Just keep chopping wood!


There is no shortage of fear these days. Especially so given the hourly headlines screaming the latest calamity having us heading for the hills; recession, depression, liberal's taking over (the conservative’s lament)…okay, I think you get the picture. There is plenty to be obsessed with and keep us up at nights, and while there are many legitimate reasons for concern with today’s news, ie if you were planning to retire now and find your portfolio excessively invested in equities you are likely reassessing your plans. Understatement of the year.The real tragedy in what is happening right now is this - it keeps us from focusing on what is in front of us today. Takes us out of the present. I can safely guess the loss in economic productivity due to the distraction can be measured in the millions, if not billions. This exposes the glaring weakness in our culture; our myopic focus on a burgeoning stock market and double digit returns in our investments is a one legged stool. It just doesn’t balance. Never did. This was Solomon’s wisdom (read Ecclesiastes).

So what do we do? Just keep chopping wood.

Say what you say? Yeah, that’s right, just keep chopping wood. My good friend Dan from Bemidji Minnesota gave me this advice after indulging my whining one day about six years ago. “Worrying about your problems doesn’t put wood in the stove, Rick,” he said flatly. Pregnant pause (If you know anything about Northern Minnesota you would also know for many, fuel for the fireplace is at the lowest rung on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs next to food and water). It get’s damn cold in the winters in Bemidji, thus anything getting in the way of swinging the axe can be life threatening. Imagine if we had that level of clarity and purpose in what we do daily?

Hmm. Light bulb moment.

The truth is we can have this simplicity of purpose. We just need to identify it for ourselves and stop watching the news and reading the headlines. We do this by asking ourselves, "what is the fuel we need to be producing every day so we can put something in the stove when we need it?" Okay, if the metaphor doesn't work for you, try this, "what do I need to be doing every day in my work, in my job, in my responsibilities?" Find an accountability partner; someone who is willing to hold you accountable to it and you are willing to do the same for them. Memorialize it by making a blood oath, tattooing it to the back of your hand or writing it backwards across your forehead with a Sharpie pen so every time you look at yourself in the mirror, you are reminded of what you need to be doing. Now is the time. Don’t be victimized by the fear. Keep chopping wood. Sooner than you think, you will look up and realize you have a stack of wood in front of you.