Letting Go: Lessons from a Slacker’s Toy

Over the weekend, I felt stressed and wanted to relax, so I ended up grabbing my skateboard and heading to a parking lot, which I haven’t done since I was like 15. Everything just melted away. The snarl of wheels against concrete like a rottweiler. I really like that edge between messing around and physical activity; you gasp a little for air and your shirt gets hot but you don’t quite sweat. I ended up typing most of this on my Blackberry as I did this–forgetting completely about whatever I had been working on.

What I picked up again quickly was that at a certain point, no matter how hard I would push or the faster I would try to go, I wouldn’t see a different. But if I just toned it down a little, I could ride better. That it is, there was no real correlation between how hard I would push off or how many times I did it and my overall speed. In golf, try to purposely not hit it hard–a half swing often is twice as powerful.

And I think that’s how a lot of things are–the harder you push and struggle and strain the worse you are. A rabbit in a snare grinding the wire down to the bone. We caught this rat as a kid and it chewed itself in half to escape the trap. Needless to say it still died, and not pleasantly. Finesse. Fluidity. Kicking and thrashing–forget what’s more effective, which one feels better?

I have been flipping through the Inner Game of Tennis and he talks about the two selves–the “I am talking to myself” dichotomy. And how the tension between the two is the source of many athletic problems. I sort of realized that this was the same: when I quieted the voice the kept prompting me to push harder, I felt the rattling die off and the speed increase.

I know for me because I am young, the impulse is towards force or passion. But that’s not how things are. All around us there is a natural energy and a flow to things and you can tap into that. You know, the groove, the pocket, the current–all those terms we throw around to describe other people’s freedom of movement but never really bother thinking about for ourselves. Ferriss talks about this–about just letting go and realizing that a little momentum can carry you further than all your frantic scrambling. I am starting to feel that when you stop trying so hard and let your subconscious do what it needs to, you find better results than you do in the Pyrrhic battle for control.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.