Learning and Growing Through Routines


You can use your daily routines for learning and growth.  Rather than view habits as mechanical, you can view them as mastering your craft.  By focusing on improvement, your routines and habits become an opportunity for personal transformation.  You can use your routines as an exploration into who you are and how you express yourself with something larger. In The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, Michael E. Gerber writes about using routines and habits for joy and personal development. 

Habits Need a Higher Purpose
Orchestration is a way to do something habitually.  Gerber explains that all habits need a higher purpose, or they are mechanical and deadening:

“I need you to help me with something,” Sarah said, a look of concern on her face.  “I need help coming to grips with this whole subject of Orchestration.  It sounds so mechanical, so deadening!  When I think of it, I picture a shop full of people working dispassionately, each of them doing things in identically the same way, like robots.  Certainly you can’t be saying that.  But I don’t know how else to think about it.”

“Sarah,” I began softly, “if the Business Development Process were only about Orchestration, I would agree with you — it would be deadly.  Absent a higher purpose, all habits are.  Because that’s all that Orchestration really is Sarah: a habit.  A way of doing something habitually.

Innovation, Quantification and Orchestration Go Together 
Gerber writes that Orchestration is only part of the process and that the sum is greater than parts:

“The problem is you can’t understand the value of an entire process by separating it from its parts, or its parts from the process.  Because once you separate the parts of a process, once you take a process apart, there is no process.  There is no movement whatsoever.  There is only this thing or that that.  There is no beginning, no middle, no end.  There is no story; there’s only an event, frozen in time.  You might say that apart from its process, the part of a process is dead.  So when you think of Orchestration absent Innovation and Quantification, you’re describing an action stripped of its purpose, its meaning, its vitality.

The Joy Comes From Improvement
Gerber writes how the joy comes from improving upon you very specific tasks: 

Wasn’t there a specific way your aunt taught you to cut the fruit?  A specific way to hold it?  A specific way to prepare it?  Wasn’t there a specific way to do everything your aunt taught you to do?  And wasn’t the creativity, the continuous stream of surprises, a result not just of the specific work you were doing but of your continuous and exhilarating experience of improving as you learned how to do those very specific tasks better and better, until you could do them almost as well as your aunt?

“Wasn’t that where the joy came from?  That if you were resigned to doing one thing, one way, forever, without every improving, there would be no joy — there would only be the same deadening routine?  And isn’t that what your aunt taught you as she taught you to bake pies — the mystery that change can bring?

There Needs to Be a Set Routine to Improve Upon
The key is to have a set routine to improve upon.  Gerber writes:

“So, of course, there needs to be Orchestration, Sarah.  There needs to be a way we do something.  There needs to be a set routine.  Because without it, there would be nothing to improve upon.  And without improvement, there would be no reason to be.  We would be machines.  Or, as you called them, ‘robots.’  There would be the tyranny of routine.  There would be the monotony and the boredom you so eloquently describe.

The Way of Work as Personal Transformation
Work becomes an exploration into who we are and how we express ourselves.  Gerber writes:

“But with the process, with the continuous Innovation and Quantification that precedes Orchestration and that follows it, with this continuous investigation into the way of work, the work itself because key to our own personal transformation.  The work itself becomes something other than a habit; it becomes an exploration into who we are and how we express ourselves in relationship to something much larger.  First, the position we fill.  Then the function it fills.  Then the business within which the function fulfills both itself and the business without which it wouldn’t exist.  Then the world within which the business fulfills its purpose as well as the purpose of the people with whom, and for whom, it comes into action.  And so on, and so forth.

The Thrill of Apprenticeship
Gerber writes that the thrill of apprenticeship is learning and growing from routines and exploring who you are in relationship to something bigger:  

“What I’ve just described is the thrill of apprenticeship, the learning and growing that you experienced in the kitchen under your aunt’s tutelage.

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • Use routines and habits for personal development.
  • The key is to focus on improvement.
  • Your set routines are a baseline to improve upon.
  • Orchestration is a way of doing something habitually.
  • Your habits need a higher level purpose or they are mechanical and deadening.
  • Think of improving your routines and habits as mastering your craft.
  • Leverage your work for personal transformation.

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  1. I perceive routines and habits as tedious. I would never have thought to use them for personal development. Thank you for another interesting thought.

    By the way, taking a worry break – didn’t work too well yesterday. I kept feeling worried even when the break was supposedly over. 🙂

  2. It’s as if anything worth doing is worth doing well. It seriously makes me revisit any routines to see what I can improve and what I can cut.

    OK — I’m going to share with you a simple, but hardcore technique for snapping your mind out of worry. When you worry break is done, switch gears by asking yourself the following questions:
    What did I learn?
    What did I improve?
    What did I enjoy?
    What kind act did I do?

    This works because you refocus your mind. Your’re the director of the camera in your mind. To change focus, simply change the question.

    For more on worry, I think Dale Carnegie has some nice distinctions – http://www.westegg.com/unmaintained/carnegie/stop-worry.html

  3. […] Learn and grow through routines.  Use routines and habits for personal development.  The key is to focus on improvement.  Your set routines are a baseline to improve upon.  Orchestration is a way of doing something habitually.  Your habits need a higher level purpose or they are mechanical and deadening.  Think of improving your routines and habits as mastering your craft.  Leverage your work for personal transformation.  See Learning and Growing Through Routines. […]

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