Rock Salt

I moved just over 800 pounds of rock salt yesterday — all by hand, all by myself. I did not move it all at once. Part of getting the job done at the geomechanics lab is logging core and to do that, core needs to be up off the pallets and on the roller frame so we can open the boxes, unpack rock, and catalog what we see.

My challenge stared at me from the shop floor: 21 boxes of rock salt, ~40 lbs each. “Well,” I thought, “40 lbs is just two 20 lb dumb bells… that’s my morning workout!” And off I went, picking up each box in turn off the floor and moving it to the roller frame. In very little time, I finished.

Yes, I grinned — not bad for a 40-year-old desk jockey. But the lesson is one I need to be reminded of periodically and some of you may too: break an enormous task down into Tiny Bits and you’ll crush it.

Today I leave to visit my parents and true to form, yesterday I had meetings lined up one after another to finish a week’s worth of work in 7 hours. I took my pickup in to have the headlight changed and when I turned the key to start it, it would not start.

“I do not have time for this. Not even a little bit.” Mostly I wanted to sob in fury but since I was surrounded by dudes and had limited energy, I just called the tow truck and mentally rewrote my afternoon schedule while I waited. I would not concede: work needed doing.

One tow truck ride, conversation with the Ford dealer, and shuttle ride later, I made it to the coffee shop (home base! the mother ship! safety!) and dug in. My afternoon appointment met me there. I didn’t have time to go home and clean up (rock salt is messy and I still wore my shop clothes) but I squared my shoulders, smiled, stuck out my hand and introduced myself.

You, dear reader, have no interest in the litany of emails I answered, problems solved, or decisions made for my campaign. But I will tell you, when I arrived home after such a day and went to put my feet up… and remembered that I promised a finished manuscript to my co-author in West Virginia, I almost caved.

At 9 pm, I flipped open my laptop, set my timer, and dug in. It is not the Magna Carta, but the manuscript is submitted.

I suspect there will always be that voice inviting us to quit. Slow down. Give up. “You’re too tired. Your shoulder hurts. You had a bad day (of the First World sort).” But the voice isn’t really asking us if we want to quit, it’s asking us, “HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT?!”

My friends, if you needed to hear it today, here you go:

You can move 800 pounds of rock — break it down. You can punt and squeeze 7 hours’ worth of meetings into 2 — do so via phone and email. You can find a solution to your frustrating circumstance — make the decision and pull the trigger. You can get the manuscript submitted — hit “send.”

Square your shoulders. Grin. Go.

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