My father was born on May 9th, 1924 in Damascus, Syria, and grew up in the shadows of World War II. By age 20, he had seen and lived through life threatening events such as the bombing of Alexandria, Egypt, where he witnessed friends being cut in half by German bombs. He seldom talked about his experiences and he died when I was too young to even comprehend their meaning when he did talk about them. I would like to share the biggest lesson that I learned from him now. The lesson of Epic Engagement.
Epic Engagement begins when we decide to do something. It is born from a drive to do something correctly and not make any mistakes. Some actions, as you can imagine, are more serious than others. Driving a car, for example, has much more dire consequences when done incorrectly than playing a game of dominos. However, while playing dominos may not have dangerous consequences if not done correctly, the methodology of not being engaged while playing dominos has long lasting effects on other actions.
Just as quitting becomes a habit, so does doing things in a partially engaged status. Doing things while being distracted or with a bad attitude can have habitual effects when the action becomes more important. “Like what you do; don’t do what you like.” These were the words that my father would utter to me. He told me that even if you sweep a floor, you should do it with as much passion and love as you do other activities that you love to do. The wisdom behind those words are far reaching and poignant. Liking what one does is important because there will be many more times that we must sweep the floor because it needs to be done. So why not like it? Developing the habit of epic engagement starts with the mundane and seemingly tedious tasks that we must do everyday in order to progress.
For epic engagement to take hold, we must have energy and passion in everything that we do. Don’t reserve your motivation for the things that you like to do. That’s too easy. Passionately attack things that you don’t like to do, if for no other reason to practice and develop the concept of epic engagement. Passion fuels our interest and drives us to flow, that inner state where we lose ourselves and find ourselves at the same time, moving smoothly and efficiently through our actions and harnessing a deep desire to perform at the top of our game. And yes, you can achieve this while sweeping the floor, doing your taxes, surfing a 30 foot wave. Anything. Passion is the magic ingredient.
Planning and Self Improvement
Just like with anything else that we do, proper planning and critical analysis after the action are essential to achieve epic engagement. Plan/Act/Improve. For epic engagement to take place, you must be deliberate in all aspects of the task; before, during and after all need to be synchronized and firing on all cylinders, and they all need to feed off of each other for optimal effectiveness. Let’s say that you do a task flawlessly but don’t write down what you did or even remember how you did it next time. You may take longer to learn the task or not learn it as effectively as you could if you wrote down and captured the details in the improvement phase. Conversely, if you set off to do a task, but forget to grab the right broom and choose the on with the wrong bristles, you may end up sweeping the floor a lot longer or not do it well enough so you don’t have to do sweep it again. The stages all feed each other, and they all lead us down the road to epic engagement.
This is something that you can practice this week with everything that you do, from driving a car to a complex assignment that you need to accomplish for work. Activate the Plan/Act/Improve sequence and write something down on paper. Plan your dive, dive your plan, and then sit down and write down any improvements that you need to make for next time. While you are in the action phase of the epic engagement, fully concentrate in the task and take in all the nuances and details of the action. Take every aspect of what you are doing in and let yourself become in awe of the situation. This will active your passion and drive yourself into a sense of focus that you have never felt before. What you complete that task, sit down and write out any lessons that you can capture for the next time you complete the same (or a similar) action.
Epic Engagement takes time and energy to do it correctly; however, the rewards are priceless. Even sweeping the floor can become an action that you will look forward to!
“Lean into it!”