I’m comfortable with a stage. Always have been. When I gave a speech, a Zen-like peace comes over me. It’s not that I’ve never flopped, or that I never get nervous before an event begins, but when I’m out there, things start moving too fast for me to process it all analytically. The sensory feedback comes fast and furious. My analytical brain turns off, and I start processing on autopilot.
For example, during Q&A, I’ll sometimes begin to answer a question by saying something like, “Three things you need to consider…” before I know what three things my brain is thinking of. I recently did that durng a live TV appearance. By the time I finished voicing the sentence, though, the list of three things popped into my mind’s eye. The analytical side of me would never do that. Too risky, it thinks.
So, can one be in the zone and maintain that analytical mindset at the same time? I don’t think so. The analytical mind wants to think harder, while flow is about letting go. Take any flow-based activity: riding a bike, surfing, skiing, golf, public speaking, meditation… the analytical mind can’t get you there from a book.
There’s a time and place for analytics. The zone’s not it. Life in the zone moves too fast for the slow and noisy analytical side of your brain. By the time you’re in the zone, the homework and preparation portion of your day is over. It’s go time.
The zone can be a bit unnerving to someone who likes things to move in a slower, predictable, and linear way. Learning to deal with that unnerving feeling of letting go can be hard. Just remember: unless you’re a brain surgeon, failing probably won’t result in death. Roll with it.
Watch this clip of Eddie Izzard to see how a relaxed, flow-based mind works: you can see him lose his train of thought right at the beginning at the clip below, and again at 4:00. But he’s in the zone (perhaps somewhat artificially?), so he accepts the silence and keeps going. He knows his brain will catch up. It’s a method that takes practice, but you’ve got it in you, if you can just quiet your mind.
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Why I’m writing about this.
I do a lot of work on social media. Turns out, social media is not an analytical communication channel. It’s a flow-based communication channel. People who look at Facebook and assume that everything on there is overshare; people who read their Twitter feed from the top to the bottom; people who can’t figure out what to do with their LinkedIn connections are letting their analytical minds push too hard.
When it comes to social media, roll with it. “I’m enjoying this turkey sandwich!” is perfectly acceptable in conversation. Ditto Twitter. Stop trying so hard. It’ll come to you.
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.