Thursday, July 2, 2009

When work isn't work...

Today I trimmed a tree and a hedge. Guess who made me do it?

Nobody made me do it. I'm a grown-up!

I often tell my students that I read, I write, I research, and I do chores. Then I ask them, "Guess who made me do it?"

It amazes them that I do stuff because I want to.

Getting stuff done feels good. It looks good. It makes me happy.

I inherited a hedge when I bought my house 20 some years ago. I had to learn how to trim a hedge. I'm now own electric hedge clippers. I can use them and not cut off my fingers! (Or cut the cord, though I have done that before.)

I also inherited a holly tree. My former brother-in-law is a professional tree-trimmer. I've learned stuff from him. I can do an adequate job of tree trimming. (I can safely use a ladder, a pruning saw, and other pruning tools.)

Someone once said, "Show me someone who is bored, and I'll show you someone who lacks meaningful challenges."

I'm rarely bored, because I'm always on the lookout for meaningful challenges. No one makes me do this. I'm just happier if I do.

This is one reason why I don't have a desire to retire early: I enjoy what I do. It provides me with a host of meaningful challenges. Teaching keeps me from being bored. Teaching keeps me learning. (Owning stuff provides me with meaningful challenges, and so does family!)

I recently read a comparison between the old and the young. The writer noted that the old are always living in the past, the young are always looking to the future. The writer, obviously older, concluded that the old have it right, since the future soon turns into the past. I disagree.

Why not do both? (And add a third?) Remember the past, savor it and learn from it, but be young at heart: yearn for what's to come. The wise know that both the past and the future are partial illusions. All we really have is now.

Today, I used my past to enjoy my present: I trimmed some big plants with some cool tools! I had been looking forward to this day. I knew things would look better when I was done: and they do. (Plus I burned some extra calories!)

Work isn't work when it's purposefully chosen, planned for, enjoyed in the moment, and reflected on with satisfaction.

Tomorrow... or soon... I'm going to buy and install some new lattices for the star jasmine vines I bought recently. (Sounds like more work... or not...)


  1. You're right to look for meaningful challenges. Even the most mundane task can bring a sense of accomplishment if you have the right attitude. My kids drive me crazy when they say that they are bored. I could give them a whole list of worthwhile things to do. Kids today seem to want instant gratification. They don't enjoy the process of working towards a goal. I'm trying to instill that kind of work ethic in my kids. It's a challenge, but I'll give it a shot. Great work with the hedge and the tree!! Thanks for your kind comments on my blog today.

  2. "Someone once said, 'Show me someone who is bored, and I'll show you someone who lacks meaningful challenges.'"

    Bingo! We have a couple of kids right now who just need that mental stimulation to get through the day, otherwise they will spend all their time getting trouble for want of that which interests them. Yesterday was an immense success; I hope we can replicate it!

  3. @septembermom: A challenge indeed, but you've captured the problem so well, that you're more than halfway to the solution. I think it starts by finding a problem they are interested in solving. Later on, they help you with yours. They can learn the process (and ethic) when they are working on what matters to them. (My "kids" are in their mid to late 20's. It takes a while, but if you know what you're aiming for, and you do, then it's just a matter of time. (Usually a lot of time.)

    @Saphron: Glad you had a good day. Replication is only possible if you've succeeded once. I'm always aiming to make learning fun. Part of the challenge (the fun part) I introduce. It's amazing what kids can learn if they think they are doing something else. (Grown-ups too!)

  4. Here Here!

    "Live the Dash" a wise man once told me ;)

    I think we're missing a great gift if we strive to live in anything but the present.

  5. @Chase: I agree -- the present is what we have. But I think the Destination is more than the Journey. I think it's the right emphases, but there are meaningful milestones and vista points. There are lessons and growth. (And there are goals.)

    Perhaps Heinlien's martians (from Stranger in a Strange Land) have a good description: Martians see the person in the present simultaneously in all their growth stages, like Russian nesting dolls?

    If we are created in God's image... He is not only "I am that I am" -- in the moment... a verb of always becoming... but He is also many pronouns: Shepherd, King, Ruler, Friend, Consoler, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Shalom, the Bread of Life, the Living Water... and more.

    The Journey has Destinations and the Journey is a Destination.

    Things to ponder... oh, I've been pondering them already.