There are some days when I don’t want to do jack squat. And even on those days, jack squat seems like a stretch. I don’t always have to 'do' something. I run my own company now. No one is going to fire me if I stay in bed longer than I planned. If I don’t get the research done that I wanted to, or prep for a session that I have that day with a client, no one will know but me. But I can’t fool myself anymore. My work will suffer for it and my ability to make a difference in the world diminishes if I don’t show up consistently. Do the work. That’s what successful people do… they do the work. If I waited until inspiration struck to write or to research I would rarely get my work done. Inspiration is a fickle bird. She doesn’t keep a schedule. She doesn’t warn you that she’s going to be visiting at a certain time. You have to listen for her voice. One of the best ways to learn to recognize her voice and hear her better is to do your work on a consistent basis.
It doesn’t matter if you are a sculptor, an electrical engineer, a lawyer or a composer. If you aren’t doing your work on a regular basis, two things will rarely happen. First, you won’t get any work done. That’s a law. To complete your work you must actually do it. Simple enough. Second, if you don’t show up consistently to take part in your work, inspiration won’t know where to find you. I like to read and I listen to a lot of podcasts. That's because I love to learn. I've noticed that there are many people today exploring the idea of how and where to find inspiration. I like to let inspiration find me. This is not a passive action. I know that if I force myself to do my work on a regular basis, I am that much more likely to have an inspiring encounter.
This morning I’m writing from the airport terminal. I had to get up at 5AM to hit my return flight from my trip. I knew that there was this piece I needed to finish about ‘doing the work’. As soon as the thought entered my tiny head I immediately began to think about how working was the last thing I wanted to do. “I have nothing inspiring to say” passed through my mind. I felt it in my body. But, like I said earlier, if I waited for inspiration to strike before I started doing my work, it would rarely get done. So when I got to an empty seat in the terminal, I pulled out my laptop and began typing. In the 40 minutes that I’ve been writing, I’ve had 2 different ideas for new pieces and a couple other thoughts to add to my ‘morning ritual giveaway’. Inspiration has swung by and I can still smell her lingering fragrance.
Later, when I’m driving, I can almost guarantee you that she will whisper in my ear. I won’t be able to work at that moment, but I will dictate some things into my phone and I'll unpack those ideas a little later in the day. After I exercise, later in the day, I will take another shower. Inspiration will most certainly visit me then as well.
Kevin Eubanks was the band leader on The Tonight Show for 15 years. He’s taught at several prestigious universities both in the US and abroad. He knows about work. I love this quote from an interview with him… “Inspiration is one thing and you can't control it, but hard work is what keeps the ship moving. Good luck means, work hard. Keep up the good work.”
It's at this point in my pieces that I would list three ways to begin doing your work. I would give you some advice or steps on how to begin your work. But the reality is, you just have to get about the business of doing it. It isn’t always fun or enjoyable. Often the work is hard and requires focus and energy. That’s why it’s called work. But if you believe your work makes a difference, it’s worth it. If you don’t believe your work makes a difference… we need to talk. Now get to work. Don't put it off. Don't reply to one more email. Don't look at one more video posted to facebook. Do the work.
"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." -Thomas Edison
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London
"Don’t prepare. Begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project, or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do. Start before you’re ready. Good things happen when we start before we’re ready. For one thing, we show huevos. Our blood heats up. Courage begets more courage." - Steven Pressfield
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