Snail Mail and a False Sense of Accomplishment

I saw an elderly gentleman walking to his mailbox the other day carrying a stack of letters in his hand. I was just able to see him place the stamped envelopes in the box with an accomplished look on his face before I drove past.

It made me think of how much I enjoy sending letters. Maybe it’s because I have a pretty significant Type-A side of my personality, but I enjoy things like sending mail, filing applications, and filling out forms. Now I don’t want to spend all day doing this stuff, but something about these physical actions of moving things forward feels very satisfying. I could say the same about making homemade soup, building a piece of furniture, or getting rid of some old junk (all of which I enjoy doing). It just feels good.

But in our digital age of email, emotional labor, and intangible work, things like “snail mail” can be a little dangerous. Now I understand that we all have to pay the bills and get stuff done that requires actual physical labor. There is nothing wrong with working with your hands and sending actual people actual stuff. The visible results make these tasks very appealing. The danger is in how easy it is for our little tasks to take the place of the other work that needs to be done. The satisfaction we get from physical tasks can be used as a cover to avoid the intangible work that ever looms above our conciousness. Have you ever had a project due and decided to vacuum the house or clean out the garage? Exactly. Much of our work has nothing to do with putting something in mail or moving things around with our hands.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’re done with something, or when you can check it off of your list. A meaningful conversation with a friend, taking the time to prepare for a meeting, reading, studying, and praying are all important but very hard to quantify. Yet they have tremendous value and demand our significant investment. The fact that results/progress can be difficult to measure may make this type of work even harder than physical work, and thus less appealing. But it’s still really, really important.

Anybody can move a stack of bricks, but nobody can give the time and attention to your wife, your kids, or people that need your mentoring wisdom. So don’t forget to invest your time into things that matter, even if the progress can’t be measured by a standardized system.

“Not everything that counts can be measured. Not everything that can be measured counts.” Albert Einstein

A Tribute to the Sign Flippers

We’ve all seen them. Those people on the side of the road who are somehow getting paid to hold a sign and flip it around their head. They brave the heat, the wind, and the otherwise intolerable weather conditions to stand outside and add a human touch to advertising. I’m not exactly sure how this qualifies as a job, but I do find it fascinating to watch them.

The thing about these sign holders is the striking difference between a person who is excited about their job and one who is just trying to make it through the day. I’ve seen the texters, the iPod listeners, and I’ve even seen the use-the-sign-to-shade-me-ers. These people don’t believe their job has value and it shows.

But then there are the people who are all in, who love the chance to grab people’s attention. They may be a little crazy, but the fact is, it works! These guys are flipping the signs and twirling them around, dancing strange jigs while pointing and waving at passers-by. They may be a sign holder, but they are making the best of it.

Whatever your job may be, you may think it’s easy to hide how you feel about it. Your excitement/investment level might not be as obvious as these sign holders, but let me tell you it matters just as much. Your ability to invest in your work and get excited about what you do will make all the difference in the impact you have on people and the results you get.

There’s a saying that goes, “People love you the most when you are the most like yourself.” Find a way to love what you do, you’ll find joy in your days and you might even see better results in your business.