Mother's Musings · The Educated Parent

What all that extra “huffing” got me

Time…it is something that adults are obsessed with, and our tiny ones do not understand at all.  One minute Mom is playing ponies with you…the next she is throwing shoes and a coat on you and yelling, “Hurry!!!!”

I have been thinking a lot about how strange time must seem to my babies.  I am always throwing numbers at them, “Five more minutes!” or “Go faster! It is really late! We only have two minutes to get there!”  This means nothing to them, all they know is that all of the sudden Mom is stressed and whatever they have been doing has to stop abruptly.

If any of you are Tim Ferriss podcast fans, you have to listen to his episode with Derek Sivers (here).  Derek Sivers (CEO and founder of CD Baby) is being interviewed by Tim Ferriss and tells the following story:


Derek:Yeah, this was kind of profound. Now granted, I didn’t learn this until later, but yet I’ve been very very very type A my whole life. Even before I met Kimo Williams, you know? I mean, age 14, my friends would call me the robot because they would never see me sleep or eat or relax or hang out, I just was so focused on being the best musician I could be, that I would just practice every waking minute. If I’d begrudgingly go to a party, I’d bring my guitar with me and I’d be sitting in the corner practicing my scales and arpeggios while everybody was hanging out and getting high. So yeah, I’ve always been very type A.

A friend of mine got me into cycling when I was living in LA and I lived right on the beach in Santa Monica where there is this great bike path in the sand that goes for, I think it’s 25 miles in the sand. What I would do is, I would go on to the bike path and I would go head down and push it as hard as I could, I would go and where to one end of the bike path and back and then back home and I set my little timer when doing this

Tim:Huffing and puffing, red-faced.

Derek:Yeah, just red-faced, but like just pushing it as hard as I can every single thrust of the leg. Of course that made me quite fun if somebody was in my way on the bike path.

Tim:That guy has got places to go.

Derek:But I noticed it was always 43 minutes. If you know Santa Monica, California you know the weather is about exactly the same all year round, unless it was a surprisingly windy day, it was always 43 minutes is what it took me it took me to go as fast as I could on that bike path.

But I noticed that over time I was starting to feel less psyched about going out on the bike path. Just mentally when I would think of it it would feel like paying and hard work, right?

Tim:It sounds like pain and hard work.

Derek:Yeah, it was. I guess at first that was okay, and after a while I just felt like “eh I don’t know, riding a bike, why don’t I just hang out…”

So I said you know, that’s not cool for me to start to associate negative stuff with going on the bike ride, why don’t I just chilled for once. I’m just going to go on the same bike ride, I’m not going to be a complete snail but good at like half of my normal pace.

So yeah, I got on my bike and it was just pleasant. I just went on the same bike ride that I was more like standing up, and I just noticed that I was looking around more and I looked out at the ocean and I noticed that that though there were these dolphins jumping in the ocean. And I went down to Marina del Rey to my turnaround point. You know, it was actually at the breakers at Marina del Rey there was penguin that was flying above me. I was like “no way, hey look, a penguin!” And he shit in my mouth.

Tim:Was it a penguin or a pelican?

Derek:Oh that’s right, pelican. Did I say penguin? Oh yes, flying penguin above my head, that would be more amazing.

Tim:I was like what did you take before your ride? So you had a pelican shit in your mouth. That’s incredible accuracy, how far away was it?

Derek:Like 20 feet up. I don’t know if he was accurate or I was.

Anyway point is I had such a nice time, it was just purely pleasant. There was no red face, and there was no huffing and puffing, I was just cycling. It was nice. And when I got back to my usual stopping place I looked at my watch, and it said 45 minutes.

And I was like “no way!” How the hell could that have been 45 minutes as compared to my usual 43? There is no way! But it was right, 45 minutes.

And that was like a profound lesson that I think change the way I’ve approached my life ever since. It’s because I realized that, what percentage of that huffing and puffing then, we could do the math or whatever, 93 point something percent of my huffing and puffing and all that red face and all that stress was only for an extra two minutes. It was basically for nothing. I mean, you know, of course we are not talking about me competing in something, where the huffing and puffing might have been worth it.

But for life I think all of this optimization and getting the maximum dollar out of everything and the maximum out of every second and the maximum out of every minute, and I think I just take this approach now of going… Or you could take most that lesson and apply it and be effective and be happy, but you don’t need to stress about any of that stuff. Honestly, that’s been my approach ever since. I do things that I stop before everything gets stressful.

I listened to this podcast about 7 months ago, and I have thought of it a few times a week ever since.  I mostly would think about it at the gym, trying to enjoy the hard parts of cardio and put my energy into that joy of working out rather than the “huffing and puffing.”

However, a month or so ago I had my own “bike” moment in a different environment.  I usually am rushing around in a whirlwind to get the boys breakfast and out the door to the gym so we can be back in time for Bennett’s morning nap.  I feel so bad when he gets sleepy at the gym.  I have tons of reasons why this timing in the morning is SO important.

One morning Boston really wanted me to read books with him, and Bennett was trying to show me a toy truck.  They were being so sweet that I just forgot time for a bit and sat down with my cute boys.  We played for a while on the carpet.  Little Boston was pointing things out on the page with his chubby little fingers.  Bennett leaned his head on my arm and put his hand on my chin to get my attention. I felt so comfortable thinking how nice it is that we don’t HAVE to be anywhere.  

When we finally got settled in the car to go to the gym I looked at the clock.  I usually leave my house for the gym around 8:20.  It was 8:28.  I immediately thought of Derek Sivers and his story.  All that “huffing and puffing” and not noticing the small things had only saved me 8 minutes in a timeline that wasn’t too important, anyway.  

My friend recently told me that toddlers can detect our moods and copycat them by something as simple as the way we are walking.  She is overdue pregnant right now so naturally for the last month or so she has been walking with some pain and groaning.   Well, her three year old has developed some very serious walking pains.

This explains why my littles turn into tiny crazy people every time we are trying to leave the house, get ready for nap, make dinner, or go to bed.  They are picking up on everything I have put out day after day and copycatting the mood.

And all this for eight minutes?  I know a lot of you probably have REAL schedules that have to be followed.  However, I also know that there are some schedules and timelines that feel real and actually don’t matter that much.  I have been reevaluating ours and decided that some things are worth being late for.  Find the pelicans, look for the dolphins, feel the chubby hands, kiss the smile, and enjoy the ride.  Who needs all that huffing anyway?


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