riffs & rants blog

Don’t Get Frustrated, Get Better

Jump rope

The title of this blog post constitutes some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. Let me set the scene for you.

I’ll start with a confession: I’m not what you would call “physically fit” or “athletic.” I don’t exercise, I eat more of all the wrong foods than I should, and I enjoy a glass (or three) of wine (or whiskey) every now and again. So when I signed up to start working with a personal trainer, I knew I was in for more than my fair share of pain. Little did I know…

About my third session with John (the aforementioned trainer…love you John), I was struggling to get through what I’m sure most 60-year-olds would have considered to be a fairly light workout. And by struggling, I mean I was pretty sure I was going to die. I was jumping rope…well, more like flailing around with a jump-rope in my hand…and getting more and more frustrated by the second.

And that’s when John looked at me, smiled, and said “Don’t get frustrated Jerry; get better.”

I’m thinking those five words might be the end-all, be-all of advice. If I look back on my life, my career, my art, or if you look back on yours, I think we can probably agree that our periods of greatest growth typically come right after the periods of our greatest frustration. There we are, struggling with a problem that it feels like we’ve been struggling with forever and that we’ll never get past, gnashing our teeth, shaking our fists, ready to give up and abandon all hope. And then it happens: we get better.

Suddenly, all of the frustration is forgotten; it’s as if it never happened at all. We’re on the other side, looking back and chuckling at the person we were just a few short minutes ago. How did it happen?

Some folks will tell you that the reason you got better is that you persevered. You stayed the course and kept banging until you had the breakthrough. I’ll bet that’s not the case, though. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that what actually happened is that you changed up your game somehow. That you took a different tack. That, in fact, if you’d┬ápersevered in the same course you never would have achieved the breakthrough.

We find it in coding all the time: a seriously frustrating pixel that refuses to behave and is driving us to complete and absolute distraction is usually mastered only when we change our perspective and come at it from a different angle. The same is true in your business, too; the real “Eureka!” moments happen when you get out of your head and decide to have a different look at the problems and to get better at solving them.

I’ll be honest: if there was a way for me to get in shape without having to do the work of getting better, you’d better believe I’d be the first in line to buy it, no matter the cost. As it turns out, though, the only way I can get healthy is by putting in the work. The often painful, often frustrating work. I can’t wish for it, hope for it, pray for it, or visualize it; I have to work for it.

So do you.

2 Responses to Don’t Get Frustrated, Get Better

  1. Post-Bomb Alert. Jackie here. When Jerry says he enjoys “a glass (or three) of wine (or whiskey) every now and again” what he really means is he has a glass of wine right NOW and then has one AGAIN later, like three Irishmen on a bender :)

  2. I ge this. We actually have to do this a lot: changing perspective. On any given day, I go from planning, to project management, to database, to graphic design, to branding. Context awareness is all about perspective. Relevance is all about perspective, too. and there’s a subtle distinction between perspective and viewpoint that’s really critical at times. We often recommend a particular thoughtfulness of brand and audience and relevance and context in a very specific way, first and foremost: think about them, don’t think for them. So when things are extremely frustrating, there’s no need to imagine, not yet… Imagination will come in especially handy when the frustration has run it’s course and you’re open to a new perspective. Now you can riff on all sorts of creative solutions that frustration previously hampered.

Leave a reply