Flow, Flow, Crash, Burn, Arise

The basic tenets of being in a flow state are that you’re making progress while being sufficiently challenged to keep you engaged with whatever it is you’re working on. Thus, you end up stretching or growing your current skills during each work cycle, while feeling energetic and positive about whatever it is you’re doing. Psychologists model flow like the graph below:

The flow model correlates quite nicely with how I’d [like to] perceive my growth or performance as a Product Manager:

Though, as the late Gerry Weinberg noted in his book Becoming a Technical Leader, growth doesn’t necessarily follow a smooth upward trend. Gerry modelled performance in a technical role a bit more like the graph below:

The last couple of days, I found myself in a position where I was being stretched way beyond my current skill level. And as a result, progress came to a grinding halt. Along with my sense of flow, and any residual feelings of positivity about myself and the work I was doing. My flow state started to resemble Gerry’s more realistic performance model instead:

It does not feel like a good place to be. But while writing this post and reflecting on Gerry’s words, I realise that it is a necessary place to be:

“There are plateaus, but you don’t really leap, you climb. In order to climb, you must leave the sure footing, letting go of what you already do well and possibly slipping downward into a ravine. If you never let go of what you already do well, you may continue to make steady progress, but you’ll never get off the plateau.”

Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out via a comment or on the socials if anything resonates.

Cheers,
Simon

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