A Labor of Love

My Labor Day view

My Labor Day view

Happy Labor Day!

Hope you are enjoying some R&R this holiday weekend. My wife and I are back in Colorado spending time at my family's cabin up in the mountains.

In the spirit of the holiday I have been thinking about labor. Work. Grinding. I think far too often there is this idea in our culture that work should feel like work. By golly they don't call it that for nothing. I partially agree with the sentiment in so far as to appreciate the fact that not everything in life is necessarily supposed to be fun or easy.

But if you are working on something that makes you miserable, you should probably reevaluate why you are doing that. In fact if you are toiling away at something and you can't find any joy in value in it, you should do something else.

In the words of Morgen Housel “something stupid you can stick with will probably out perform something smart that you'll burn out on

Pursuing your passion is an oft-cited (and oft-derided) cliche. I think the advice is good, but not for the reason people think. It's less about the joy you get from something itself and more from the endurance that joy gives you. Something that feels like play to you and work to everyone is naturally something you'll be willing to work at when others aren't.

By that same token, one should focus on leveraging their strengths instead of trying to fix their weaknesses.

This has been something I've been trying to do more of. Recently this pursuit has taken the shape of my trying to get in shape. It's something that I've always struggled with and never quite figured out. I've never been in horrible shape but I've also never been in great shape. It's something I'm trying to get better at both for the quantity and quality of life I want to lead. For so long exercising has felt like banging my head against a wall, but recently I've started getting some positive momentum.

The first step when trying to double down on your strengths is developing an awareness of what your strengths and weaknesses are. This sounds easier than it is and requires some not-always-pleasant self honesty. It also can require you shutting out voices around you that push you in one direction or another. When it came to my exercise, cardio has not, more likely ever will be my strength. For those that don't know me personally, I am a descendant of thousands of generations of short and stocky northern Europeans. My body was built for trudging through the snow not galloping through the meadows. As such cardio has always miserable to me. No matter how hard or consistently try I can never be better than a mediocre runner and I never enjoy it more than a 5 or 6 out of 10. For the past couple of years I have been trying to become a runner. And I have struggled mightily to establish any sort of momentum. It always felt like pushing a stone up hill to me.

As weak as I am at running, I have always been quick to build up muscle and strength. A short and stocky frame will do that for you. It's always come easy for me and because of that I've always enjoyed it. I feel like I am making progress. That I have momentum.

But I barely have been lifting over the past couple of years. When I talked to friends and family that were in shape they all were runners. So I thought I had to be a runner to. But what works for some won't necessarily work for you. What felt like play to others felt like work to me and because of that I struggled to stick with it.

The past couple of weeks I have gotten a new gym membership and really doubled down on lifting every day before work. It's early days and I have a long way to go to be where I want to be, but already it feels like a world of difference. Instead of pushing a rock uphill, if feels like I am pushing it downhill. What feels like work to others is all of the sudden play to me. And because of that, I can stick with it when others can't.

In our culture we are too quick to praise the grind. Maybe we should ask ourselves, “why does this feel like such a grind in the first place?”

If you can figure out something that comes naturally too you and others struggle with you will be willing to work harder than anyone else and your advantage will compound. It's not always easy. You might have to ignore what friends or pop culture are telling you and the ideals they expect you to aspire to.

But you will know if you're on the right track because those around you will be dropping out just as you're getting warmed up.

Enjoy the long weekend. Enjoy your family. And enjoy your labor. If you don't you might want to consider doing something you would enjoy.

Life's too short for anything else.