We've had an unusually cold winter with an unhealthy serving of winter storms this year. They have deposited thick ice, shallow snow and left depleted school schedules and damaged rooftops in their wake. In the aftermath of a recent storm, there wasn't much we could do for several days as we impatiently waited for the thaw to slowly come around. Yes, there should've been snow plows, salt, sand and other things - but our community likes its taxes low and they doesn't seem to relish paying for items until after they are needed.
Meanwhile, our cars were sleeping soundly in the cozy garage like a black lab immovably snoozing on its favorite monogrammed bed. They weren't in any hurry to get out into the elements, but pesky things like commitments and schedules beckoned them to unwillingly leave their cave and brave the elements. Full of their owners' type-A, accomplishment-oriented adrenaline, the van was the first to attempt the driveway. Sara had thoroughly planned her approach, but gravity and the driveway slope won this round as the van went skidding down the driveway and came to slippery stop - stuck on the tree nearest the driveway. Trip over. As she got out the car, the van was almost mocking her with the self-righteousness that comes with saying 'I told you so'.
What came next was a comedy of errors as mulitple neighbors came to assist in getting the car off the tree and on its way. This effort was ultimately successful, but only after a pair of workboot uppers were cleanly severed from their soles and sheets of second hand plywood went flying through the air like poorly folded paper airplanes. It was epic - and I wish the video camera had been rolling.
With the van now off the tree and the sun coming out from behind the clouds, it became clear that I should make use of the opportunity to shovel the ice off the driveway. As I looked around, everybody in the neighborhood was out in their driveway with varying sizes of shovels working their way out of this mess. It was a long, thankless, but necessary job. There were no awards, no high fives, no twitter followers, no likes and no shares - just the work that needed to be done.
It struck me how we all strive to do important work. Meaningful work. Inspiring work, but its funny how sometimes the most necessary work looks a lot like a shovel. If you're doing it right, its not important for anyone to appreciate your effort, the work just needs to be done and done well. We should strive to approach all of our work precisely in this way. The effort should be its own reward, especially when no one is looking.
This illustrated concept is something I regularly see in the executives and salespeople I coach, but I was grateful to have this simple idea reinforced back to me standing out in the cold:
Important work simply can't happen until the necessary work is complete.
As the sun finally came out this weekend to celebrate Daylight Saving, I decided that I'm not going to take these cleared streets for granted now as I now drive, run, bike, or walk upon them.
Do you have important work being thwarted by necessary work?
Do you have difficulty distinguishing between necessary and important work?
Maybe we should grab a shovel together.