”, by Edward O. Wilson. It is an impassioned call for quick and decisive action to save the Earth’s rich biological heritage. In this book, I found structure to ideas about building better business cases, fairer performance appraisals and growing brand equity.
Be decisive and move forward
Pretend you have elephant balls and pointedly decide. You have come a long way to get to this point. A half-ass, milk-toast decision is as ruining to yourself as failing to take note in the first place that you are in a mouse wheel. A definitive, clear and committed decision can bring with it a burst of energy for yourself and everyone around you. Don’t second guess it. Don’t second guess yourself. You are giving it your best shot.