How life is like a treadmill
What I am trying to communicate in this post:
Giving 100% does not mean constantly sprinting, you will get a lot further if you walk at a sustainable pace. The same too is true for marriage – it is not about expecting my husband or myself to constantly be sprinting, tiring ourselves out, but rather walking at a sustainable pace and ultimately achieving a lot more.
It seems to be a symptom of our times that employers generally expect employees to be constantly running at a hundred percent. It is as if they expect employees to be sprinting about for 8 hours a day. This was certainly how it was like when I worked for Amazon. And yet, here’s the thing: yes, my sprinting pace is far faster than my walking pace. However, sprinting is called “short distance running” for a reason – it represents quick bursts of energy to get us out of immediate danger, but crucially, it is not sustainable. I have never measured, but I imagine that I can sprint for maximum a minute or two before collapsing in a heap – and that is said as someone who actually was a sprinter, in younger, more athletic days. And yet if I were to find a comfortable walking pace instead, I could walk for hours. And I know that it would be the same for everyone. So if you were to get two people, and ask one to sprint, and one to walk briskly, if the aim was to cover as much distance as possible, ultimately the walker would win, overwhelmingly, even though the sprinter would cover far more distance in the first minute or two. And the maths is not proportional at all! I have worked it out that if a star athlete could run 100m in 10 seconds, then over the course of a minute that would be the equivalent of 600 metres, and over two minutes 1200 metres. (Or 36 km per hour.) But realistically it would only be sustainable for a couple of minutes. If, however, you were to drop the walking pace to a more comfortable walking pace of let’s say 6km per hour, which is a sixth of this rate, then I personally could keep walking for much longer than the 2 minutes I could manage while sprinting, or even the 6×2 minutes which is the manageable sprinting distance multiplied by the rate difference of walking versus sprinting, as walked out above. On my treadmill, I can keep walking at a comfortable rate for hours.
So ultimately when employers demand the equivalent “constant sprinting” from their employees, that is so shortsighted. If, as an employer, you want your employees to do as much work as possible, to consistently cover as much ground as they can, week in, week out, then the truly smart thing to do would be to forbid them from sprinting, but to rather ask them to find a comfortable walking pace. Yes, by training, that pace could well be increased. However, the point is that it needs to remain sustainable. You know what? Perhaps there will be times when sprinting will metaphorically be needed. However employers need to remember that this can only be sustained for a short period, and proper rest will be needed afterwards.
You know, I can’t help thinking that all this might be the way some employers fix their KPIs, or work targets (perhaps aided and abetted by some snazzy management consultant who has promised to help them increase their bottom line): they work out what the maximum performance level is, then they insist on that for everyone, not considering that realistically the maximum performance level could only be sustained for a short time, like sprinting. Furthermore, that maximum performance level may well only have been achieved by a athlete in the first place: “Well if Usain Bolt can do it, then so can you!”
Considering that so many employers apparently expect constant sprinting, it is not surprising in the slightest that so many employees seem to be constantly burnt out. How can employers expect employees to be giving anything near their best when they are in a constant place of emotional pain? For this reason, I believe it is shortsighted of those employers who do not allow people to talk at work. Humans are social animals, talking and bonding helps make work a fun place, which means that employees will look forward to going there. If they are happy at work, then that would also help them to perform better.
Coming now to marriage, it occurred to me that I too may have been giving this impression, that when I talk of “giving a thousand percent”, I expect my husband to be constantly sprinting in a way that quickly leads to burnout.
To be honest, I have never really thought about it in much detail (as far as I remember off the top of my head – who knows if I probe there might already be a post about this!) However, I am definitely looking for something that is sustainable over the long term. So for that reason, I would prefer my husband and me to find a walking pace that is sustainable over the long term, and to then start walking at that comfortable pace, so that we could keep going indefinitely. This is still giving a thousand percent, because we are committed to keep going. And it also involves things like metaphorically warming up, sometimes stopping altogether to deal with a sore muscle etc, and still taking daily rest.
And if we keep at it, hopefully together we will be able to metaphorically go to the ends of the earth.
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