There’s More to the Story than Us Being Slackers

I’m noticing a plethora of “No Bullshit, No Excuses” posts in my feed reader, and on the Twitter stream. To be honest, I wince a little every time I read one. Not because it hits close to home. But because it completely misses the mark and yet still contrives to make me feel bad about how I do my work.

In a tangentally related example, I was trying to explain to a reader why I don’t give more advice on my blog.  “You have so much to teach! People could really use your insights.”

I am excruciatingly aware of how the position people are in affects both their need and ability to use information.

Let’s say you want to be happy. Lots of people are giving advice on that topic every day. Some people will show you how to examine the roots of your unhappiness. Other people will show you how to approve of yourself and be grateful for what you have. Still others with help you build yourself into the type of person who is happy, which is kind of like hitting a moving target, in my opinion.

I can offer advice on any one of those topics, and still, not everyone will be happy. However, the most oft-overlooked reason for not being happy is that people are not ready to be happy yet. And unfortunately, there are as many reasons for this as god made little green apples. And personally, I like to help the people who are the hard cases. Call it a professional challenge. If you’re not ready to shift, I want to help you know why, see what would have to change, and probably examine a few unspoken assumptions that keep you in that place. Because there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re ready to be happy and yet nothing working for you. And all those blog posts seem to do is rub it in your face.

So that’s why I don’t write posts like 18 Ways to Achieve Self Actualization NOW. Because if nothing is working for you, I want this to be a safe place for you to come.

Now, to tie that back into the disturbing No Bullshit posts I was talking about, here’s why I don’t like them:

Bearing Down Does Not Work

(for me)

For most people, particularly the kinds of people who operate under their own mandate,  there are two kinds of “time-wasters”

The first is where they are actively resisting doing or thinking about something, and they’re engaging in busywork to cover the oversight.

The second is an absolutely vital process where they replenish their divine spark. Julia Cameron refers to this as “filling the well” with vital sustenance so that you can be creative, bold, innovative. I think of it as the first part of a chemical reaction, the essential slow boil before you reach critical mass. Either way, it’s CRUCIAL. And if the “bear down and stop with the bullshit excuses” makes me feel bad, it probably does the same for a lot of other people.

There’s more to the story than just us being slackers

We are human. We most of us enjoy our work, or are working towards doing work that we enjoy. But in order to do that work, we must feed our soil.

I work from 5 til 5  every day, and often into the evenings. I choose to do this only partly to build my business.  The truth is also that there’s very little else I’d rather do. Rather than watch Sons of Anarchy with my husband, I want to be creating.

However, there’s lot’s of stuff I do that isn’t strictly productive. I probably spent 2 hours a day reading articles and commenting on content in my feed reader. I do yoga. I take long breaks to read something not on a screen. I do the laundry, feed the cats. I spend a lot of time in my email.

I don’t beat myself up about these things. I really don’t. Sometimes I even say, “Today’s a day off.” and then do whatever. The point is, I’m always better for this time because I need conversation.    I get inspiration almost solely in the form of comments from other people, and the rest of it comes from meditation, journalling, or reading.

When I used to toy with being an author, I liked this quote. “I only write when inspired. And I make it my business to be inspired at 9 am, every morning.”

I still need to be inspired, every day. And the only way I can do that is by replenishing the well. It’s NOT wasting time. It’s VITAL to your mission.

The Dark Side

Yes, it’s true that we waste time on the inconsequential, from time to time. Especially when we feel vulnerable and stuck. But I know exactly what I’m doing. I can tell what’s simply busywork and what nourishes my soul. With only a half an eyeblink I can tell you exactly what I’m avoiding.

But kicking my ass over it does not help me get over myself. The days I muddle along doing busywork are excruciating. They’re gross and uncomfortable and the busywork is simply a floating spar to clutch as I thrash around in a sea of confusion and worry and fear. At no point is shame ever a helpful part of the equation.

Once I achieve a certain clarity, everything resets. I’m back in the flow. Pointing out the time I wasted still is not helpful, because I learned (at the very least, ) coping techniques.

Every once in a long while, a firm shake is necessary. But it’s not so much to shame as to bring awareness to the problem. Sometimes you do get so deep in the morass that you cannot see daylight. But it’s a last ditch effort.

Stop trying to deny people their process.


12 thoughts on “There’s More to the Story than Us Being Slackers”

  1. YES. Yes. This. Abso-friggin’-lutely, this. Your last line is perfect, and the entirety of this post is great.

    It hit me, rather recently, that some totally well-intentioned people were trying to deny me my process. Given that I must process my stuff before I can function within it, their method wasn’t working, but I hadn’t quite pinpointed why I was getting defensive and all “what the hell, yo!” at people who were, after all, only trying to help.

    Then Havi posted a thing, and it clicked, and now you wrote this, and just, yes. Boundaries! And making sure they’re respected!

    I hope many people see this post and realize that they can let others just be, as difficult and frustrating as that may be. (I’m working on it, myself – I like to help, I’m usually pretty good at it, and it’s still hard to step back and keep my hands out of things when that’s what’s needed. So I can sympathize with the people who try the same thing with me.)

    1. I know what you mean, Ty. People are well intentioned. I’m sure they mostly wrote those posts to point out that at some point you have to stop whining about how hard it is and just do it. I’m down with that. But I just have a bit of a problem with the approach .

      I want to help too. I am really paranoid when I’m coming across with my ideas because i have a pretty strong personality. People tend to just do what I tell them is a good idea. But I hate to think it might be because they didn’t feel they could stand up to me, or because they felt like there was something wrong with them. I just have lots of ideas and I want to share them. I just want you to admire it with me “Oooh, pretty idea. Nice!” Not take it as gospel.

