Lessons from the belly of the whale

Yikes. It’s been a while huh? Over a month since I last wrote, and holy smokes, do I feel it. Writing, for me, is a way of processing what’s going on in my life, a way of extracting lessons, a way of stepping back and seeing things with a fresh perspective. And that means, when I don’t do it, I miss out on all that good stuff. Even sitting here this morning, as my fingers race around the keyboard with words tumbling out, I can tell it’s been way too long.

So where have I been? What have I been doing? Well, I guess if I had to answer it with one word, it would be hustling. Head down, getting shit done.

And when I was thinking about what I would write about today, I figured it would make sense to just share where I’m at. Even though where I’m at is still a pretty mental place. In fact, the best way for me to describe where I’m at is to use a metaphor that Joseph Campbell so beautifully described in The Hero With A Thousand Faces (the book that introduced the concept of the Hero’s Journey).

For those of you not familiar with it, the Hero’s Journey is seriously worth a look. Whether you dive into the book, or just read an overview of it, or watch this movie — check it out. You won’t regret it.

And so the place I’m at on this particular loop around the Hero’s Journey is called the Belly of the Whale. It’s the point where the hero has transitioned from the known world into the unknown. When they’ve made the commitment to journey and there’s no going back. It’s a point in the journey where, as far as the outside world is concerned, the hero has been swallowed into the unknown. They have disappeared altogether. Perhaps never to be seen again.

And the hero knows it. The hero feels the weight of the commitment. The hero understands that they must keep moving forwards. Even though it’s dark. Even though they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. They must have faith that this is a vital part of the journey that cannot be missed.

Ugh. Even writing this freaks me out a little. Because I resonate with this part of the journey so deeply. This is what my world looks like right now. But, luckily enough, I am surrounded by enough amazing folk who are either in the same place or who have been through it.

And so I figured I would just give you a snapshot of the lessons I’m learning (please note I’ve said ‘learning’ not lessons I’ve learned haha) right here in the belly of the whale.

Lesson number 1 : Accept that you’re here

Resistance is futile. I noticed something kinda ridiculous about a week ago. I realised that, for the last few months, I’ve been telling myself that this crazy workload is just a short-term thing. That when X happened, or when I finished Y project, then my working life would get back to normal. Except it hasn’t.

The workload has, in fact, been very consistent. But it’s as if I’ve been surprised by it each and every week. So much so, that I’ve pretty much shifted into survival mode because I’ve been telling myself that this stage is almost over.

Until last week, when I found myself wondering ‘what if this is just my new normal ?‘ What if, this heavy workload is going to stick around for a while? What if, instead of resisting it, and trying to just survive it, I accepted that I’m in the Belly of the Whale, and I may well be for quite some time.

Somehow, just this little shift has made a massive difference.

Lesson number 2 : Get your systems down

So for me, the Belly of the Whale represents what seems like a never-ending to-do list. A workload that leaves me constantly playing catch up.

So in this last week, I’ve found myself getting back to basics. Getting my systems in place. Being super smart about how I prioritise my list. Using my favourite time management habits to get shit done and mapping out my next steps in a way that feels right to me (flip chart paper & sharpies are my go-to planning tools).

Lesson number 3 : Check in with your habits

Early last week, I realised that I’d fallen into some bad habits and out of some good ones. But I was justifying all of them by telling myself ‘It’s ok that I’m doing X, and not doing Y, I’m in survival mode’.

Shitty excuse huh ?! In fact, if there was ever a time for good habits, it would be now.

This is the moment when I shamefully tell you about the sucky habits that I’ve picked up in the last couple of months — Exercise has somehow fallen off my radar. Ok, not completely…. if there’s surf I’ll surf, but I’ve noticed, especially with winter kicking in, that it’s easy for days to go by without me doing any form of exercise.

Then comes the morning routine…. ahhh the morning routine. The one thing we hear about on every freaking podcast and read about in every article. Except mine SUCKED. I’d fallen into a routine of waking up, grabbing my phone and spending at least 30 minutes (ugh, sometimes more like 45) scrolling through emails & social media.

And, yep, you guessed it, my night time routine looked pretty damn similar. Constant noise & distraction. No downtime.

One thing I’ve realised is that for me at least, social media is something that generally has a net negative impact on my wellbeing. If I spend 30 minutes scrolling through FB, chances are I’ll feel worse when I’m finished than when I started.

Yet I continued doing it every.single.day. That’s the definition of insanity.

So… my normal response would be typical Linz style 110% — map out some crazy workout routine and ban all social media. Which normally results in a few days of feeling like a saint, and then a slippery slope back into the sucky routines.

So this time I’ve switched things up. Baby steps. My morning routine (I’m into week 2 now… yahoo) looks like this: Wake up. Work out (this app is simultaneously kicking my ass & keeping it super easy to train). Meditate for 5 minutes (yep, just 5 little minutes). Give myself 5 minutes to check emails/social (using the timer on my phone). Shower. Breakfast. Work.


Lesson number 4 : Be nice to yourself

This is vital. I’m pretty freaking good at kicking the shit out of myself. I’m also reallllly good at forgetting that tired thoughts are bad thoughts. So in the midst of this intense time, I add more intensity to it by being plain old mean — Saying things to myself that I would never dream of saying to a friend.

Being in the belly of the whale is tough so I’m trying to make a conscious effort to be a little kinder to myself (note : the new morning routine is helping — a lot).

Lesson number 5 : Recognise the value of a pep talk

Having someone who gets it on speed dial. Having a podcast guaranteed to get you back in the zone saved on your phone. Pep talks are seriously valuable — especially when the shit hits the fan. Or when you’re nearing burn out.

My weekly mastermind calls are worth their weight in gold. Late night text messages with fellow entrepreneurs who are still up hustling make me feel like I’m not alone. Check in’s with friends who will surf/paddle/stomp and talk it out with me help me throw fresh light on everything.

You cannot do it alone… and funnily enough, it can be in those moments when you’re giving the pep talk to someone else that everything clicks into place in your own head.

Lesson number 6 : Do the work

Yep. You can’t avoid it. The only way out is through. And so that means getting your head down and doing the work. I try whenever I can to take a moment to be grateful for the work (there was a time a few years back when I would have done anything to be this slammed with work).

Clear the decks. Figure out what needs to be done first (I LOVE this concept). And get stuck in.