Productivity Is Not Peace

“Productivity is not peace. You’re never going to do enough for the doing to bring you peace.”

Ashley C. Ford said this in an interview with The Creative Independent a few years ago. She goes on to say that despite society telling us this is how we work, it really isn’t. Furthermore, it’s a mode that’s damn hard to break out of.

I’m reminded of this on a Sunday evening as I start to wind down… by first asking myself if I did enough to deserve it. And, I mean, here I am typing away at my computer so apparently the answer to that question was no.

One thing that helps me break out of not-enough-ness is asking different questions. Instead of asking, “Did I do enough?”, which is centered on doing, ask, “What can I enjoy?”, which is centered on being.

And with that, I’m off to my knitting.

My second pair of Hazelfern socks that I started in the park today! I’m using an Island Fibers merino and nylon blend that a friend sent me for my birthday.

24 Hours of Fresh Attention

“Everyone gets 24 hours of fresh attention, refilled daily.”

Seth Godin shared this in his blog post this morning and it was a welcome reminder. A reminder that each day we have the opportunity—the responsibility—to manage our bandwidth. A reminder that when we mess up (and we will) we have a chance to begin again.

That said, what will you do with this day?

What will you say yes to? And, perhaps more importantly, what are you willing to say no to?

Work vs Rest

How do you define work? What about rest? Are these activities, states of being? And how do you know when to move between them?

I’m not sure if you’ve hit the quarantine phase where you’re questioning, well, literally everything, but I sure have. In particular, I’m paying attention to my own personal rhythms and how I measure productivity.

Which is how I got on this work vs rest debate.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Work is… output, motion, acting on the known, and in service of others. It has some narrow, focused quality to it. It’s new creation.

Rest is…. input, stillness, surrender to the unknown, and in service of self. It is boundless and how we open ourselves up to what could be. It’s mindful consumption.

Work asks, “What can I do?”

Rest asks, “What can I enjoy?”

Both demand presence, compassion, and acceptance. Presence in this moment, compassion for where you find yourself, and acceptance of what is.

And both are needed, however you define them.

Inhale, exhale.

On, off.

Engage, disengage.

We live on a sine wave. We are not exempt from the rhythms of nature just because we’ve found ways to modify them.

You Can Do Hard Things

Making art is hard.
Doing something people don’t understand is hard.
Therapy is hard.
Lifting weights is hard.
Grieving is hard.
Paying off debt is hard.
Creating work we’re proud of is, almost always, hard.

So many of the worthwhile things in life—the things that ask us to meet ourselves and bring us closer to others—are so very hard.

But we can do hard things. Not all at once, and not perfectly, but bit by bit we can build up our capacity for discomfort.

Here’s the best way I’ve found to do this: If you’re really going through it in one area of your life (your business, your job, your finances, your health, a relationship, etc.) try building up your capacity in a seemingly unrelated area.

Commit to learning how to make great scrambled eggs, learn how to knit, take up an instrument, sign up for an improv class, go hiking, start a writing practice. The skills you develop—curiosity, courage, resilience, tenacity, confidence—aren’t activity-specific. You’ll bring them to everything you do.

This is why I love weight lifting so much. Repeatedly standing in front of a bar you don’t think you can lift and then, somehow, throwing it over your head does wonders for your confidence. As soon as I learned I could do hard things within those gym walls it became easier to embrace that posture in the rest of my life. Skills translate.

And remember:

Life does not have to be easy in order to be beautiful.

This is an excerpt from the newsletter I sent yesterday. To read the full letter and sign up for future ones, click here.