07 Feb It’s not just you
The one question that’s almost always answered with a lie.
It’s “How are you doing?”
I’ll be honest: I’ve been feeling a little uninspired of late. Not depressed. Not feeling sorry for myself. Not ungrateful for all that I have.
Just a little bored.
We’ve had two of our best years ever at my company, Natie Branding Agency. I’ve gotten to work with some incredibly innovative people, with clients ranging from a chewing gum company whose product naturally halts sugar cravings; to a VC that basically founded the thriving Israeli tech sector; to a start-up that challenges chargebacks in credit card land that’s recently raised $70 million. We’ve worked with companies that are either building the metaverse, delivering autonomous farming technology or providing Genz solutions for investing. Every one of them with a fascinating story.
I created a special Natie Guest Writer series with incredible contributors like Rob Schwartz, Tamara Lohan and Justine Zwerling.
I started my own podcast called ‘I’m That‘ and I’m wrapping up a first season graced by the likes of Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Guy Spier and Hillel Neuer.
I’m happily married and a very hands-on dad, tucking my kids in every single night.
I’ve created a couple of videos in the last few years that have gone viral. I’m very active online when it comes to fighting the good fight against antisemitism. I love Lego and I’ve built around 50 kits in the last two years.
I have great friends and see them. I write. I take photographs. I’ve been pushing myself into other territories lately like picking up carpentry and trying to make music. I’ve read 9 books in the last 6 months, which, for me, is insane. I travel around Israel regularly and even managed trips to the States and Thailand recently.
I share this simply to point out that how I’ve been feeling isn’t a result of having too little to do or a lack of interesting people and ideas in my life. It’s quite the opposite: My team, the people I get to work with, the entrepreneurs, the branding we deliver for them…it blows me away. I love what I do, whom I do it with, and the clients I get to partner with. Nothing beats it. But much as I love my career and have that get-up-and-go energy in my day job, you know…that flourishing feeling is hard to maintain.
It’s not that I haven’t tried embracing the uninspired vibes either. After all, there’s nothing wrong with bouts of boredom or periods when there’s a drop in your inspiration. I’ve leaned into it. I’ve given it a seat at the table. I’ve welcomed it and poured it a drink.
So recently, without overthinking it, I put up a post on Facebook and I was honest about what I was feeling:
Within minutes of posting, I got a private message from a friend suggesting I consider deleting it. He was concerned it might send the wrong message – should a creative director and founder of a successful international branding agency openly express he’s feeling uninspired? Who’d want great branding from his team…maybe it’d be bad for business…for my reputation?
But I’ve decided to double down on sharing my feelings here. And not just because I feel I’m pretty damn good at what I do for a living.
I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with expressing that you might be feeling uninspired, no matter who you are. No matter what your position, what you do, what stage you’re at in life, no matter what industry you’re in. There’s nothing to be gained from pretending everything is hunky-dory when you might not be feeling as fired up as you usually do.
Can I bring up the big, fat, spiky elephant in the room now?
The Covid challenges we’ve all been facing day-in and day-out for a while now are unprecedented. So much of our daily lives have become monotonous as we’ve been cooped up. Not to mention all the crazy global crises we’re all watching together, one after the other – whether it’s the complete lack of global leadership, the grave concerns about climate change, certain countries amassing troops on neighboring countries, big tech controlling everything we do, and so much more. Watching all this from the confines of our Covid lives has had an effect. It takes a toll. It’s tiring and draining.
Boredom…lack of inspiration…a sense of stagnation all around us we can’t seem to shake? Call it what you want – it sucks.
We’re all hearing the same things over and over again, too, and so much of it depletes us. There are so many people I admire and respect, both professionally and personally, who are also quietly fed up lately. Just…tired.
So if I’m going to be the one that personally brings it up on a business platform where people actually know me instead of a random Inc. or Economist article by an author you don’t know, then so be it because this way maybe it’ll resonate.
After I posted my original message, I got around 500 public responses, 50 private messages, and no shortage of phone calls. Some wrote thanks for just baring my soul.
“Your post about boredom is one of my favorite and candid posts from any of my friends all year. There’s a reason why everyone sits and looks at their phone all the time. I think that reason, in part, is boredom. Society needs to understand it, discuss it, and learn from it. But no one talks about it openly.”
Others wrote practical suggestions to help combat it.
