The Fine Art of Letting Go

Elevation Tribe

By Ericka Nicoll

Sir Isaac Newton—a 17th century mathematician, astronomer, and physicist—crafted the universal laws of gravitation. One of the laws loosely states “what goes up, must come down.” And women have been attempting to defy or be the exception to the rule ever since. Because, God-forbid, they drop any of the life-responsibility balls they are concurrently juggling.

Author and public speaker Tiffany Dufu, who in 2017 wrote, Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less, is encouraging women to allow the gravitational pull to happen. Her New York Times-reviewed book helps women and girls prioritize what’s most important and what will have the most impact on their lives.

Elevation sat down with Dufu in Harlem, where she resides with her husband and two school-age children, to discuss why becoming a ‘Drop-the-Baller’ may save your sanity.

Elevation: What was the impetus for writing this book?

Tiffany Dufu: Women. They always wanted to know ‘how I did it all.’ I’d reply: ‘I just expect way less from myself and way more from my husband than the average woman.’  That always got a laugh during my speaking engagements. 

I realized they weren’t just asking because they cared about my life, these women wanted to apply what I’m doing to their own life. I said to myself, if my life’s work is to better the lives of women and girls, then I owe it to them to have a better answer.

Elevation: What does “drop the ball” mean to you?

TD: I used to be a person who was terrified of ever dropping the ball. But, after the birth of my first child, I started dropping balls left and right.  Armageddon never hit.  I used to think that ‘dropping the ball’ meant that I wasn’t taking timely action or that I was acting irresponsibly toward myself, my community and family.  However, now I know that ‘drop the ball’ means that I’ve figured out what matters most. It means that I’ve let go of unrealistic expectations and the notion that I can do it all.

Elevation: How did you prioritize what is essential versus maybe I can “drop” this other thing?

TD: I ask myself— “Is this action the highest and best use of my time to achieve what matters most to me?”  Then I try to figure out how to achieve those goals most optimally. You have to focus on the things that only you can do. It’s all about re-curating the job descriptions for all roles in your life, but to do that, you have to have clarity about what matters in your life.

Elevation: How did you teach yourself the importance of delegation?

TD: Lots of women have HCD or home control disease, [a term I coined and use in my book], that is when you want to control everything done under your roof.

For example, I used to have a running expiration date for all of the leftovers in my fridge, and I would be pissed if my husband ate them out of order. I also thought the hangers should face a certain way and my towels should be folded in a particular manner. I had all these unrealistic thoughts about how things “should” be. To figure out what can be dropped you need to have a clear understanding of what’s important. Focus on things you can “drop the ball” on and not feel like you’re not a good mother, wife or employee.

Elevation:  Who is a “drop-the-baller?”

TD: She is a woman that is incredibly confident in her power and purpose. She is guilt-free. She has empathy and considers people when making choices, but she no longer walks around thinking she’s committed moral transgressions because she doesn’t live up to other people’s expectations.

Elevation: Why are women so afraid of doing less?

TD: Because women are socially conditioned to believe that we should be doing more for others, but not conditioned to be doing more for ourselves. Eventually, you’ll understand what matters most. But, it’s practice, and just like yoga, you have to keep at it.