Stressed? Stop Reinventing the Wheel

Jordan Brown

Life is short. You need a standard.

In other words, don't reinvent the wheel.

Do you get what I'm talking about yet?

To say it a few more ways:

Have a model.

Don't start from scratch.

And do not reinvent the wheel.

This is where stability--and good mental health--comes from.

Here's how I went from always-anxious to (mainly) in control.

Anxiety Due to Lack of Models / Standards

Here's how I approached life in high school.

I thought I could hold everything in my head.

I thought that my mind could work out any problem I was confronted with.

That's what I was taught in my classes, so why couldn't it work for the rest of my life?

It sounded like a great idea, but it actually just caused massive anxiety.

Why?

Because I had no standard off which I could base my ideas. I was starting fresh each time.

I would solve one problem in my life only to be smacked in the face with another one a day or so later.

I should have used components of old problems to solve new ones.

But I had not yet discovered the concept of modeling my ideas off old ones, whether my own ideas or the ideas of others.

I certainly didn't know about the term design thinking.

Which is what we turn to next.

How to Stop Reinventing the Wheel

So what are standards? What do I mean when I talk about models?

That probably sounds more abstract than a modern museum full of squiggly-line drawings.

Standards are models are starting points.

They are foundations for the work you need to do.

Toyota uses clay models to guide the latest iterations of their cars.

A web designer starts with a bare-bones outline of a website's structure called a wireframe.

Heck, even your breakfast or lunch routine is based on a standard.

You've probably altered the structure--or outline--of your mealtime plans very little over the last few months.

And why do you do this?

To save time.

And energy.

And sanity.

When I was in high school, I didn't know any better. Every issue turned into a problem, and every problem felt major.

What I was lacking was the ability to find the heart of the matter and start from there.

Because everything felt so important, I couldn't break down a problem into its individual components.

But now I see them, the models and standards that guide my life:

  • The email newsletters I write each week follow a similar structure. I don't need to reinvent the wheel.
  • My pre-work routine involves journaling what I'm grateful for, what I'm excited about, and how I'm going to use my time that day to accomplish my goals. I'm not starting from scratch.
  • Even the way I read non-fiction books now has a standard. I scan the back and front cover and then flip through the sections. I prep for what I'm about to read to know what's coming ahead. And I flag what I hope to learn so that I know what to hone in on when I read.

Standards and models might seem like overkill, but they're not.

The point, for me, is not to meticulously organize every moment of my life.

It's to be a boat so that I have less chance of getting destroyed by the rocky seas.

The structure is in the standard.

Everything else is left up to beautiful, creative interpretation.