You Only Need 60%

I’ve recently realized that I’ve been putting 100% into work and leaving very little for myself. That 100% doesn’t mean that I was working crazy hours or pushing myself to exhaustion, though. It meant I was 100% attached to outcomes, circumstances and organizational problems. When things weren’t going well at work I would feel them on a deep personal level. Communication issues that happened without my involvement? I’d feel attached to figuring out the core problem and trying to help make sure it didn’t happen again. Low company morale or performance? I’d begin pushing hard to try and make changes so we get out of the rut.

Sadly, most of the issues or outcomes I found myself attached to were out of my control. Sure, I could voice my opinions and offer suggestions or solutions. However, I didn’t have final say, so I would be left questioning why nothing is changing despite feeling like the boulder is mine to be pushing up hill.

I’m sure the sane among you recognize this as an un-winnable position. It’s a surefire recipe for burnout, toxicity and generally poor mental and physical health. But, to me, it’s been my status quo for the last ~4 years. I went from trying to push boulders up-hill with Firstbloom, then taking that same mentality to Fluent, and how I find myself repeating the same pattern in a role that’s much less influential or responsibility-weighted compared to Founder/CEO/Founding-Engineer.

After hitting a breaking point—bordering on mild burnout—I started to ask myself what was behind this behaviour. After chatting with my partner, I realized that the underlaying issues was attachment. Being 100% attached to work was creating my problems. It was actively working against the person I wanted to become and creating friction in places and ways that didn’t used to exist.

Having such a strong attachment to something affects so many parts of your life. Whatever you’re attached to can quickly become your identity. When things happen in the context of your attachment that others perceive as minuscule, you see a piano falling on your head. Combine a deep attachment with a predisposition to feeling things deeply, and you’ve gone from bad to terrible.

The more I sat with the idea of attachment, the more I realized the best times in my life/career were when I was barely attached. That doesn’t mean I didn’t care at all about what went on at work, how people felt or whether what was being done was inline with my morals. The lack of attachment meant that I would put solid effort in, voice opinions and pushback when necessary but I would be quick to let go and move on. Once the wheels were in motion, all I could do was chime in. There was no guarantee we’d end up at the destination I had in my mind. I was operating with 60% attachment; enough to care about where we’re going and how we get there, but not enough to target me emotionally.

Getting back to a place of 60% attachment won’t be easy. Though, since I’ve even recognized that attachment plays a big part in my frustrations, I’ve already seen a dramatic shift in my relationship to work. It’ll be a fun journey to understand the dynamics at play, and figure out what practices I can roll into my life to embody non-attachment across multiple facets.