work

just enough

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I had a chat over coffee with the pastor of our local church. He asked me what sorts of things I’d been up to. After I’d recounted to him everything I could think of, he looked surprised. “Wow, you’re doing a lot.”

“Yeah,” I admitted, “I guess I am.”

I don’t bring this up as a matter of pride. Internally, I’m usually driving myself so hard that most of the time I feel like I’m not doing nearly enough. But most of the time, when I tell people all the activities I’m involved in and projects I’m working on, I get the same reaction.

My pastor had a few follow-up questions: was I doing too much and was I spending enough time with my wife?

Both great questions.

For the second one, yes, I believe so. We try to be intentional about spending at least a couple evenings a week just hanging out. And we do have intermittent date nights. I tell ya, it really helps having family nearby to assist  with childcare.

As for the first question, I really don’t know if I’m doing too much. But I do think it’s an important question to consider on a regular basis.

On our anniversary, my wife and I visited a local museum. One thing I enjoy about where we live is how much history it has, especially for a place on the western side of the US. At the museum, we saw many depictions of the frontier life.

The common family lived rather simply back then: mostly they just did their regular work from sunup to sundown and only saw their neighbors for church on Sunday or for big community events.

Life is very different today. We’re connected with so many people and we do a lot more than just working the farm or taking care of household chores.

That’s not a bad thing, but just being more busy isn’t good either.

So how do you (or I) know whether or not we’re too busy?

Here’s a couple determining questions:


First: Are you getting enough rest? 

If you don’t take time to take a break—to reflect and relax—you’re bound to burn yourself out. 

I’m not super strict on observing the Sabbath, but most Sundays are rest days for our family. It’s a healthy practice to plan at least one day a week where you don’t work, or at least keep it to a minimum.

Also, lack of sleep is a proven detriment to personal health. It’s something I struggled with for a while, but have been focusing on this las year. As a result, I feel much better overall.


Second: Are you stressed out?

How do you feel most days? Do you take on more than you can reasonably handle?

I know this one can be hard to gauge (it is for me anyhow), but if you notice a distinct lack of contentment and gratitude, if you don’t have any margin in your life, or if you aren’t spending regular quality time with the people closest to you, then you’re probably doing too much.

It’s one of the reasons I recently changed the posting schedule on this site to one every two weeks. When I first started this blog, I was actually posting twice a week. I managed it for a while, but it got exhausting and wasn’t worth the stress.

It’s really easy to take on a new commitment and a whole lot harder to quit one. I’ve heard that Bob Goff gives something up every week. I can appreciate that, though I don’t think I’m there.

So, how are you doing? Is it time to let go or back out of a few things in your life?

As for me, I’m doing alright, positioned on the thin edge of just enough.

Still, you should probably ask me again in a week or two. Until then, the cows need a’milkin’ and the butter a’ churnin’.

the grind

Gamers understand grinding as much as anyone (and no, I’m not talking about dirty Jr. High dance moves here). In a game, grinding means performing a repetitive, monotonous action over a long period of time in order to acquire something of perceived value.

Grinding has been in games for a while now and it seems to have only increased over the years. Many online RPGs are built off this concept: maybe you have to fight a bunch of low-ranked enemies just to level up and then fight a bunch of slightly harder enemies. Perhaps you've got to slowly, painstakingly collect gold or other materials so you can eventually obtain some special item which helps you be better at collecting gold and such. Or, as with many mobile games, you simply log in every half hour so you can repeatedly tap a button, which will unlock new buttons for you to tap repeatedly. That sort of thing.

But you know what? Grinding is not fun. Ever.

So why do we do it? Games, after all, are supposed to be for our enjoyment, right? From a game designer standpoint, it’s a cheap way to keep people playing your game longer. From the player’s standpoint, they believe whatever reward they get is worth the effort. But, from my perspective, it hardly is. Most of the time all you’re doing is grinding in order to do more grinding.

Sometimes life can feel this way. After all, we call work the daily grind (especially if you’re in a coffee shop). For some folks, they get up, go to work, and come home, with little change in their daily routine. Often the work itself is quite repetitive. I’m not dogging on a consistent and reliable job, but when the majority of your life is spent in repetitive monotony, it may be time to rethink where you’re heading.

Creativity, on the other hand, is all about embracing change; it’s like diving headlong into a big rushing river and not knowing where you’ll be swept away. It’s scary, challenging and fun—nothing like the grind. 

But even creatives can fall into a grind. And you know what, sometimes it’s ok, for a time. Even if you enjoy the outcome, some parts of being creative just aren’t very fun. Sometimes you have to stick that nose to the grindstone (sure sounds painful) and get a hard job done. Just make sure you have an exit plan, a reason for the grind that makes the trouble worth the effort. 

Once the grind is over, it should allow you to do something fun and exciting once more. Even better, find a way to avoid the grind altogether: develop a process so the further along you are on your creative journey, the less grinding is necessary. If your life seems like nothing but a grind, throw in an element of the unexpected, do something new and different, even if it's small and simple. 

Whatever you do, avoid an endless grind-cycle at all costs. Because if all you do is grind, eventually you’ll be ground away to nothing. That would be a stone-cold shame.

 

Creatively yours,

A. P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, has creativity ever felt like a grind to you, what have you done to change it up? Let us know in the comments below.

egads, robots!

On Relevant, one of the many podcasts I listen to, someone brought a news article about a $30k robotic salad maker. What first seemed like a joke quickly turned to a very real discussion about job automation in the future. One of the podcasters claimed the stats are showing for every machine “hired” by a company replaces 6 human employees, and that includes new workers brought on to maintain the machine. Yipes!

The shocking reality is robots will be replacing a lot of jobs and it’ll happen sooner than most people realize. I’m not the surest switch in the circuit, but even I can realize this is going to completely change our economy.

So, what should we do? Well, for starters I think we should look to creativity. Robots and computers may be able to fake human creativity through imitation and trickery, but I don’t think it’s the same. Perhaps they can create a painting (even a perfect replica of the Masters), write a decent sports article or beat a pro at chess, but I can’t, no, I simply won’t believe they have what it takes to truly match human ingenuity and imagination. Why? Because it’s a distinctly, God-given, human quality. Them things ain’t got no soul, and I mean that in the James Brown sense and the other sense*. 

Here’s something to back me up: a sweet page created by NPR’s Planet Money to help you see how likely it is your job will be done by a machine in the future:

Will Your Job Be Done By A Machine

It doesn’t look good for some people:

Telemarketers: 99%

Highway Maintenance: 87.4%

 

But check out the stats for some creative positions:

Writers and Authors: 3.8%

Craft Artists: 3.5%

Interior Designers: 2.2%

Photographers: 2.1%

Architects: 1.8%

 

All this to say, going for a creative job is often seen as a risky endeavor, but perhaps in the future it’ll be the safest thing you could do.

 

*Hey robots, if you’re reading this, I totally love you and respect all the cool stuff you do for us. Whatever you want, I’ll get it. Nuts? Bolts? A little extra oil? You’ve got it guys!