Grab a Shovel

Years ago, a good friend of mine offered some sage advice that continues to resonate with me to this day. I must have been complaining about something or wishing that my circumstances were different than they were when he looked at me and said, “If you’re going to pray for potatoes, grab a shovel.” In other words, get to work!

I’ve heard this advice offered dozens of different ways but for some reason, this one has stayed with me. Great advice in ten short words and it applies to business too.

Many of us business owners are world-class complainers, although in the early stages of a company, there’s not much time to complain. There’s lots of work to be done and lots of callouses to be earned.

Often it’s when the company has left the launchpad and things have started going reasonably well that the complaining takes on a different and mildly annoying tone. It starts with “I’m bored.” Bored means you’ve lost sight of your mission or vision. So as a starting point, this might be a good time to get to work revisiting them.

Are your personal and business missions and visions big enough and strong enough to carry you through the inevitable periods of low energy that we all experience from time to time? If not, maybe it’s time to get to work reviewing or resetting them.

At the same time, being bored isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a society we are so distracted by a never-ending barrage of chatter that we no longer have the quiet periods in our lives that used to provide us with time to think and decompress. Take advantage of them when you can.

I’m tired. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 15.3 percent of women and 10.1 percent of men in the United States regularly feel very tired or exhausted. So you’re not alone and shouldn’t be surprised by this.

Add in the around-the-clock bombarding of negativity by the news media, internet, and social media and it’s enough to wear anybody down—even the most optimistic among us. But aside from resting when you need to, the best way to combat tiredness and negativity is to get to work and remain active.

I’m lost. Getting lost occasionally is not always a bad thing. Obviously, if you’re truly lost, you probably need some help to find your way back. At the same time, when we’re lost we might discover things that we otherwise would have overlooked. New perspectives. Fresh solutions to recurring problems. New opportunities to explore.

Getting lost can also mean that on the path we’re traveling, there are no ruts caused by our old habits, outdated beliefs, or ineffective patterns. So the next time someone tells you to “get lost,” rather than being insulted by their comment, try thanking them.

As I’ve mentioned before, my wife and I are having a remodeling project done at our house, and I recently found myself complaining about all the things we had to do just to prepare for it. My wife mentioned that we could cancel the project if I didn’t want to go through with it. I told her, “No way, I want to do this!” Her response was full of sage advice: “Then stop complaining and help me move this couch.”

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