Syrio Forel and Not Today

In the first season of Game of Thrones, we were introduced to a very likable swordsman and teacher called Syrio Forel. His trademark phrase echoed his belief that the warrior within him said only one thing to death – “Not today.”

I was reflecting on the power of that phrase recently – especially at the end of a long day. It is often tempting to try and cram in as much as possible into those ten minutes or that last meeting.

But, often, in this quest for efficiency, we lose our ability to be patient and engage constructively with problems – especially those that deserve dedicated bandwidth and time. I’ve certainly been guilty of that.

The wisest thing we can do in these times is to become aware enough to catch ourselves from packing too much in and, instead, say “Not today.”

Awareness of base assumptions

As time passes, I am learning to be more aware of my base assumptions.

By default, I wouldn’t notice a few things in my day – a peaceful night of sleep, functioning limbs, food when I’m hungry, a bathroom when I need it, water, and fresh air.

And, yet, if any of these were in doubt, my whole world would crumble.

It may not be realistic to be constantly aware of these base assumptions. But, I’m learning to remind myself to be more aware.

That means starting with taking a few seconds to be thankful for a peaceful night of sleep on a comfortable bed. It continues with a few more seconds feeling aware of my (mostly) functioning limbs. And, it means continuing to take a few seconds at different points of the day to appreciate the small things more.

The impact that a few seconds of such awareness has on me is amazing.

I’m hopeful I’ll be able to do more of this.

Reset – 30 minutes at a time

A few weeks back, I’d shared a note on “learning to reset” –


After reflecting on a year of attempting to “seek to understand and then to be understood,” I realized that my ability to do so seemed to decline through the day. I write a quick note at the end of the day with an assessment of how I did. And, I found that I was most vulnerable to interrupt-itis at the end of the day. This is especially the case if there were a series of meetings in the second half.

As a result, a skill I’m working on is learning to reset during the day.

My thought process at the moment is that my ability to listen gets lost as I flow unconsciously through the day. And, teaching myself to reset would be a reminder to be conscious about how I approach the next section.

This sounds great in theory. But, I’ve struggled, so far, to execute on the idea. So, as is usually the case, I’m writing about it to clarify my thinking on it and make a public commitment to do better at it.

I hope to have more on this in a few weeks.


I do have an update. After a couple of failed attempts, my current working solution is to run a recurring 30 minute timer through the day.

Every time I pay attention to my phone vibrating, it reminds me to take a deep breath and reset.

I pay attention (versus simply notice) 20%-30% of the time now. The next step is to increase that sense of awareness to 50% of the time. It feels doable thanks to this process. And, I’m hopeful these resets will help me become more aware of my impatience in conversations – 30 minutes at a time.

More to follow in a few weeks.