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A Spacious Life
Episode 51st April 2022 • PowerPivot • Leela Sinha
00:00:00 00:19:22

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How do we create space in our lives, our businesses, our workplaces, for nourishing rest, so that everybody, every single person, gets to feel fully human?

Transcripts

Leela Sinha:

So way back in 2017, a guy named Marty

Leela Sinha:

Schneider, who goes by @SchneidRemarks on Twitter

Leela Sinha:

(s-c-h-n-e-i-d remarks on Twitter) wrote a thread about

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how he discovered when he accidentally took on a female

Leela Sinha:

colleague's identity for a little while, that the reason

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that she was less efficient, was because sexism. Because people

Leela Sinha:

treated him so much differently, so much worse, so much more

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skeptically, so much more resistantly, when they thought

Leela Sinha:

he was a woman.

Leela Sinha:

And that got me thinking. But then, you know, it was 2017. I

Leela Sinha:

shelved it, I was busy. That same thread surfaced again, on

Leela Sinha:

social media, as such things are wont to do, this week.

Leela Sinha:

And I read it through and I remembered, realized, that he

Leela Sinha:

was talking about a kind of efficiency that comes from a

Leela Sinha:

lack of friction. From a lack of anticipating friction, from a

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lack of encountering friction, from a lack of engaging

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friction. And that got me thinking about the way I cleaned

Leela Sinha:

my house a couple days ago. So a couple days ago, I was getting

Leela Sinha:

ready for bed. And I looked at my sink full of dishes, and I

Leela Sinha:

thought I could wash those. So I did. I've talked before about

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how I have discovered that many tasks take less time than I

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think they will and dishes are definitely one of them. I have

Leela Sinha:

few enough dishes and a small enough sink and drying rack that

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I can generally do all of my dishes in between five and 10

Leela Sinha:

minutes, 10 minutes if it's a lot of dishes, or if there's

Leela Sinha:

something that needs scrubbing. And that that's an amount of

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time that I often spend standing in the kitchen anyway, because

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I'm often waiting for a pan to heat up or the oven to preheat

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or for something else; the microwave to run and so it's

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actually really easy for me to do the dishes if I remember that

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they only take five minutes. When I think that the dishes

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take longer than five minutes or 10 minutes, when I build them up

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into this thing that takes half an hour, or 45 minutes, or all

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the energy I have, then I don't do the dishes. But they only

Leela Sinha:

take five minutes. But after doing the dishes, I looked

Leela Sinha:

around the kitchen and maybe it helped that I was watching a

Leela Sinha:

YouTube about somebody who was trying some new house

Leela Sinha:

maintenance routine thing. I am not a house maintenance routine

Leela Sinha:

person. That is not how my house maintenance has ever worked. I

Leela Sinha:

don't have routines, I don't have schedules, I don't do daily

Leela Sinha:

tasks, I rebel at the very idea of a daily task. But anyway, I

Leela Sinha:

was watching this video, just curious. I'm always curious

Leela Sinha:

about what systems work for people and how they work because

Leela Sinha:

even if they don't work for me, they might work for someone I

Leela Sinha:

know, or for a client, or they might percolate through and

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become a part of the way that I do something else. So I was

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listening and I noticed that a lot of my countertop space, my

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cutting board space was covered with off cuts from things like

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onions and garlic and stem ends, and things like that, that that

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really just belonged in the compost and I had noticed a

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couple of days earlier that all of that stuff tended to fall off

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the counter if I wasn't paying attention. And so I just put a

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paper bag there to catch it as my compost bin. And now I can

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just sweep it off the front of the counter into the bag at my

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feet and when the bag is full, I can take the entire brown paper

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bag out to the compost. It's a system that works pretty well.

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It uses brown paper bags that I already have in the house, that

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are already going to need to be used for something. And so I

Leela Sinha:

just looked over my cutting board and I swept all those

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cuttings into that brown paper bag that was already by the

Leela Sinha:

cutting board, and then I looked around and noticed a few more

Leela Sinha:

things, and picked up a few more things, and then I walked into

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the dining room and noticed that, by comparison, the dining

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room now felt pretty cluttered. And most of why the dining room

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feels cluttered is because of what I pile on the dining table.

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And so I played a game with myself that I sometimes play

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called "One Thing I Know." Because so often my response to

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a cluttered dining table is, I don't know what I'm supposed to

Leela Sinha:

do with this stuff. I don't know where any of it goes. And then I

Leela Sinha:

just kind of get overwhelmed and shut down. But instead, I play

Leela Sinha:

this game called "One Thing I Know" where I look at the table.

