Hard Work and the Good Life

Cool, quiet days in a small village in the middle of Bohemia come to life in a way I imagine they did centuries ago. The smell of wood stoves, sun rays making their way through the mist, and people preparing for a good day of hard work.

The work is exhausting but full of vitality. Energy created by the confidence of giving each day the best, a hallmark of a successful life. Faces of workers mapped with lines, each etched with a tale stretching back in time. One day falling into another, each story taking us to where we are now.

Days constructed with skill, hands crafting together a life of quality to stand the test of time. In the end, if everything goes right, life will be made a bit easier for those who carry on after we are gone.

Small miracles surround us daily, people who embrace the noble philosophy to strive for perfection. Whether a builder of factories, baker of bread, or a mother giving her life for her children ~ all understand while pure perfection is a myth, the pursuit of this mystery welds together a foundation of life.

It is the humble appreciation of hard work which makes it all possible: the key ingredient to ignite the body in the morning so to retire at night with gratitude.

Opposite are those where the thought of going to work tastes like poison.  Every morning a heavy sigh, bleak thoughts sinking the mind into depression. A day ruined before it begins, a week sentencing the soul to five days of drudgery.

There is only the false glow of the weekend to offer a brief respite; yet with habits entrenched the weekend turns bitter as well. The mind swims in melancholy, a ruthless cycle. Rinse. Repeat.

For those who wake with wonder, with no certainty on how the day will evolve, there are possibilities… Find an idea, a goal, and take it to completion.

Build. Create. It is in these people to find not only admiration but inspiration.

Even when the inevitable day arrives where everything turns sour, there is truth in the old cliché: in every failure there are lessons to be learned.

This morning a thousand miles away from home, the surrounding scene holds a myriad of options, a feeling I’ve become accustom to. While I am never quite sure how the day will shine, there is one constant: good people blending with good people no matter the culture.

Open the mind to this simple piece of humanity and a better day lies ahead. Another piece of the riddle solved.

The feel of the earth, of steel, of the flame, all pieces of the puzzle when fused together form the backbone of who we are. Seeking an honest day’s work and the building of callouses, whether on the hands or character. Valuable protection justly earned when the inevitable turbulence of life makes its appearance.

On days like today, it seems easy. Hard work and dedication creates a good life. An effortless understanding where wealth is not the primary driver but instead a by-product, holding less value than imagined. Success is not defined by “greatness and wealth” instead it is about integrity. Dedication.

The experience of blood, sweat and tears reveals its importance when the world is thrown out of sync and stress converges from all angles. The world feels colorless.

However, the years of inexhaustible toil strengthens character, builds patience and when such dark and grey days come there is no panic. The mind is focused on living, on a new day to create.

The fire to define a day is what hard work ensures. Take away the unimaginativeness of mediocrity and the dullness transforms into a mysterious shimmer. Dark shadows of frustration are replaced by the spark of a purpose.

Growing. Building. Never resting, never stagnating.

There is no better feeling than walking home after a day’s work, warm sunlight refreshing the spirit and the colors shining on a day well executed. The fading daylight brings the laughter and smiles of the world to the forefront, enlightening the soul as it winds down into the solitude of night.

Within the darkness of sleep, a strong heartbeat keeps the blood flowing providing fuel for the dreams of the night and hopes of tomorrow. A step ahead are those who ceaselessly give it their all, for them tomorrow has already arrived.

Side note:  At a young age, my parents instilled in me the idea of doing the best work possible, no matter the job.  Every day my mom’s words echo in my mind ~ step back, take a look at your work and see if there is anything to be improved… and there is always something. I love this thought as it keeps me pursuing this myth of perfection.

Time is Fleeting, Never Stop

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Unfamiliar territory, the uncertainty paralyzes. A surge of panic fills my head and heart, only to be soothed by the perfect amber of a freshly poured Czech beer.

“Here I go again…”

Lost.

