Letting go

As a manager, home maker, or independent entrepreneur, you’re constantly keeping various balls in the air. Like a professional juggler, you focus to make sure you don’t miss any of the balls. It’s therefore interesting that, at a juggling workshop, the first thing you learn is to drop the balls! More Balls Than Most provides various corporate trainings and I commission them regularly. Time and time again, most managers struggle with the first exercise: throwing up three balls rhythmically and then simply letting them fall to the ground. Although the instructions are clear, more than half the participants try to catch the balls. It is a reflex, and it would seem hard to repress. Fittingly, the workshop is called ‘The Art of Letting Go’. Everyone knows the principle: you’re busy seeking a solution for a problem and it just won’t work. The harder you try, the more you struggle. Then you go for a bite to eat, take the dog for a walk or take a shower and, all of a sudden… you’ve got it! Precisely because you took some distance the solution seems to pop up out of nowhere. This stepping away consciously is also a form of letting go. Companies like Google and 3M know how important it is to arrive at creative innovations. That’s why they obligate (!) their staff to do something completely different for 10-15% of their time: table tennis, golf, sleeping, computer games. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s nothing like work. In love we’ve known forever: if you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you it was meant to be. If they don’t, then they were never yours to begin with. This applies to the relationship with your partner, and especially if you have children: you know you’re going to have to let go of them one day. Raising children is, in fact, letting go piece by piece as your kids start gaining their independence. Giving them the space to make their own mistakes. And here we arrive at a highly sensitive point that’s applicable both in our private lives and in business. Who teaches us to make mistakes? Everything in our society – education, work, government – is focused on doing things right in one go. Mistakes are often punished mercilessly. But be honest: from what did you learn the most? From the mistakes you’ve made! How much space do we give others to make errors? Our children, employees, partners? How about ourselves? Perhaps that’s why letting go of notions and routines is so scary. It feels unnatural, we’re scared of making a mistake. On the other hand, sport teaches us that trying to maintain control can have an adverse effect. If, on a mountain bike, you have to go through a huge hole and up the other side, the last thing you want to do is step on the brakes. It’s the dumbest thing you could do as you’re likely to fly over the handlebars. Skateboarding is also relaxing. If you tense your muscles you’re going to fall, get tenser, and end up in a vicious circle. Some time ago, in a stressful period when I went horse riding, I was thrown from every horse. Even the calmest horse around went wild when I got on its back. So I stopped for a while. Years later, when all the stress had disappeared from my life, it all went far better. It works the other way round too: if you’re so involved in sports that you can’t think of anything else, all the stress disappears from your body. If I’m involved in a tough climb on a climbing wall, there’s not a brain cell in my mind thinking of my ‘to-do-list’ – my body and mind are fully occupied with the ‘dangers’ of the moment. In Curaçao, while swimming my daily kilometer in the sea, I achieve a particular cadence, a sort of trance that helps me for a moment see everything from afar, and far more clearly. I have come up with my best ideas while swimming. Next time you have the feeling you’re juggling too many balls, do an experiment and let go. It’s exciting, against your instinct, but, who knows, may achieve some surprising results. The boat is safer anchored at the port: but that’s not the aim of boats.

Want to become a digital nomad?

Do you see yourself live, work & play around the world as a location-independent entrepreneur?

  • Still have questions?
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If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, then these options may be for you:

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