Why You Need Circuit-Breakers

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If you’ve ever created anything that was focused around some kind of big launch, show, debut or reveal, you know the deal. As the time comes closer to pushing the button, all hell starts to break loose. Even if you’ve worked really hard. Even if you’ve done everything right. Even if you’ve created God-like spreadsheets to manage it.

Because you cannot lock down the future. You cannot predict exactly what will and won’t work, nor can you see all possible paths until they’re upon you. Opportunities you never even knew existed will seem to drop from the the sky while sure bets vanish before you.

It’s important to be open to that. To stay fluid and be willing to see, respond, correct, embrace and build…on a dime. Staying linear may well get you to your goal, but it’ll likely leave you far from your true potential, had you been willing to stay open to the unforeseen.

While you cannot lock down the circumstances of creation, though, you can profoundly change the way you experience them by cultivating the right personal practices and workflow adaptations.

I know this. The very project I’m in the midst of launching – Uncertainty – is the roadmap that reveals these strategies.

Talk about a prescription dose of irony, though.

Apparently, I’m human.

Over the last month as the launch began to ramp into high-gear and the need for me to protect my daily mindset and workflow practices like a mama bear protects her cubs rose with it, things began to unravel.

My mindfulness practice, which has been a strong psychological and spiritual keel, went from a once or twice a day practice to two or three times a week.

The critical workflow practices that normally fuel high-quality, high-speed, high-joy output in less time aren’t nearly as locked in as they should be, and it’s having an impact on both my output and my mindset.

Exercise dropped to once or twice a week.

Nutrition…are marshmallows a vegetable?

These are among the core lifestyle practices I need more than ever to be able to keep my mindset fueled, centered, hyper-creative and capable of responding to constant change. They’re critical not only to my ability to thrive professionally in this intense window, but also personally.

Thankfully, there’s one other practice that kicked in today that’s pulling me back. And fast.

Enter the Personal Circuit Breaker.

A dedicated time to step out of my daily routine and own up to whether I’ve been doing what I need to be doing to create great work.

For me, it’ a twice a month thing, where I pull back from my normal experience, rate how I’m doing, ask those closest to me, then correct course. When I’m not in creation high-gear, it’s a more casual thing. But right now, in launch mode, it needs to be held sacred.

I’m at the two week window before publication date. There is a massive amount of work to do. There’s no changing that. It’s all good stuff. Amazing, really. How I experience that work, though, is on me.

Time to re-embrace the critical practices that will set me back on track. The ones that open the gates to a higher level of focus, creativity, problem-solving and just also keep me humming along in a better mood.

Personal Circuit-Breakers. Think about ’em. Create ’em.

Which would be my cue to close my computer, throw on my running shoes, breath, play, meditate and reclaim control in the midst of a creative storm of my own making.

Oh, and, one last thing…what about Mallomars, are THEY a vegetable?


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35 responses

35 responses to “Why You Need Circuit-Breakers”

  1. Jurgen Wolff says:

    A useful reminder! I think the biggest challenge is just remembering to take these breaks in the midst of hectic activity. One little trick I’ve used it to use my auto-responder to write a note to myself and schedule it to be delivered in the middle of what I know will be a super busy period.

  2. Mallomars are not a veggie but gluten free organic Oreo’s are
    just so you know
    take good care of amazing you and remember, a book is like a baby – in other words, think long haul
    look forward to reading it and telling people all about it!

  3. I needed that, a Personal Circuit Breaker what a great idea. What a great way to stay on track and minimize the effects of getting distracted.

  4. Anna says:

    Mallomars! Now you’re talkin’! Sometimes it’s the only thing that can help!

  5. Helena says:

    Thank you for this. Sometimes I get caught up in a never ending schedule and wonder sometimes “I wonder if successful people experience the same thing.” It is nice to know you also experience it, and nice to hear that is is normal and that one has to actually consciously stop and decide to do something about it. Cannot wait to read your book!!

  6. Kathy VK says:

    Oh my, so very timely ’cause boy howdy, I am right there with you … albeit on a significantly smaller scale. As of an hour ago, I finished the last bit of tweaking on my website re-design. I’ve been sitting for days hunched over the computer and ignored all my healthy daily practices, re-introduced caffeine, sugar and burgers to my diet. Thankfully, there are no mallomars or marshmallows or Little Debbie peanut butter bars in site.

    I’m thinking your circuit breaker idea could help me ditch the nasty bits and get back on track. Thanks for the wake-up nudge.