Around me is a language I do not understand. Spreadsheets in front of me I cannot comprehend. A feeling of being exactly where I should be. I relax, surprised by the comfort of the chaos.

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The color refreshes a memory when I was lost in the more familiar surroundings of the Skokomish Wilderness.

The sky still black, I anticipate the amber sunrise when we summit…rather if we summit, as of right now, I have no idea where we are.

“Shit…” I mutter to myself, louder than I had wanted, waiting only seconds before the echo returns with her reply. “Oh my God, I can’t believe it. You are lost again aren’t you?”

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I ignore the question, wishing it away, but the echo continues, “Why did I agree to go on this climb?” She lets out an exasperated sigh, hidden within, a tint of laughter.

Unpredictability in life is the one thing I’ve found to be a constant.

A sharp blow of her hiking pole on my butt is her protest to my stifled laughter, “It’s not funny…” she declares and we continue up the mountain.

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“Why is it so difficult to stay on the path laid out in front of me?” I wonder and reach for my beer. Standing in the middle of uncertainty, again where every step I take leads me away from where I expect to be.

Would I want it any other way? Perhaps on some days…

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Uncertainty has become a friend of mine. Things change around me quickly and if I do not flow and evolve along with it, I’ll suffocate. Be miserable.

It is cliché, but there is truth in Maya Angelou’s quote, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Without change, we rob ourselves of beauty. We rot.

“Remaining at status quo stagnates the soul,” I think to myself, and kicking back with my beer I wonder if that’s such a bad thing?

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Yes, change can suck.

Albert Einstein once said, “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”

Ah yes, is there anything more destructive than unfulfilled expectations? I suppose this is the catalyst for change, to get lost in the world and explore ~ anything to avoid the poison of expectations.

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The chaos of setting out on a new path, getting lost, is part of the process. From the moment we are born, adventure turns fear into wisdom, sparking curiosity to discover.

I think back to standing on the precipice between mountain and sky… the abyss speaking to me, and I glance towards my beer, her amber words ringing clear as I empty my mug, “balance, my friend…there’s a time for adventure and a time to reflect on adventure.” I nod to the waitress for another.

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The echo breaks the stillness of the dark while my headlamp scans the trees and boulders ahead.

“Why, again, are we doing this?”

The only words I can think of are 时间不多,从不停 ~ Time is fleeting, never stop.”

Eight characters a friend of mine, Eric Moen, shared with me last year. Words to provide added incentive to spark change when comfort begins to lead to stagnation.

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Those eight characters take me back when I stood along Hood Canal admiring a pre-dawn sky, sparking a childhood dream to climb Mt. Ellinor and watch this land come alive with the sunrise. Yet, in all these years never taking the time to do so. Why?

“Why?” I add to my reply back to the echo, “To see magic. This is why we are here.”

“And… just exactly where is here?!?”

I begin to answer and then begin to question why I invited her. “A very good question…” and continue ahead to what I hope will become an opening.  

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There is nothing quite like the childlike curiosity we hold inside. The anxiety of pushing forward with new ideas, until that moment arrives ~ our heart rate slows and we unearth something new, something enchanting.

“I’m beginning to understand you never have a plan do you?” another question rings back my way.

Shuffling of hooves on the rocks above remind us we are not alone.

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“Not real sure any plan worked out the way I had imagined, so why bother…” is my quick reply, seconds ahead of another sting of a hiking pole on my backside.

I scramble up and around a set of boulders and come face to face with a familiar friend.

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Nature never ceases in its pursuit of change; never fears a new challenge change may bring. The sky and the sunshine call out to us all, “You are not alone, the universe is with you the whole way.”

A breathless gasp comes from behind, and her arm wraps around me along with a whisper “this place is so beautiful…”

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Take away expectations, lose the fear of change and get lost in the world. There is no greater truth: time is fleeting, never stop.

“Be the change.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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