Avoiding the Tunnel

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Sir Isaac Newton was a noted genius among geniuses. Most of his lifework is seen culminating in the Law of Gravity and the development of Calculus. This, however, was not his life quest. History tells us that Newton was more concerned with proving that lead could be turned into gold (it can’t) and that the Christian understanding of the Trinity was a falsehood. Stories of Newton describe a neurotic man that would often not get out of bed for hours and sometimes forget to eat as he tossed his thoughts around in his head. The story says that calculus was developed as a result of his frustration with mathematics and a will to “force” the universe to bend to his own thinking.

One wonders if his genius wasn’t a little by accident.

Most of the time Newton spent on his studies, however, was not devoted to “real” science, by any stretch. In fact, all of his experiments and related scientific and mathematical discoveries were a result of his goal regarding lead and the Trinity. In summary, Sir Isaac Newton suffered from tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision tends to plague most people in one way or another. Entrepreneurs focus all their energies on creating businesses that resist the statistical odds and succeed. They devote hours of their days (and nights) and often find relationships in the “real world” strained, and end up sacrificing other very important aspects of their lives.

Cause-oriented people tend to make the cause their life passion and goal. I see this a lot here in DC, a city consumed with the political process and pre-loaded with non-profits dedicated to ending human rights violations, feminism, technology policy, gay rights, or war. Inevitably, the conversation ends up surrounding the cause.

In fact, addictive personality runs the risk of causing tunnel vision in any area of life. Certainly, very few of us border on the level of meshuggeneh that Sir Isaac Newton displayed, yet we all run the risk of getting out of balance if we’re not careful.

Several years ago, while working at b5media, I found myself incredibly burnt out and on edge. I was working 16 hour days, not because I had to but because I wanted to (tho, at times I had to as well). I was surviving on 4 hours of sleep every night and if I was pulled away from my work to do something else, I became incredibly irritable. Eventually, I recognized my problem and limited myself, when possible, to a normal schedule of 9-5 or similar. I couldn’t always do this, and I often worked weekends anyway, but I recognized the need for some kind of balance in my life. Eventually, I would take up photography as a hobby and put more time into that.

Last night, I spent time with folks from Tribune Interactive and the Baltimore Sun. The night before, I watched the Super Bowl with folks from Gannett. The night before that, I chatted with a few political operatives over a beer.

At the end of the day, stepping outside of comfort zones and participating in things that are untypical keeps people well rounded. It makes them more worldly and understanding of people not like themselves. In a society clamoring for inclusion and diversity, being positioned to understand, even if not agree with, other people is an important trait to have.

Do you spend time outside of your circles or on hobbies and activities?

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

3 thoughts on “Avoiding the Tunnel

  1. The burn out. It stalks most everyone at one time or other. And you’re right, at some point you need to step away from the normal and do something different.

    I’ve backed off from posting on my blog, and sadly readership hasn’t changed a whole lot. That said, I’ve found myself spread here and there instead and I can understand the burnout feelings. If it isn’t helping with my sons school, being a director for my local USBC association or just bowling, or my helping at church… I find that there is always an activity going on. I guess that’s why I’ve come to treasure moments I’m doing something with my son.

    Do I miss that environment (blogging)? Yes, I have to say I feel a little out of it lately. Plus the fact that money has gotten tight has lead me to wonder if I should back out more.

    As for fillers I plan to do softball, I’m already of course bowling, and of course helping out in one committee has lead me to look at other organizations to see where I can help… or I’d find an interest in helping. I’ve found lately that volunteering enriches my life a lot more then the time spent.

  2. The passion you felt at b5media is how many people feel here. The difference is, it’s a passion fueled by righteous indignation, fervor for a cause, or simply the joy of winning.

    Frankly, the flavor is different but it’s the same dynamic.

    We’re not all bad. You know that.

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