“Set yourself a goal of trying to really understand something unfamiliar or complicated. Build some expertise in a completely orthogonal subject to your usual area of expertise.” Or “volunteer for a cause that’s bigger than you” or “get a puppy”, “play Wordle” or “meditate for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up” or “savor your boredom…like a divining rod, it will lead you to the next adventure.”
And so many wrote private messages expressing, “Yes that’s EXACTLY how I feel!”
I’ve been contemplating leaving Facebook for years but with this, I got a breath of fresh air. People wrote super-authentic responses with great ideas that they clearly had taken the time to share. It took effort and sincerity. Nothing about politics. Nothing about division. No petty nastiness which all too often fills our newsfeeds these days… No, just friends showing empathy, expressing their own challenges, and sharing their thoughts in a helpful way.
It inspired and filled me with gratitude.
Look, maybe you’re thinking, “Covid is over and we’re moving on. Why bring up all this kumbaya shit now? It’s irrelevant to anything and maybe it’s just a midlife crisis you’re going through.”
I mean, sure, I have an established business, I’ve been married a few years and the kids are growing up. And sure, maybe Covid is on its way out and things will get back to normal soon. But the events of the last couple of years have really shaken people up, even people who have had it good. So why? Why still that prevailing, indifferent, bored, not-thriving feeling…however you choose to define it.
It definitely has a lot to do with how we’ve found it so hard to plan ahead for 2 years now. We don’t know when things are getting back to normal or what normal might even look like. We’ve been in a holding pattern, uncertain of what tomorrow will bring every day and it’s all been on repeat like Groundhog Day.
There’s certainly something to what Kathryn Schulz articulates in a New York Times article I recently stumbled upon. It’s a piece that actually stopped me dead in my tracks when I read it:
“For two years now, the future as we envisioned it has been steadily fading away in front of us.”
She continues that she had to give up a book tour due to Covid and that it sucked. “In the scheme of things that people have lost to the pandemic, a book tour is way out there on the ‘So what?’ end of the spectrum. But the spectrum itself is part of what has made the pandemic so emotionally challenging.
The coronavirus has killed almost a million people in this country and more than five and a half million worldwide, while simultaneously taking a staggering range of other things from us as well — everything from a small business to a sense of smell, physical contact to mental health, Friday evenings with friends to smiling at strangers on a crowded subway car. How are we supposed to live with not only such a quantity but such a range of loss?”
To me, that really hit home.
We might be momentarily uninspired with the big things we all know about, but with the small things as well that count for something. More than we realize, in fact – and we might not have even put together that we’ve lost such things. And when we have, they’re hard to put into words. Professionally too, this crazy period we’ve been going through has taken a major toll on our spirits. Every one of us.
We’ve missed stuff like team meetings in person. Catching up before work starts or at lunchtime. Socializing with clients. Celebrating wins together. Figuring out what to talk about besides Covid. Just being able to pop into someone’s office or cubicle. Feeling relaxed hanging out in a crowded bar after work, or traveling to a conference together, a pitch, or a business retreat. Our confidence that everything is going to be okay. Our optimism. Our thrive mindset. Our everyday fearlessness.
The list goes on. Tons of random little things that, accumulated, become huge.
And that can really impact you – no matter how happy and fulfilled you’re used to being.
What is it about social media or human nature – or both – that practically requires us to insist we’re GREAT when we’re not really sure that’s what we feel in a moment? When we feel unfulfilled, bored, uninspired. Why don’t we feel comfy reaching out and showing our vulnerability, no matter who we are, whatever our background, whatever we do? Especially professionally.
Showing the occasional vulnerability isn’t weakness. It’s strength.
More than that, it’s human.
I’m writing this on a professional platform precisely because we all have to accept that we can hit walls. And it only stands to reason that our professions will bear the brunt because work is what a lot of us spend most of our time doing. There’s nothing wrong with feeling it. What’s wrong is to feel this pressure to be perfect. Nothing is perfect.
We can have writer’s block, designer’s block, teacher’s block and strategist’s block. We can have management block, developer’s block, operations block, lawyer’s block and investor’s block. No matter what we do for a living, we can feel uninspired, bored, fed up, beaten down, unsure, exasperated and deflated. We can have been-there-done-that-I’ve-tried-everything-all-I-want-now-is-a-break-goddammit block.
There’s no shame in not having all the answers you usually do – or any answers at all.
