This is Water

So you like the sound of approaching things with a spark. You hope that your daily tasks can ignite into a bigger blaze than one person might be capable of controlling (I’m not recommending you go to work and light your desk on fire. Please read between the lines.) I struggled with this for years. I was self employed and while I did some interesting work and learned a lot about myself, after a while I figured out that sparks will grow to blazes a lot more often when you work with a good team. But a good team doesn’t guarantee success. It still comes down to you, and how you approach those daily tasks.

You have to know how to think. You have to know how to break out of your automatic or default settings.

One of the best pieces I’ve heard on the topic is a commencement speech from David Foster Wallace. He directs a graduating class to take the time to think, to be absolutely clear about what they’re paying attention to. Ultimately, it comes down to approaching life with curiosity. As he says in the speech, that takes will and effort.

“This is water…this is water” is a fantastic reminder from David Foster Wallace. “The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

It’s up to you to decide how you see things. It’s up to you to break out of the automatic and really think. Try to take the time to think today. You can decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. Try and notice the connections in the world around you. Picking up on the sparks from those around you will only multiply the chances of having a blaze on your hands.


Welcome to the Spiritual Republic

Welcome to the Spiritual Republic, an idea inspired by Hugh MacLeod over at If you haven’t been exposed to his work, do yourself a favor and check it out. Why not start with this post that hit me like a truck a few years ago?

It’s not enough for the customer to love your product. They have to love your process as well.
People are not just getting more demanding as consumers, they are getting more demanding as spiritual entities. Branding is a spiritual exercise. These are The New Realities, this is the Spiritual Republic we now live in.

When I read that, I was getting ready to leave a job working with instructors to create curriculum at a technical institute. There were parts of that job I loved, the immediate team I worked with was great and getting paid to draw fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine. Unfortunately, every day there I felt like I wasn’t even close to working to my potential or doing my best work. So I left.

I landed a design job with a cool marketing company. I was excited about branding, and designing websites that engaged people, and collaborating with other people who were there to do their best work. I lasted about 2 years in marketing, which was about 6 months longer than I’d hoped once I knew the lay of the land. Hugh talks about branding being a spiritual exercise in his Hughtrain post. I’ve come to believe that any good work is a spiritual exercise. Neither of the marketing companies I worked for understood that.

I’m not suggesting that every day at work has to be grandly inspirational. There is a reason we call it work. But if everything you touch starts with that spark or is in some way shaped by belief, the tedious parts inevitable in any job fade into the background.

Have you found anything sacred sitting at your desk today?