Life is work. There. I said it. I don’t mean that life is putting in 18 hour days slaving at a job that repulses you to make money. I mean that living life, day to day, is work. It takes effort. It takes energy to get out of bed. Scheduling your social activities requires your attention. Raising your children is a challenge. Cleaning the dishes. Walking the dog. Breathing.
When we separate our lives into boxes and identify one activity as “work” and another as “play” we are living a dangerous lie. You may differentiate work and play by highlighting that what you do for work is done for a wage, for an employer, for someone else. Play might be something that you do for yourself, for fun. This is at the crux of the matter. When you work for money you are exerting effort to earn what you need to support your family, your life, yourself. When you work you are actually doing it for yourself. Yes, it may be true that you have chosen to spend your time working for an employer who uses your labor and your ideas to make a profit. Did you see it? The word in that sentence? You have made a choice to sacrifice your time and labor for an agreed upon price. You have chosen to work to live.
But work isn’t fun. Why not? If what you define as work doesn’t get you excited, doesn’t entertain you, doesn’t engage you, why do you choose to do it? Why not do something else that you love, that you can put your energy into? Why not do something that you refuse to call “work” because you enjoy it so much? Let’s be clear. Life is work. It takes a lot of investigation, self-analysis and energy to find The Thing. It may take a day, a month, a year or more to find it. Isn’t it worth investing in yourself instead of choosing to spend the rest of your life working? Is that even a choice?
Try something. Write a list of the top 5 things you spend your time doing that you don’t think of as work. As an example, here is my list:
- Spending time with my family
- Cutting trees
- Finding ways to help people, increasing effectiveness
- Learning, reading, writing
Now, why not exert some energy and choose to do something that makes life your work?
This is one of my first clear, vivid memories. I’m in early grade school. It’s a hot day in late September. It’s Terry Fox Day. We are outside and to honor Terry and we’re running around the school. There’s no set number of laps we have to make, we just run until the time is up. Some kids walk. Some kids run. I’m not fast. I refuse to walk. I grind.
I can feel the heat welling up around my neck as the sweat tickles my back. Soon the tickle disappears, I know that’s because my shirt is now Saran-wrapped to my back with sweat. The sun feels like it’s scalding me, so hot, August hot. It feels like my shoes are sticking in bubble gum but really they’re melting into the asphalt.
I don’t have a set goal, a specific number of laps I need to make during our time in the oven. I don’t care if I’m first or last or somewhere in between. I want to work and running is the work which lay in front of me. So I work.
I’m not deaf, I hear the other kids, wondering out loud why I don’t just stop and walk. I don’t respond so they call me a machine, a robot, a number of things. I don’t care. I’m grinding them down. Grinding them out. They may have quit but I won’t. I can’t stop, this is what I was put here to do. To work. I smile.
I don’t have any special gifts or talents. I’m not lucky like that. My one “skill” if you can call it that is my ability to work. Not just to work, but to enjoy working hard, to savour the grind. I’ve shoveled debris in knee deep sludge for 8 hours through the night in a sawmill (every weekend for 5 years). I’ve descended The Hill with a bucket truck and chipper in the dark in a blizzard (and then worked 55 days straight of extreme manual labour to get the job done). I’ve fallen a 7′ diameter Douglasfir tree. I was married and incorporated my own company in the same month. I started a second company while running my first company full time with three boys under 4 years old to take care of. Bring it.
I guess what I’m saying is that you can do it. It might sound daunting to some, impossible to others. I’m not deaf, I hear you. Terry made it. So can you. So will I.
RIP Terry Fox. PS – I’m still running for you.
I may catch some flak for this, but I feel that in order to become an elite, a success, you have to strip away the bad habits accumulated living life as an ordinary citizen. By “bad habits” I’m talking about things like smoking and drinking, any activity that detracts from one’s good health, physically, spiritually or financially.
A long time ago, I decided I wanted to get to the next level and have managed to keep myself away from bad habits. When my wife and I were looking to take up a new hobby, boating (and boating-related activities) came up near the top of the list. We do live on an island, and there are many family-friendly activities a boat offers. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the cost of a boat, until I considered our (lack of) bad habits.
For example, let’s take alcohol. Many reward themselves after their workday with a 6-pack of beer. In Canada, that will run you (roughly) $12. If you were to consume a 6-pack every day, you would be looking at a bad habit budget of approximately $360/month. Keep in mind I’m simplifying here. We could substitute or mix in any combination of cigarettes, expensive coffee, fast food, marijuana, etc, any bad habit that detracts from long term health. If one were to eliminate the bad habit, one could easily support taking up an equally expensive good habit (or save their money to reward themselves at a later date).
Back to the boat. In the end, we purchased a boat. It’s sitting in our driveway right now. Every time I look at the boat, it reminds me of how extremely fortunate we are. It also reminds me of what you can do if you focus on long term health, and kick your bad habits.