Steady the Maze

Yesterday morning, I was trying to record a 30-second clip for a product launch. Hoping to use the quiet, pre-9 AM window at WeWork, I went into an empty meeting room and began.

At first, my recording software kept crashing. I couldn’t find an update. Then, I kept rambling for a minute, failing to say what I wanted to say succinctly enough. While I was trying to find the right words, other people started making noise. During my next attempt, ambulance sirens started wailing outside. Needless to say, it was not going well.

After 30 minutes of frustrated attempts, I was ready to throw my laptop out of the window, but then I decided I’d do something else: “Stop. Wait. What you need…is a reset.”

If you’ve ever played one of those wooden ball-in-a-maze puzzles, where you have to tilt the maze from side to side in hopes of maneuvering the ball into the right hole, you know how hard it can be to find balance. Just before the last corner, you slip and the ball falls into the wrong crack. Even when you can already see it racing towards a dead end and try to adjust, sometimes, you don’t make it in time.

Life is like that, too. On some days, the ball will keep going into the wrong hole, and the more you grit your teeth and tighten your muscles, trying ever harder to make it go your way, the faster the ball will run away from you. The more tilted you become, the more you’ll tilt the maze — and on slanted geography, nothing can go in a straight line.

When frustrations run hot, lower your expectations. On days like that, the goal is not to finish first. The goal is to steady the maze — and re-establish balance. Of course, the thing you’re really steadying is yourself. Once you return to your center, let go of anger, and choose calm, your hands will stop shaking, and the maze will steady itself.

As three guys settled in for the day right next to where I was recording, I closed my laptop and walked out of the meeting room. I went to the toilet, made some tea, and sat back down at my seat. I put on my headphones, turned on some music, and started writing. Another 30 minutes later, I had all but forgotten the recording session gone wrong, and it was just another, sunny, productive day.

When your perspective is crooked, don’t lean forward. Look straight, breathe, and steady the maze. Once your vision is level, the path to your destination will be clear — and only if you see where you’re going can you avoid falling into a hole along the way.