There are so many new little things we’ve had to adjust to that it can be hard to process. Hard to admit, for fear of being seen as weak. Hard to admit, for fear of being seen as complaining. But you know what? To hell with anyone who guilt trips you, suggesting you’re too privileged to express that something doesn’t feel right to you. It doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful or that you don’t appreciate the many things you have. You probably do.
Nothing weird or wrong to express how you’re not feeling like your normal self to friends or trusted colleagues out there in the real world. Beyond just saying the generic ‘Wow, doesn’t Covid suck and I just want to go back to normal already’, go ahead and talk about how your inspiration has taken a hit. Put it on the table with those you feel comfortable sharing it with.
That creative who feels they’re anything but right now…
That head of HR who has to focus on herself for a change…
That intern that doesn’t even know where to start in this new remote world…
That influencer who can’t sway over himself let alone his audience…
That college senior who isn’t excited about entering the “real world” in a few months…
That confused entrepreneur while a team looks to you for clarity….
Just give yourself a break to let yourself feel what you’re feeling. Push for new interesting activities. Reach out.
Check in with people you know and trust to ask how they’re doing. Start a conversation. Stop waiting and take a small step, as Jane Brody recently wrote, that ‘minimizes isolation and fosters support that in turn nurtures your resilience’. By doing that, maybe you’ll make moves towards not necessarily going back to what you’ve always done, but towards new things that’ll give you a second wind – whether for the short or for the long run.
If anything, I hope this wee share of mine makes you feel a little less alone than you might have felt five minutes ago. I’m wrapping this up with a list of stuff people suggested in my original FB post. If you need a nudge or a bit of a kick, I hope it helps. I’ve already begun crossing some things off the list. (For starters, watch ‘My Octopus Teacher‘. It’s as inspiring and good as they say it is).
Taylor Swift hits the right note when she sings, “We’re all bored – we’re all so tired of everything” in New Romantics. And even though it’s not about Covid, take a moment, crank it up and try singing along with her. You just might feel better.
Thanks to all my friends, near and far, who contributed to this list.
· Teach, mentor or present to young people.
· Get involved with an NGO
· Play an instrument. Or learn to play one.
· Learning about crypto and NFTs
· Learn a new language
· Learn to wingfoil
· Do Sports
· Get moving – Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, even just a walk in the park
· Set a goal of trying to really understand something unfamiliar or complicated
· Train for an endurance event
· Go to Dubai
· Practice some sort of Buddhism
· Learn about wines or whiskies and become an aficionado
· Learn calligraphy
· Talk to brilliant founders
· Write…just word dump
· Play dungeons and dragons
· Watch some of the classics you haven’t watched in decades or genres you meant to
· Binge watch Masterclasses
· Take up golf
· Play poker
· Take a metal workshop
· Get a dog or a puppy
· Play Wordle
· Meditate 20 minutes as soon as you wake up
· Clean something up. A medicine cabinet. A closet. A desk. A relationship.
· Watching great shows on TV
· Do something goal-oriented to give drive and purpose
· Volunteer and spend time with those less fortunate than yourself
· Go hear live music
· Build or create something with your hands
· Engage with the disabled community
· Make Sachlab
· Do NY times daily puzzles
· Put your feet up and relax and enjoy the movie, ‘My Octopus Teacher.’
· Separate from social media – turn off…
· Redo something in your home. Change it up.
· Find and cook new recipes for friends & family
· Plan your garden & looking for new seeds/plants
· Make art
· Take a drive out to the countryside – change your scenery, get fresh air
· Learn Torah
· Go through your contact list and call friends you haven’t talked to for ages
· Start a family tradition
· Go hiking, play baseball, football, soccer, basketball
· Build a chicken coop, greenhouse & beehive
· Study world history
· Play Words With Friends
· Go somewhere you’ve never been
· Spend time in a library
· Learn a new skill or practice a new one
· Mentor a child
· Walk every day then journal about your walk
· Revisit old places
· Read Swedish murder mysteries
· Take bridge lessons
· Help your spouse make chicken soup
· Create structure for each day
· Spend time searching for ancestors
· Drive to the shore and walk the beach/boardwalk
· Change your furniture around and, in general, mix it up
· Learn more about nature and what I can do to protect it
· Watch old movies
· Rewrite your cv to look at things differently
· Walk around the farmers or flea market & the boardwalk
· Spend time with the people who fill you up
· Stay away from conversations that bring you down.
· Prioritize self-care
· Take long showers and use a good moisturizer
· Make a sourdough starter
· Make a bucket list of things you want to do and check them off one by one