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And I say, "what's one thing I know about one thing on this

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table?" So one thing I know is that this bowl from my lunch

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belongs in the sink. One thing I know is that these five things

Leela Sinha:

are paper waste, and can go into paper recycling. One thing I

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know is that this piece of plastic is trash. And it goes in

Leela Sinha:

the trash bag, which is right there. And so I sort of worked

Leela Sinha:

my way through the dining room. And then I got to one thing I

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know is this pile of clothes on the back of this chair can be

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put away, I was like, Okay, well put away at least one thing. So

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then I put away one thing, and then I put away a few more

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things, because I was already putting things away, the closet

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was open the hangers were there.

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I puttered around for an hour, tidying, sorting and cleaning.

Leela Sinha:

This is not me. This is not the way that I have built my life.

Leela Sinha:

But I did it. And I kept checking in with myself to see

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if I needed to go to bed, to see if I needed to rest, to see if

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this was okay. Partially because it was unusual. And partially

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because it's easy for me to shift from doing something

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because I'm moved to do it to doing something because I feel

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like I should do it. But no, it was it was still okay, so I kept

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puttering. And after about an hour, hour and a quarter, I was

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done. I could feel like I was done. It was bedtime, I have my

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lights set to automatically turn themselves off to let me know

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that it's bedtime. And unless I'm really absorbed in

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something, that's usually a cue I'll notice. But as I was

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getting into bed, I was observing how gentle that

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cleaning process had felt, how unforced, how unfraught, it had

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felt. And I realized that the reason that that was, is because

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I had taken a fairly light workweek. I had worked, I've

Leela Sinha:

been telling people almost not at all, but I think it was

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probably like 10 to 15 hours instead of 40 hours or more. And

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I had done work that was nourishing. And then I had

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filled the rest of my time also with nourishing things. I had

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taken the time to cook some food that I actually liked. I had

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taken the time to go for some walks and take some pictures of

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some pretty things that I saw outside, which is one of the

Leela Sinha:

ways that I have practiced centering on beauty. Since

Leela Sinha:

seminary. When I was grumpy about going to seminary in

Leela Sinha:

Chicago. I had sworn I was never moving to Chicago and I was

Leela Sinha:

never going to seminary. Be careful what you say you're

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never doing. And so I made myself take my camera and take

Leela Sinha:

pictures of things that looked unlike things that I thought I

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would encounter in Chicago. Unlike my previous experiences

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of Chicago. I took pictures of pads between buildings that

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looked like English Country Garden pads, and I took pictures

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of you know, tall grasses on a roundabout that made it look

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like I was in the middle of the prairie, and I took pictures of

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intricate architectural work and trees in bloom. And I like

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cities but I need a certain amount of green around me. And

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so I took a lot of pictures of things that were growing. It was

Leela Sinha:

a good practice. I go back to it periodically. It's easier now;

Leela Sinha:

when I did that practice, I was still using film. Now I can use

Leela Sinha:

digital. Now I can take as many pictures as I want. Now I can

Leela Sinha:

correct something that I cropped incorrectly in frame, and by

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incorrectly I mean not the way I meant to.

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But when I filled my week with all of these nourishing things,

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and not with too many of them. When I left space for a certain

Leela Sinha:

amount of staring at the wall, or lying under a tree and

Leela Sinha:

staring at the needles high above me; when I left that

Leela Sinha:

space, and then didn't work very much, I was not exhausted. And

Leela Sinha:

when I was not exhausted, puttering and cleaning came

Leela Sinha:

naturally. And I do mean naturally it, it just emerged

out of the question:

"Do I want to?" The answer was "yes, I do.

out of the question:

I want that." Which the next day led to me cooking more, which

out of the question:

the next day led to me being pleasantly surprised by the

out of the question:

state of my kitchen. I wish I could manage to do a little more

out of the question:

of that, all of that. Part of my challenge has been my entire

out of the question:

life that I have more stuff than places to put it. And the answer

out of the question:

is not getting rid of the stuff, in this particular case, I'm

out of the question:

using it. So this led me down two paths. One was thinking

out of the question:

about executive dysfunction, which I do believe is a real

out of the question:

thing. I'm not disputing that at all. But imagine, imagine if

out of the question:

some significant portion of what we're calling executive

out of the question:

dysfunction is actually straight-up fatigue. What if

out of the question:

it's just being tired, and extra tired from having to mask in

out of the question:

public, and extra tired from having to pretend to be things

out of the question:

for other people all the time? Or being on display all the

out of the question:

time? What if? What if we didn't have to do any of that? What if

out of the question:

we didn't do any of that? What if we spent a relatively small

out of the question:

fraction of our time in the public eye? What if we spent a

out of the question:

relatively small fraction of our time being observed and

out of the question:

evaluated by ourselves or others for work? What have we spent the

out of the question:

rest of our time in rest, in nourishment, in relaxation? I

out of the question:

know there are reasons why this is hard. But if we did... if we

out of the question:

were not so tired, if we were not so rushed, if we were not so

out of the question:

wedged into the corners of capitalism, the focus on

out of the question:

productivity, what else might emerge? What else might we be

out of the question:

urged to do? Because I felt so peaceful when I climbed into

out of the question:

bed. I felt so grounded and so peaceful. I was tired but not

out of the question:

exhausted. I wasn't bone-weary, I was just tired. I knew I

out of the question:

needed to go to sleep, it was bedtime.