      It’s hard when everyone is telling you there’s a certain way to do things (hello! google “how to blog”?) so I really am noticing a theme in my writings lately of people being aware of, and sticking to, their process.

  2. First comment here!

    I’ve noticed this same trend in the area I work in – small business – with the well known authorities growling and howling about it and the “ass kicking” bothers me too.

    Just starting a business, even a small side line thing, takes tremendous courage and energy, both mental and physical. Not everyone has the same reserves or resources and it’s so not helpful to beat this drum. I try to help creative business owners start where they’re at and go forward from there – at their own pace.

    On another note, my days are very similar to yours and I don’t hide or regret that at all 🙂

    1. Yeah, I think “creatives” are the people most damaged by this viewpoint. Even non-“traditional” creatives, like coders and engineers need a certain amount of filling the bucket.

      Case in point: Today, after getting off a call, I was utterly inspired, but not…quite… at the tipping point. So I went away, had a long bath and a visit with a potential friend (also inspiring, maybe some JV juice in there) and answered your comment. I’m ready to work now, and I will put in 3 or 4 highly productive hours before the end of the day, rather that scratching and pecking the dirt trying to figure out where to start.

      If I was ashamed of that process, I’d be beating myself up, I’d never get in the zone, and I’d finish the day demoralized. NOT helpful

  3. Even among creatives there is such a difference regarding process. I had an instructor in art school who didn’t understand why I wanted to hand draw my lines rather than use an opaque projector so I could just get to the painting part. We must have talked about it for an hour.

    We’ve each got our own way of doing things. And you’re totally right, it’s about respecting how we get there. For ourselves and each other.

    Some days, the words flow. Some days I have to make the font pretty and run away and run back to the same page, repeatedly. It totally depends on how I’m feeling and what I’m writing about.

    1. I’m catching what you’re throwing. I’m increasingly glad I live so far out in the stick because then the interaction I do get is like champagne and stimulates a lot of ideas. When I was in the city, I wound up being really involved in the minutae of interacting with people, and no longer had the energy to seek out interesting conversations or compelling ideas. Consequently, I was quite bored.

      But when people who used to know me find out I live like a hermit, they can’t understand how I could ever be happy. At that point, it’s hard to resist saying “Quality of quantity!” lol

  4. Very thought-provoking post Shanna, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    I sometimes like to be tough on people and point directly at their mistakes. There is a certain benefit to reiterating the obvious, because some of us like to occasionally ignore the obvious.

    There is always needs to be some tactic involved though. If you end up just making people feel like shit, then you will just discourage them from doing anything productive.

    1. Yes, I think that “tough love” has its place. But I also think that accepting that people aren’t “being lazy”, “resisting” or “avoiding” and reframing it as “processing,” is a much more accepting way to go about it.

      Tough love is best meted out by the people you love and respect, and only when circumstances merit it. Otherwise, let people have their process: it makes no difference to me.

      Another post on this issue has been getting a lot of comments lately, if you’re interested in getting a little deeper. it’s called “A difference in Perspective.”

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. Hey, Shanna, you been readin’ my mail?? (Don’t answer that! teeheehee) I was going to ref your “Difference in Perspective” post, too ~ you beat me to it!

    Yeah!Baby! “Just DO it!” is sometimes helpful, and sometimes sooooo NOT! “Makes me wanna slug ya right in da kisser!” (read that in your best ‘Rocky’ voice). I really don’t think that’s the reaction they were looking for!
    And then, I’d just dig my heels in deeper, and have to get over that “I’m not gonna, cause I’m won’t let you push me around” roadblock, too!

    Some-times, some-people (not everyone who knows you has permission to ask those kind of questions, though — Yes, Yes, Yes, Ty! Boundaries!!) can ask, “So, what’s really holding you back?” and it’ll twist or tweak something in yer brain or yer heart, and then the changes just cascade out. They *still* may not show up as ‘productivity’ on an outside scale, but who’s really measuring that?? Your next post, about “leveling up”, really hits it square about *that* question too!

    Have a great weekend, y’all! and Bright Blessings ~ Karen

  6. Hi Shanna

    Well this post is just what I needed. I’m getting to it late (how ironic) because I’ve been drowning in ‘stuff’ to read. I’ve started to realize that I’m guilty of ‘headless chicken’ syndrome recently … trying to pack as much into the little time I have available as possible. But today when I went for a walk I didn’t listen to anything. No business podcasts on my Iphone or anything else work-related. Just the birds and the traffic in the distance. It was bliss.
    And I actually feel so refreshed and refocused because of it! I think I need to have enforced ‘unplugged time’ every week where I just ‘am’. It feels weird but it’s good for me!!
    Thanks for the reminder! 😉

    1. I know…and if it feels so good…why don’t we do it more often? This is my fatal trap… I keep putting in time long past the hour where my cost/benefit ratio has been inverted. Why? Because I like to feel involved. Because disengaging to spend time with my family is…wasted time? Clearly, I have to examine my motivations a bit more, because this is simply ridiculous. AND it’s inefficient lol!

    2. Hi Vicki!
      Yay! for walking without being wired to anything!
      …and finding this post a whole 3 days after it was posted? Perfect in your overall scheme of things ~ obviously!
      So, I just read your post from November – about the email beast …
      which prompts an observation: unless it’s about a class deadline or “product expiration” or today’s headlines, a blog post is usually not a Time-Sensitive Action Item.
      The timing of When-I-Read-This-Post can be left up to your Intuition, to find it for you just when it can be most useful for you.

      Happy prep work for your IttyBiz!
      … and Bright Blessings always – they’re never in short supply!

      Karen J

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