5 for 5 blog – The hard truth about creative labor

16 Feb


Good morning.

I have been catching up recently on taking notes on books I have read over the past year, and this weekend I was reviewing the notes I had taken on one of Steven Pressfield’s defining works, “The War of Art”. The book is a manifesto for artists to commit to doing the work. In going through it again, there was one particular section that truly hit me that I wanted share:

A professional does not take failure (or success) personally

A professional school herself to stand apart from her performance, even as she gives herself to it heart and soul. The Bhagavad-Gita tells us we have a right only to our labor, not the fruits of our labor. All the warrior can give is his life; all the athlete can do is leave everything on the field.

The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still.

The professional self-validates. She is tough minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her success coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she’ll make it better still. She’ll work harder. She’ll be back tomorrow.

This passage from the book really punched me in the gut: raw…and true. And so here are a few quick thoughts:

  • Ultimately all we can do is give our work the best of ourselves every day. We are not guaranteed a raise ever time we deliver a project. In fact, in tough times, we may not receive bonuses or salary increases. As professionals, we have to show up no matter what. I learned long ago, the fruits often are truly blessings.
  • Our careers are journeys, never destinations. Every professional still has to show up and do the work. Every project is a new chance to contribute…and learn. Learning is the free gift of the hard work you do. We just have to be open to this in every situation. None of us ever “arrive”.
  • When we commit to the labor, we have “many works and many performances”. To me this was an amazing reminder and encouragement that our creativity and leadership are gifts that we can continually develop and put into the world.
  • Lastly, I do believe that we should go through life without seeing the fruits. If you are a manager, your job is to recognize and reward, to the very best of your ability, those that are laboring under your stewardship. If you are an individual working as the professional and you are not being rewarded, I know this can be discouraging. But please realize: frustration and subsequent complaining can become a destructive cycle. Instead, keep showing up. Keep taking the tough projects. You are building your experience (and résumé) everyday by faithfully showing up and doing great work. May be you don’t realize the fruits today or in your current situation, but rather may be you do work that gets noticed by another department or you get a call from a company that could really use the talents you have developed. May be today you are toiling for the benefits that are right around the corner.

No matter what your situation, I hope this will be an encouragement. As Pressfield goes on to talk about in the book, the universe conspires to come to the aid of those creatives that keep showing up day after day. Or put another way “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Here’s this week’s 5 for 5:

When You’re at the Crossroads of Should and Must – by Elle Luna – via firstround.com


SO WHAT: A nice pairing with this week’s blog. Are you doing what you “Should” do or what you “Must” do?

Tags: Purpose, WHY


Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Better Listener – by Sarah Green – via Harvard Business Review


SO WHAT: One of the key traits of being an effective leader is listening. As this article states, near all of us are not nearly as good as we think we are. Great article. Many links. Bookmark and revisit regularly.

Tags: Leadership


The Healthiest Way to Work: Standing vs. Sitting and Everything in Between – by Kevan lee – via Buffer


SO WHAT: By now hopefully you have heard sitting is the new smoking. The key here……is get up and at least move. If you are really ambitious, you can copy the standing desk hack shown here. If you do, I would love to see a picture!

Tags: Productivity


The enemy of creativity… – by Seth Godin – via @thisissethsblog


SO WHAT: Fear is the enemy. But the universe conspires to help us, when we commit to action.

Tags: Creativity


Why Groundhog Day Is The Most Important Holiday Of The Year – by Dave Radparvar – via Holstee and Medium


SO WHAT: A nice reminder from the movie “Groundhog Day” about choosing how we handle situations that come our way in life.

Tags: Growth


All the best, kevin