out of the question:

And all of that came because I had had enough control over my

out of the question:

life and my schedule and my space, over the amount of

out of the question:

stimulation I had, and what kind of stimulation I had, over

out of the question:

everything. I had had enough control over the elements of my

out of the question:

life, that I could let everything emerge. At its own

out of the question:

time, at its own pace, at my own pace. I recognize that there's

out of the question:

incredible privilege in being able to do that even for an

out of the question:

hour, much less an entire week. And it hadn't been perfect at

out of the question:

all. There were many times during that week when I was

out of the question:

doing things that I didn't want to or in ways that I didn't want

out of the question:

to or things that weren't working right or whatever. But I

out of the question:

could feel as I went to bed that night after having spontaneously

out of the question:

cleaned for an hour, I could feel like the beginnings of the

out of the question:

grass growing up through the dirt in the spring. Just the the

out of the question:

little fuzzy, soft green tendrils of a different way of

out of the question:

being. What does this have to do with business? Well, it has

out of the question:

everything to do with business, right? Because what if, what if

out of the question:

our business models assumed that as a baseline human experience?

out of the question:

What if our business models assumed that everybody needed

out of the question:

restorative time, that all of that restorative time makes

out of the question:

people more productive? Because it does. But also, what if we

out of the question:

just did it because it's the right thing to do? What if

out of the question:

extracting productivity is not the right way to run a business?

out of the question:

What if it's not even ethical to be highly extractive? What are

out of the question:

the other ways we could think of businesses? What are the other

out of the question:

ways we could think of running our businesses and our lives, so

out of the question:

that they're so integrated, that we don't need sharp lines? So

out of the question:

that they nourish each other. So that we are so well-nourished

out of the question:

that we don't resent taking a moment here, or a moment there,

out of the question:

that we had planned for this, to do that. What if it's not

out of the question:

agitating, what if it's not stressful to change things?

out of the question:

Because the schedule is not that fall, there's room, there

out of the question:

spaciousness, there's possibility.

out of the question:

More and more people are saying it, that time is the actual peak

out of the question:

commodity. It's the one thing we can't make more of no matter

out of the question:

what we do. And so how we spend our time becomes the most

out of the question:

valuable thing. Time Off is often more valuable to people

out of the question:

than more cash, not always, it depends on their cash levels.

out of the question:

But if we think about running our businesses as places where

out of the question:

we assume that people need, say, three quarters of their week to

out of the question:

be self-nourishing; three quarters of their week to be

out of the question:

self-nourishing. And I mean, their waking hours, and then

out of the question:

they also need time to sleep. And then they can come to work.

out of the question:

We're looking at what a 20, maybe 25 Hour Workweek. The

out of the question:

unions should never have stopped at 40 hours, if they had

out of the question:

maintained their power, they probably wouldn't have. Forty

out of the question:

hours was a bare minimum, a bare minimum of time for the workers

out of the question:

in their lives. Eight, eight, eight. But we should be doing

out of the question:

better than that. We can do better than that. We can do

out of the question:

better than that for ourselves. That's why everybody is moving

out of the question:

toward wealth, people are leaning toward wealth. Not

out of the question:

because like holding cash money in your hand, is the best thing

out of the question:

in the world. But because that cash money in your hand gives

out of the question:

you the ability to work less, it gives you the ability to control

out of the question:

your schedule more. It gives you freedom, it gives you creativity

out of the question:

in some ways, it gives you the space, it gives you the space,

out of the question:

you need to be a full human. That's all people want, is to be

out of the question:

a full human. That's all we want. To be fully human.

out of the question:

Everybody, not just the people at the top. And so how do we run

out of the question:

our businesses so that everybody, every single person,

out of the question:

gets to feel fully human? How do we run our businesses so that

out of the question:

people are people, and not commodities? How do we give

out of the question:

everyone agency and control and space, so that we can find out

out of the question:

how they can truly shine for themselves, for themselves? And

out of the question:

maybe it's just rest. Maybe it's just rest. They don't owe us.

out of the question:

Nobody owes us. But we owe ourselves. We owe ourselves

out of the question:

this. How do we create businesses in a world where this

out of the question:

is everybody's norm? That's the question.

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