This weekend traditionally marks the threshold between the summer of rest, and the fall of new fruition.
When people lived on farms, the lore goes, you knew what season you were in. You were either doing the hard work of planting your seeds, or tending them as they grew, or celebrating the harvest itself and the abundance it represented, or resting … in wait for the cycle to repeat. One followed the other and the order was comfortably predictable. Peoples’ lives and work flowed around this rhythm, and the cycle and tempo was built in. Or so I hear. I’ve lived in major cities in India, and the suburbs of Cupertino growing up, so a farmer I am not.
But we can see those seasonal clues for work just don’t exist any more or in the same way. Unless my fingers get too cold for typing, there’s very little impact from my outside surroundings for what I’m creating. I don’t produce what a farm produces. What most of us produce today is ideas; they have no seasons. Projects come and go. Some die, some thrive. Sometimes, often times, all at once. Summer can be the time of rest as it was for me in 2010. But it didn’t follow that fall was the new season. There are times I’ve worked so hard during summer, I didn’t even see it come and go. I returned to my life last fall trying to figure out not only when to do what, but what I should be doing more or less of. I was asking myself the questions a farmer might – is now good for incubating new things? Or should I lay fallow for a while to see what emerges? Is it time to put more resources on because then things will really grow? Or is this actually the time to hunker down and save the seeds, because there is a proverbial drought coming? Or is now is the time to retrench to get ready for the season of growth. These farmer-type questions are the ones we “free agents” get to direct.
We “get to” direct. What if we just work like crazy all the time, in fear the next project might not come along? What if we think of life/work balance as we get to play every weekend? What if we take every meeting we get asked to? Alternatively, what if we reject every meeting and hide at home and hope no one catches us avoiding the challenge of new things?
“Get to” is the trick. No one will tell us it is time to “kneel down in the grass”, as Mary Oliver wrote in her poem, The Summer Day. Sure, there’s lots of advice out here. There will be people who will say to entrepreneurs, pour on the gas and put everything you’ve got into this because that is the best way to work. You might even remember that I said to stop doing everything and focus on a few things to have a bigger impact. You might have thought that was good advice if you were overloaded, and tapped out of energy. Or, you might be “between things” and wishing instead that you could have more to do so my advice at the time wasn’t right. That’s because there is no season governing this flow for all of us.
This lack of Meteorological seasons doesn’t mean we don’t have seasons. We get to decide our work seasons; we get to decide for ourselves, to pace our lives, to set a cadence that works. We get to direct our own seasons for investment and growth, for celebration and renewal. What is that we need next for the ideas to flow? This flow matters of course as it sets the tempo for our ability to create the best ideas, over time, and manifest them into the world. Ultimately, it impacts each of our ability to change the world. It is central to our experience of work; and, it is not to be taken lightly … we must direct our seasons.
With that thought, enjoy Labor Day Weekend.