Golden Rule #15: Realize That Sometimes the Work You Love Will Actually Feel Like Work. Keep Going.
For some time now, I have told people I have absolutely the best job in the world. I’ve also told them that in almost 16 years now, I have not had a single bad day at work. Tough ones, challenging ones, days that make me think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, yes I’ve had those. But not one single time have I thought, even fleetingly, “There must be something more, or different, or better, out there for me.” I am doing what I was made to do.
Has it always been this way? Absolutely not. I imagine if you sit down with pretty much anyone and talk with them one on one, candidly, without any pretty elevator speeches or sales presentations, you would hear most people say, sometimes this work? It just feels like work. It’s not glorious, or glamorous, or grand. It’s just plain old hard work that nobody notices and I don’t feel like it matters whether I do it or not.
But you know what? It does matter. It absolutely does. Even if no one ever sees or knows what you do, or when, or how, or how long, or why, it still matters. Why? Because you’re seeing it through. You’re doing what you said you would do, even when you don’t feel much like doing it any more, if you ever did. I recall my mother, echoing her mother, telling me, Do it anyway, it builds character.
I never liked hearing that, and I didn’t really care about character anyway. Then I learned, character is who you are, and even more, it’s who you are in the dark. It’s who you are when things are uncertain and unsteady and unpredictable and unpleasant and all those other “un” words. Let me see you when things don’t go the way you expect, or hope, or plan, or intend, and I will get a much better sense of your character than when things are unfolding like a dream come true.
We were told all through Copper’s training that learning should be fun, for him and for us. Most of the time, it was. Some of the time, his homework felt more like work at home than anything else. It took time, and discipline, and energy, and patience, and some days, it just didn’t happen. Some days when it did happen, it felt like nothing was happening. He wasn’t grasping whatever he was supposed to grasp. We probably weren’t teaching it exactly the way we’d seen and practiced in class. But overall, on the other side of many weeks of patient schooling, we discovered we had a dog who would listen, and loved to learn, and knew how to focus and persist and see things through. It paid off!