I remember right after high school I worked on a building project. We were nailing up cedar siding. I had done a lot of framing, the parts of building that never really get seen, but this job was different. The nails and the siding would be seen, visible, forever. It was my first experience where swinging the hammer wasn’t just about strength, but accuracy was important. No one wants big dings in their siding.
I have a friend who is a modern-day metalsmith of sorts. He takes dents out of cars. His forearms are ripped with sinewy muscles from twisting his tools all day, lifting little dings and dents. He says it isn’t hard to move the metal, it’s hard not to move it too far. His most important tools are a bright light that shines on the surface and his eyes to watch. He can always spot the amateur’s work because the innies become outies. They don’t know when to stop.
In the mountain town where I live, there are lots of ways to tear up a shoulder or a knee. A friend of mine works in the operating room sometimes and he told me about a doctor trying to remove a pin from a leg. For thirty minutes the operating room reverberated as the surgeon used a slide hammer to try to dislodge the metal. So much force required, on something so fragile – a body.
So what ties all these tales together?
It’s this balancing act of strength and skill that each of these real-world tasks require. Wood doesn’t give to a nail lightly, it has to be driven in. But there’s a risk that you miss and mar the surface you’re creating.
And metal is strong and don’t like to get pushed around, but watching a dent disappear is a pretty amazing process – realizing that it’s the skill of ‘just the right touch’ that makes the work awe-inspiring. I would just poke the tool right through the metal – boom, oops. Now how do we fix that?
And the pin, in a bone, that won’t come out? That one is hard for me to imagine. The whole story is a little far-fetched. That we can repair broken bones, that the miracle of healing can be facilitated, supported, and that even healing can require force and strength, but not too much. You don’t want to shatter something else in the process.
These stories of real work fascinate me.
I see a transfer into the world of virtual work, of relationships and leadership. So much work takes strength, and yet the skill is in not hitting too hard. Us entrepreneur types are strong, that’s what gives us the guts to face the world and live our dream so visibly. But that same strength has a risk. You might mar the wood. You might go too far.
Part of having strength is a responsibility to use it well. A responsibility to know that you have it. To know how hard you’re hitting and where. To stop before there’s a mark – on the wood, in the metal, on a soul.
While we’re building our business, our family, our team, there’s a time for the gift of strength.
Work takes strength, takes power, takes force. But if the only force we have is adolescent me driving the nail with all the power one can muster, it’s the wrong kind of force.
We need skillful force. Mature strength. Surgeon’s hands.
It takes time to learn it, and time to master it.
But it is time well spent.
Blessings on your journey,
Editor’s Note from Leonie:
Grant said to me a couple of things in the manager-mistake-mending process that stuck with me, and that this story enunciates so well.
Firstly, he said:
I don’t think you quite realise how strong you appear. You seem so assured of yourself, so certain, so forceful with your will. I don’t know how to argue against that sometimes. I don’t think you realise how you appear.
And I had to take a moment to let it soak in.
He was right. I had no idea. I’m so used to being Leonie The Force of Nature that I don’t realise how it affects other people, especially my staff. And if I want to create a culture of support + stability within my company, I need to temper some of my wilder ways in certain places. I’m not going to eradicate it at all – heck, my wildish nature is a part of me, my creativity + my joy. But it is best served in the creative places, not the managing one.
Secondly, he said:
You, as the CEO, and as the company owner has the greater power in this situation. That’s not a judgment, it’s just what is. That’s how business works. You are powerful, and you need to understand and wield that power well.
Hiro elaborated more:
Leonie, as you grow, and as your company grows, you cultivate more power + influence. And you need to be conscious of the strength of that, and how you use it. For every action there is a reaction. Everything you do causes a greater effect now. You have the responsibility to learn how to hold it + use it well.
What a blessing to learn all this, hey?
My response to both of them was:
Well. FUCK! Why didn’t anyone tell me this in school? Shit! Okay! I’ll learn it now!
And we all laughed and laughed and laughed.
Because it’s hard and yet it’s bloody hilarious really. All this learning + growing + getting over another chunk of your own stuff. Healing + blooming even more into yourself.
It’s the good work to do.
I should mention too – it’s not just me that’s getting my ass kicked into growing here. Ha! Grant will share his own lessons along the way too. That’s the beauty of surrounding yourself with other conscious, growing, evolving people – you have no choice but to up your own game too.
Love, the eternal student,
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