Paris, Île-de-France, France

September 4, 2016

What I Learned from a Straight-Razor Shave

When I look back on my time here in Paris, I think what will define it the most is the learning.

Learning to speak French. Learning to play the accordion. Learning about the amazing world of perfume, fragrance, and art. Learning to launch an online course. Learning about France's vast and wonderful wine regions.

I've dived into all of these things full-hearted, and though there's as usual, a long list of things I won't get to, it's been a marvelous time for growth and learning.

But this morning, practicing one other skill I've learned here – shaving with a straight razor – I was struck by the simplicity and power of some advice I'd been given.

Let the razor do the work.

I stopped for a minute, and let it really sink it, and realized how powerfully I could apply it all over my life.

So often, I find myself barreling through on effort and chutzpah. Putting tremendous amounts of energy into going after the things I really value. And for the most part, it works.

But I think often, there's a better way. I can surround myself with good tools – both physical and psychological – and let them do the heavy lifting.

As I stood over the sink and looked around my life, I spotted a few places I'd done a great job of sharpening the razor.

I make nice meals regularly. This had always seemed like a lot of effort - but a while back, I bought a nice knife, made a habit of regularly stocking up on the basics, and I started leaving a few recipes sitting around.

Those things didn't take much effort, but when I got hungry (and a hungry Steven is a brain-dead Steven, let me tell you), the path of least resistance was to just make some quality food.

Regular exercise was also hard. But with an app on my tablet that I knew will guide me through a workout, in 15 minutes from my living room, it's become something I get to and through consistently.

But I also spotted some places where I wasn't doing so well, just effort and willing my way through them. Getting through my inbox. Getting consistent, quality sleep.

I looked at these high-effort spots, and asked, "What if I had better, sharper tools? What would they look like?"

I came up with a couple experiments to try this week - finding a new email app, and using my newfound perfume knowledge to craft a scent that puts me to sleep. We'll see how they go!

I'm curious - does this approach resonate with you? Are there places where you could give yourself better tools?

Have an awesome week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was an eye-opening example of how powerful honest, empathetic questions can be. This piece on What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew.

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