I do a call with J. every Monday or Tuesday morning and we talk about the week that passed and the week ahead, and what we worked on and plan to work on. Have I already told you this? It feels like I have. Sometimes the calls are brisk check-ins – fifteen minutes before starting (or getting back) to work. Other days, like today, I’m sitting out on my patio and J. is in his apartment in Brooklyn, and the threads of conversation weave into a rug over the course of an hour and a half. It’s not all that dissimilar from these weekly letters to you, dear friend.
J. and I used to work together. He plays a lot of soccer in his spare time and manages a couple of his teams, too. This morning we were talking about some of the similarities between his hobby and his having to manage teams at work, and he brought up the notion of Defense. There’s a window of opportunity when the opposing team is attacking, he said, when the defender can intercept the ball and your team can turn it into a productive play, swing momentum in the other direction. But the moment is fleeting. If the defender simply kicks the ball out of bounds every time or if he tries to get too fancy, then the opportunity is squandered.
You can call it by other names: a teaching moment, a judo flip. But the energy behind it has the same quality, I think. The same force that has you under attack and be translated, redirected, into a force (really, the same force) in the opposite direction. You slingshot around the dark side of the moon in order to get to Mars.
And being ready for that moment – it’s not defensiveness, but _defender_iness. The defender mentality. It requires vigilance and economy, wide seeing and swift action. I’m receiving notes from my editors this week and starting another pass at the manuscript. In the meantime, I’ve been spending time outside on my bike and in museums. Sitting. Watching. Listening to the birds. I’ve been trying to nurture the defender mentality; I just didn’t have a name for it until today.
I can see the ball coming my way now. My own teammates are rearranging themselves on the field, moving to pinch. My eyes are glowing, and I’m moving too.