  7. Mallomars are a necessity of life Jonathan. . . be they derived from animal,mineral or vegetable. . . let’s not even go there. The fact that they contain both chocolate and marshmellow makes them THE BEST comfort food going – and THAT makes all the difference!! Fabulous post. As always,your humor, transparency and skill are the winning combo. You rock!!

  8. Bunny says:

    Interesting you wrote about this. I was working on a project for a company and I pushed myself so much that my circuit breaker just went off.I shut down and couldn’t deal with the project at all. So I took a day off and just read my favorite book. And then again the next day and then one more day. After 3 days I went back to work with all the ideas flowing once more. I felt terribly guilty the first day. By the end of the second day I was able to give myself permission to just shut down and go with it. Circuit breakers are there for a reason. And in my house Chocolate is an important food group.

  9. Kate Howe says:

    There is a joy to crazy-intense periods too. Lack of sleep and vegetables not-withstanding.
    Reminds me of year-end all-nighters at art school… 🙂

  10. Amy Oscar says:

    I loved this post…. so much that I am not going to write a long comment about how wise and inspiring it was for me. Instead, in its honor I am putting all of these books and this laptop into my LL Bean tote, placing them in the car and taking a long walk in this glorious day which, though I have been awake in it for 6 hours, I hadn’t noticed until just now.
    PS Those Mallomars – sublime circuit breakers.

  11. Ines Franklin says:

    Great stuff. Do you have a circuit breaker for the opposite problem? You know, when we are taking care of ourselves, eating right, sleeping, praying, walking, feeding the dogs, working, working…but creativity is just not there? I need one of those.

    • Reply to Ines: Isn’t it strange how inspiration comes and drives you and then disappears and, nothin’? I get going again with an external trigger, like something one of my patient talks about or a passage I read in a book or, even reviewing my own old journals—something that kind of sparks my thinking to go again.

  12. Great post Jonathan. Often when I need the ‘brain space’ the most is exactly when I tell myself I’m too busy to take it. My ‘daily circuit breaker’ if you will is my dog. He expects his hour off leash in the woods everyday, and I’m the limo. Next time I try and hurry him, I’ll think of you and take another deep breathe. Thanks for the reminder. And… thank the goddess for dark chocolate.

  13. Having had the good fortune to read an advance copy of UNCERTAINTY… I can say a couple of things:

    (1) Folks, order this book. Now. It will transform your life if you are open to new ways of thinking.

    (2) Thanks to Jonathan’s suggestion of a regular meditation practice in UNCERTAINTY, my husband & I have embarked upon the TM (Transcendental Meditation) journey. As an (up to this point in life 🙂 triple type A stress bunny, this one chapter alone of the book is worth it’s weight in gold.

    (3) If you haven’t seen Jonathan’s book trailer yet – watch it and be moved to your core. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIGfhdaemPI

    UNCERTAINTY is going to be one of those business / creativity bibles that will live on my shelf until the pages turn yellow with love and age. And I’ll use circuit breakers to make time to reflect on Jonathan’s wise teaching!

    Bravo Jonathan – we’re all rooting for you!!

  14. Wow – more perfectly timed wisdom here. I, too am at critical velocity and in launch mode for the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I took a minute for one of my ‘certainty anchors,’ which is reading your blog. There could not have been a better message for me to hear.

    Oh, and funny enough, I was just thinking about you this morning when I was connecting with people meditating on Insight Timer. Come back – we miss you! 🙂

  15. Carlos Diaz says:

    Great stuff….I use the Serenity Prayer myself…God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

  16. Yes we loose ourselves in our work when these times come.
    I have my bike and the hills, a weekly appointment to remind me of what life is out there.
    My brain gets more oxygen, my ideas get better and my focus is back when I sit back at my computer.

    Circuit breakers- great term for unplugging ourselves from the madness we drive ourselves into sometimes.

  17. Judy Martin says:

    Everything is perception. (Mallomars = life-force sometimes.) As we are on the receiving end of sensory stimulation as individuals, it’s not one size fits all for sure.

    I agree, we have to create our own aberration to slip us back into the present and a steady but fluid and creative state of mind. It’s that subtle shift that can drive us into a downward spiral, or lift us from the ashes of chaos. Lots of luck with your book. @JudyMartin8

  18. Hiro Boga says:

    Jonathan, may you always be blessed with circuit breakers!

    Launching a book is much like having a new baby — it’s going to need a lot from you for a long while, and it’ll take a while for you to work out how to take care of yourself while giving it the loving care it needs.

    Wishing you solid ground under your feet, and a radiant moon to light your way.

    I look forward to reading your book, and getting the word out about it to my folks.

  19. Kaliya says:

    Thanks! This came at the right time!
    Just so you know,
    M&M’s with peanuts ARE a protein!

