Notes from the Edge of Panic

8 Things I Learned in 8 Months This Year

Justin H.



I’ve had a memo hastily titled “Notes from the Edge of Panic” going on my phone for the past eight months. This week I sat down to reread it, filling in a few details. I kept the title because I still kind of like it. Those eight months gave me these eight meditative thoughts. I'm giving them to you now—we should give each other as much as we can, shouldn't we?

1. Taking the long view has a lot to do with faith and very little to do with a plan.

I’m not talking about capital-F "Faith". I mean the capacity for directing energy into the unknown, believing that it’s not lost. I still hustle for the businesses I help lead, those under my care, those in my household. I still cook dinner most nights because I trust that it’s good for my soul, not just my insides. It's easy to get lost in the middle distance between what I can do with what's before me and the horizon point. I have to look to the horizon a lot more often. My plan now might look a lot like not having a plan, but sometimes that’s just the right plan.

2. Everything takes longer than I expected (or than I’ve been allowing).

I used to work inside time boxes much more before. Now it’s okay if ideas take months to shape up because what even is time anymore? I should have been doing things this way for years. (But to be fair to my former self, my career hasn’t always given me months, or even weeks, or even days.) But like an excellent chili, the big ideas need a long simmer.

3. Some things just don’t need much time (and I’ve been overkilling it).

When I put on an outfit, packed a lunch, drove to the office, and put my head down to work, I brought much professional force to bear on whatever I pointed my attention at. Some jobs take all the brain muscle I have. But some require a light, possibly silly touch. Right now I don’t work in an office. It’s easier not to see every job as a nail requiring a smack from my professional sledgehammer. My coworkers are my three-year-old and two cats. I work with a view of my backyard or in my wife’s bakery. My mental feather duster is easier to reach for than the hammer these days.

4. We’re all mental and emotional lefties now.

In April I trimmed off the tip of my right thumb on accident (be more careful than me with a mandoline slicer). At urgent care they cleaned it up and wrapped a giant bandage around it. My right hand stayed mostly out of commission for the next month. I slowly became quasi-ambidextrous. We all had to live with being cut off from each other this year. We’ve been developing our intellectual-emotional shadow functions. We may never master them, but we’ll be able to do so much more than we could before because of our new mental ambidexterity. I think this is what the evolution of humanity feels like.

5. It's okay to have an unscratchable itch.

The idea you can’t get to the bottom of. Not being home for Christmas. Not understanding your politics/faith/budget right now. Things come back around, just wait and see.

6. Sharing Experience > Sharing Advice.

I think you extract what you need from your experiences. Maybe it was always this way, but especially now: Everyone’s vantage point is really, really different. I think we more often need to remember that each other is a human being, same as us. Same feelings. Different experiences. Same ups and downs (though at different times), loneliness, wonder, regret, and joy from different vantage points. I’m trying to spend way less time telling other people how to get to those feelings the same way I did. Just that I have them, too. Yours and my sound waves need an echo, not to be told that we’re shouting in the wrong caves.

7. Spiraling isn’t always circling the drain.

No ideas (yet). Nothing’s working (yet). Nothing feels good (yet). But sometimes you’re being pulled through a wormhole to a new galaxy of new ideas. I know almost nothing about the future, but I do know it’s non-linear. I can’t draw a straight line to it. We get there with the spiral.

8. Yours, mine and ours.

We don’t have to agree on everything. We can’t agree on everything. But when it comes to our collective fate, consensus is critical. What can we learn as a “we”? The future is what we’re making it, together, right now.

Those are my notes. I’m not at the edge of panic anymore, but stuff is still weird. After reading these, I'm curious: What else did you learn about lately? I'd love to hear the big stuff, small stuff, or anything in between. Drop us a line on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or send me an email.

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