That Old Shovel Still Works

After an especially wet winter and anticipating a strong summer monsoon season, I decided a new “creek bed” around our house would add a layer of protection against water intrusion. It is almost complete and looks great. Even better, it works.

As a young boy I was often handed a spade shovel by my father and instructed to turn the flower beds or weed the lawn. It wasn’t my favorite chore, but I never wanted to disappoint my dad or let him know that I was less than enthusiastic about the task. That spade has been in my father’s garage and later my own since I was seven years old, maybe longer. You could say it’s been around for a while. It looks a bit worse for the wear, but it can still hold an edge and is more than equal to the task. I like to think you could say the same about me.

In the last few days I have again become intimately familiar with that old spade shovel. It still works, and apparently so do I. Instead of dreading the job I’ve enjoyed this project. Sure, my back has been happier, and I have been exhausted after each day of digging. It has been hard work, but it’s been good work; a labor of love and enjoyable. Labor because it is hard work, love because that old spade is a connection to my father, enjoyable because I’ve accomplished something important. And, I think dad would be proud of my effort as well as the results, and that is still important to me.

Hard work should be enjoyable. Doing work right is both important and fulfilling; the greater the difficulty the greater the sense of accomplishment. We make a mistake when we sacrifice greater effort for simpler tasks, which is as true in our personal lives as our professional. At the office, shop, or store we prove our worth through the value we contribute, the quality of our effort, and by succeeding in the hard things. The same is true in our relationships and big life decisions. Shying away from or delaying what must be done, or taking an easy path through the process, robs us of being the best we can be for ourselves and the people and things we care about. In life, consistently doing the hard things with diligence and purpose develops a pattern of facing challenges head on. That pattern, which I refer to as interest on the effort, will serve us well when needed most in times of difficulty. It will be like my old spade shovel – there when needed, well used, familiar, and trusted.

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