For years, I’ve been carrying around a secret list in my head.
For decades, this list has been banging around in my heart causing all manner of chaos and shenanigans.
For, centuries … well I haven’t been alive for centuries but if I had that would have been a pretty dramatic third sentence.
What list am I talking about?
The “Doesn’t Count List” or DCL.
What’s that? Well, any time you start to work on a dream job or a passion, you also starting writing a DCL. The DCL is a collection of secret qualifications you put on your accomplishments and actions.
For instance, I don’t feel like I’ve worked very hard in a given day unless I’ve actually written some words down. It doesn’t matter if I’ve spent the day researching an idea or getting critical feedback from people on a new book or doing media to promote Quitter.
I can hustle on a million different things during the week, but unless I’ve put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, I feel deflated. Why? Because in my head, the only thing that counts is writing.
I don’t know what is on your DCL. If you’re a writer, you might tell yourself, “I’m not a real author if I self-publish. Self-publishing doesn’t count.” If you’re trying to start a blog, you might tell yourself, “I won’t be successful unless 1,000 people read it. Less than 1,000 readers doesn’t count.” If you’re trying to graduate with an advanced degree, you might tell yourself, “It doesn’t count unless my dad tells me he’s proud of me. The diploma doesn’t really count unless I know that.”
DCLs come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes.
But no matter what your dream or goal or passion is, more than likely there is at least one item we have in common. One item that I would estimate 99% of people have on their DCL. What is it?
When it comes to working hard. When it comes to hustling and going all out on a project, very few people consider sleep something that counts toward the goal.
Sleep is a nuisance. Sleep is wasted time. Sleep is failure.
Sleep doesn’t count.
That’s how I felt for years. I used to tell people that the thought of sleeping a third of my life away was horrible. I’d burn the midnight oil and sleep on average about 6 hours every night.
And that worked for a while. I was able to maintain a fairly thin hold on my energy. There were only a few times when I felt like Bilbo in the The Lord of the Rings. He described burnout so perfectly when he said, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread.”
Then Quitter came out last May and things changed. I felt burnout creeping up on me. We danced a few songs together, and the temptation to drive my dream right into the ground through exhaustion was there. It’s hard when you’re doing something you love to tell yourself to pause and rest. But what I realized is that I don’t want a one-year or two-year dream. I don’t want to ran as hard as I can for 6 months or 12 months or even 18 months, only to collapse in a heap and assess the smoldering wreckage of my life because I refused to rest.
So I decided to change something. Not the way I sleep, but how I look at sleep.
Sleep is not a foe to creativity. It’s a friend.
Sleep is not an adversary to high performance. It’s an advocate.
Sleep is not an anchor to a dream. It’s an asset.
Every now and then, my DCL gets loud again and tries to tell me that sleep is lazy. That it’s holding me back, that if I really want to succeed I’ve got to cut back from the 8 hours of sleep I’m trying to embrace. But the DCL is a horrible liar.
These days, I see sleep for what it really is: fuel, a critical part of my dream, the key to a great day.
Go to bed. Give yourself some grace when it comes to your DCL. Be honest about what’s on it. And when you figure out your list, ignore it with everything you’ve got. The Doesn’t Count List, doesn’t really count.
How many hours a night do you sleep on average?