  20. Mallomars! Mmmm… that reminds me of a Spongebob episode y son was watching recently where the big pink guy, Patrick, asks “Is mayonnaise an instrument?”

    I haven’t used the meditation app in a while, not since the weeks after WDS. I will today on the way home, on the train. In honor of you. Today has been an extraordinarily tough morning, and I’m grateful for the advice & inspiration.


  21. Brigitte says:

    I cannot wait to get my hands on your book! I’m in a month-long circuit breaker right now. My business is in its infancy, and I decided to take a blogging break in September — right when everyone else is gearing up. It was scary the first two weeks, but now I see very clearly where I need to take my blog and my business. Couldn’t have made it here while living my daily routine.

  22. Cathy Holway says:

    Mallomars = glucose = “decision fuel” for your brain. So yes, clarity awaits you in the post-mallomar afterglow. Neuroscience says so!

  23. Kerri says:

    Thanks Jonathan – I really enjoy your posts. This one was a much needed reminder!

  24. Hi Jonathan,
    This is a timely piece of reading for me. I am getting ready to do my first launch ever for Black Friday and I needed to see this, read it, feel it and hopefully remember it as November arrives. Thank you so much for such honest writing.

    Mallomars and Marshmallows are the emotional equivalent of vegetables made of marzipan. Right, you did squeeze the Marshmallow into the shape of a carrot/potato/turnip?

  25. Ironically, or serendipitously, marsh mellows ( and probably mallomars) were originally made from marsh mallow plants which are incidentally favored among certain varieties of …butterflies…


    How cool is that?

    xo and best wishes

  26. Thank you for this piece of practical wisdom at just the right time for me!

    Will be sure to get ‘Uncertainty’
    And put reading your blog on my list of personal circuit breakers
    And find out what these Magic Mallomars are!!!

  27. Owen Marcus says:


    Your post is a good reminder to me to not let my passion for my projects become what takes me out of living the life I want.

    It is an interesting dichotomy. One side we start receiving all that we worked for and on the other we risk losing some of the simplest qualities we created.


  28. Stuart says:

    Thanks for this Jonathan, it gives me hope that I can achieve high levels of success.

    If even the highly successful people have to take a step back and realign themselves with the path they choose, then I won’t feel so bad about taking time to unwind and reflect on the journey so far.

    Actually, I do that anyway, but there was that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that kept saying “Shouldn’t you be doing some work right now?”. Thankfully, I’ve learned to ignore that feeling for the most part 🙂

  29. Jodi Kaplan says:

    Mallomars are not a vegetable – they’re a food group!

  30. Hi Jonathan,

    I’m happy to see you’re moving back into your mental homework routine.

    I take 10 minute meditation breaks each hour. Since taking these breaks I’ve noticed how smoothly all goes in my life. The outside stuff changes like before, yet I embrace the situations with more ease. No fires to put out, because I am not tuning into the fire but the opportunity any situation presents me with. It all comes with an expanding awareness and sticking to my 10 minute “meds”.

    Exercise is like food for your body and soul. I usually get in an hour a day 4 to 7 days a week. I make the time, just like EVERYbody should make the time. Any time you don’t exercise, you can make 1001 excuses, but like anything…you either decide to do it, or you don’t.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!


  31. I think that a marshmallow could function as an excellent circuit-breaker. A thought: The pressure, urgency, slightly frantic, anxious stuff it seems you are streaming as your launch time approaches could be re-labeled, excitement!
    I, coincidentally have a post on my blog titled Our Uncertain Situation-a different deal than the focus of your book but, somewhat related it seems. Here it is: http://therapiststhoughts.blogspot.com/2011/08/our-uncertain-situation.html
    Really like the idea of circuit breakers. A body in motion CAN be subject to putting the brakes on!

  32. Ann Marie Pozzini -- in all my fabulousness! says:

    “…you cannot lock down the future. You cannot predict exactly what will and won’t work, nor can you see all possible paths until they’re upon you.”

    I’m going to print out the above quote and place it in many places around my apartment, date book, car to remind myself to enjoy the ride…

    Thank you Jonathan!

  33. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the awesome idea – I really love the concept of the circuit breaker. I’ve been really excited lately about some new ideas and new directions in my life, and working on those new projects has led to a disruption in my exercise, nutrition, etc. for the past week. I always thought of these as self-destructive tendencies, but I think it is just the imbalance that comes from genuine excitement over something new. I’m going to have a circuit breaker today and get myself back on the right track in all areas tomorrow… Good luck breaking that marshmallow addiction!