Friday, April 29, 2005

Be Excellent

by AJ/Skald

1:40. Im ten minutes late but dont care. Ive learned to milk my lunch breaks as long as possible. The thought of returning to the cash register feels unbearable. Six more hours of torture to go. Six more hours of harassing customers to buy "readers advantage" cards. Six more hours on my feet. "I hate these mother-fuckers" I growl, and punch the dashboard of my van. I huff, get out, and head back to work at Barnes & Noble.

The Tao of Steve: Be Desireless, Be Excellent, Be Gone.

Its also the Tao of the Free Agent Hobopoet, a recipe for increased power and autonomy.

Part one, desirelessness: largely a function of reducing your need for work... and best accomplished by simplifying your life.

Part three, going: Usually an easy step for Hobopoets. We love to leave jobs, to trade up, or to hit the open road. Everytime I do so, I feel a surge of euphoria.

That leaves Part two, excellence: A stage I rarely write about. It means what you do, you do magnificently.

Many job/work/career gurus advocate a discipline and willpower approach to excellence. They advise you to work work work at it. I get this vibe from Tom Peters sometimes; the notion that excellence is a difficult and arduous thing.

I take a different approach. To me, excellence grows from bliss. I see painful striving as a symptom-- an indication that the path doesnt have heart.

So I advocate a reverse approach. I say, "Laziness First". Dont try harder, do less. Loaf. Contemplate. Take three years off from "real jobs" (or more if you can). Discover what you love to do.

Once you discover those things, excellence emerges. You may expend time and energy- but it rarely feels like striving. You pursue excellence for its own sake, for the joy and magnificence of immersing yourself in what you love to do.

Im lazy when it comes to doing other people's work... ie. Barnes & Noble. Put me in that kind of situation and Im the king of slackers (and proud of it!). But Im not lazy when it comes to MY OWN work. I love teaching, for example, and want unparalleled excellence for every class. But because I love it, the energy I expend creates euphoria... and feels nothing like the drudgery of other jobs.

Im lazy, but I believe in excellence for its own blissful sake. I also believe in the practical benefits: When you exude excellence you find yourself in greater demand. That gives you more leverage, more autonomy, and more options-- in other words, more freedom.

Pursuit of excellence, doing someone else's work, feels like slavery... working for the devil.

But pursuit of excellence, on your own blissful path, feels liberating.

Five minutes till class starts. I review the lesson in my head, trying to identify key points. I rehearse the story. I cull it for useful language and interesting actions. I imagine the gestures and actions Ill use to demonstrate it.

Then I bound into class. Im on stage and the performance has begun. I rip into the story. I jump, shout, and hustle... pour my energy into the students for the next hour and a half. I feel euphoric and alive.


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