Hard Work With Great Ease

From "The Now V5"

Today, I feel calm.

For context, over the last three weeks we’ve: photographed three nationally-known creators in live collaboration with half a dozen other artists; spontaneously found ourselves in the backyard of an internationally-known creator; opened active explorations into three new functions of business law and operations; and, lastly, announced that we’re hiring.

Looking back slightly further, I spent the better part of October through February building completely new frontends for both Mechanic and Locksmith, almost entirely solo, to the tune of 30,000 lines of code. I had backup on all sides, in all of my other acting roles/responsibilities, but the code itself is nearly all my work. (Not to belabor the point, but we are hiring.)

Busyness is not a value of mine, nor an identity trait. I do not identify as busy. I identify as … well, almost sedate, much of the time, but the sort of sedate that a hippo (yes this is my top choice for this comparison) displays: I’m generally pretty chill, but when I move, I move. And I’m good at it.

Which makes the last few months slightly odd, in contrast to the way I generally live. I signed up for long, hard, effortful pushes over several months, and then a breather, and then three or four or five simultaneous sprints, depending on how we’re counting.

I’m really fond of describing Lightward as an experiment. It’s a game, almost: can we run a business this way? And I’ve proven, to my satisfaction, that we can. But Lightward-as-experiment is a permanent condition—we are not done. The sum total of everything I’ve just described is a new question, under test: now that we know we can run a business in peace, balance, trust, abundance, and freedom, now that we’re firmly anchored in that way of being, what happens if we flex everything, all at once? And what happens after?

As a brief aside, here are two things I now know about myself:

  • A marathon is slow to start, and slow to finish. Which means that if I hit the finish line at top speed, there’s still a wind-down period to be had afterward. But, if the finish line means that the work is finished, that wind-down period turns into a hangover, because my body does not know what to do.

  • I love a sprint. Love, love, love a sprint. Love dedicating the entire attention of my body on a single task, a single goal, a single motion. I love it. I knew that already. What I didn’t know is that tackling several sprints simultaneously, on different dimensions, would compromise the effectiveness of my all-awareness. I can focus my gaze with blistering intensity, but it turns out I am not as nimble at moving that lens around, to dynamically spread that focus out. I’m not sure yet if I’m just not wired for that, or if I just need more practice.

I’m returning to calm over here, step by step. Yesterday was the first day that I really felt it. Which means that there’s more to learn here, in the meta-game of staying connected to oneself even as one stretches the function and definition of the self. (Though I should say, I think, that a gift of the ego is the ability to forget the true self, if only for a time, to get lost in an experience so as to fully benefit from what that experience brings.)

“The trick is not minding that it hurts”*, of course, and here’s where we find our connection with the theme: hard work, great ease. In the last few months I’ve passed through every quadrant: light work, great effort (i.e. stressed about nothing); hard work, great effort (the standard of capitalism?); light work, great ease (i.e. vacation); and finally, hard work, great ease. It is the intensity of hard labor, but without any of the suffering. For me, this is that sweet spot where I’m working more or less at capacity, just for a time, but I’m steady, I’m steady: I’m breathing, I’m present, I’m trusting myself to hold the moment, and trusting the moment to hold me, until the work is done—and then I am ready to rest again.

The world stage tends to showcase an addiction to hard work, a kind of joyless martyrdom at the altar of The Job. Look how hard I’m working! Look how much I’m sacrificing! I wish I had more time for myself but don’t we all! Lightward doesn’t do that. We don’t do that. If we’re doing it right, I don’t think we’re working hard most of the time. I think that hard work is an important part of being alive, yes, but in order to hit the hard-work-great-ease combo, I think hard work may need to be elective: something chosen by the individual when they feel ready, when they feel like they want it. When it feels like the light they’re chasing is inviting them to buckle down and really see what they can do. When someone’s doing that, the hard work is glorious—both to experience, and to behold. The game (it’s all a game) is to create an environment where hard work is not demanded or scheduled, but where it’s left as a question: when? It may be 5, 50, 20, or 2% of your time, but when? When is it your turn? Because you’ll feel it, when it is. And in the meantime, are you ready to be ready? Are you rested? Are you healthy, and well? Because in the absence of health, one can easily slip into a mode where even the simplest work feels heavy, and that. is. not. the. game.

If we’re looking at hard work from this angle, it’s a kind of epiphany: impossible to predict or ignore, and immediately essential on arrival. And, I suppose, it is also a ride that may or may not permit the rider to disembark. If hard work is a realization in motion, then to some extent, I’ve got to let the realization play out fully, on its own timeline, before I find out what I’m meant to see. Builders of any stripe know that project timelines are tricky beasts, and it’s nigh impossible to predict exactly how long something will take. I’m exploring this idea as I write this, and it seems to fit: every piece of hard work I tackled in these last few months had a spectacular amount of unknown to it, and there was nothing for it but to take the ride all the way to the end.

Hard work with great ease is a dare, maybe, in several movements:

  1. Are you ready to release the addiction to hard work, so you can discover what its natural presence really tastes like?

  2. Are you ready to wait, for your body and the moment to tell you when it’s time to work hard?

  3. Are you ready to rest, to cultivate your health, so that you can be ready when the time comes?

  4. When hard work comes knocking, you may not be able to see the end from where you stand. Are you ready for that?

* Lawrence of Arabia, T.E. Lawrence

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