A place to sit and do nothing.

To Surrender

A place to sit and do nothing.

A year ago, I felt stuck at my job. In an effort to boost my career, I started a newsletter. My goal was to provide a biweekly summary of industry news.

I launched the first newsletter, summarizing several articles and adding a discussion on a new technology. Two weeks later, I wrote another. And so on. The newsletter seemed to be going well.

Except it wasn’t. For all I thought the newsletter could benefit my career, each edition was a struggle. I didn’t want to write them.

It wasn’t they were hard. Read the industry news. Summarize the interesting articles. Put them all in a single document. Post the document to the company’s electronic bulletin board. Ten minutes a day was a reasonable time commitment.

It wasn’t that I was afraid. It wasn’t that the newsletters took away from my other work. It was that I didn’t care enough. I wasn’t truly interested in what I was doing.

Two weeks became two and a half weeks. The number of unread articles and magazines in my queue got bigger. I put off writing until the last possible moment. Every newsletter was a fight. And I grew frustrated.

The sands of time slip
Away never to return
Better use them all

Time is a precious resource. Once a second is gone, it’s gone for good. You can’t get it back. As I took up more projects and explored earning money outside of my job, I knew I needed to manage my time more efficiently. If I wanted to do everything, I needed to be regimented about how I worked.

No messing around. No second wasted. I created a schedule.

With the exception of a few breaks – you have to go to the bathroom sometime – I mapped out my entire week. Super productivity was on the way.

Except I couldn’t keep the schedule.

I’d get home from work and turn on my computer, intending to read the news for a few minutes before getting started. Three hours later, I hadn’t done any of the work I’d planned to do.

I’d stay up late at night and sleep through my alarm the next morning. My plans to write before going to work went out the window.

I grew frustrated. The more I fought, the more I seemed to slip. The more I slipped, the more I felt guilty. The more I felt guilty, the more I felt a failure.

All our weaknesses
Can defeat and overcome
The best intentions

Before I founded the Bright Army, I had another website on energy and sustainability.

I didn’t have a posting schedule. I assumed I’d just feel like writing and post something. I thought a schedule would be too restricting.

It turned out that I was wrong.

I’d make a post. Days would pass. Weeks would pass. Sometimes, even months would pass. And as the gap between articles widened, each post became harder to write. The failure weighed me down.

I fought my will. And, more times then not, I lost. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. I did. But I was lazy. I procrastinated. I let my weakness overcome me.

***

So much fighting. So much struggle. I fight to accomplish projects and goals. I strive to become someone. I battle to control the circumstances around me.

But what if we aren’t meant to fight? What if we’re meant to do something far more difficult? What if we’re meant to surrender?

***

The gift that is life
Is too great to spend it on
Work you don’t care for

I surrendered the work I didn’t want to do.

Accepting that I didn’t care about the newsletter, I stopped writing it. Making that decision was like dropping a heavy weight. It freed me.

Instead, I focused on work that didn’t require motivation – work that interested, challenged, and excited me.

I created programs and tools to automate my work. I tweaked and improved the design of my website. I started the Bright Army and wrote stories and poems. A few months later, I gave up my job so I could devote even more time to those interests.

Nothing I tell you
Is often the recipe
For the perfect day

I surrendered the idea of being productive in every second of the day.

Abandoning my rigid schedule, I embraced freedom.

When I had a spare minute, I didn’t attempt to accomplish anything. I’d grab a book and lose myself in a story. I’d take a walk outside and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. And sometimes I’d just sit there, doing absolutely nothing. Those times of stillness are now among my greatest treasures.

As a bonus, I found myself doing more. Work became an activity I chose to do. And because it was my choice, it was enjoyable.

The will is not strong
Allow systems and habits
To do the lifting

I surrendered my attempt to overcome my weaknesses with force of will.

Focusing on what drives me, I set up systems and habits that enable me to do what I enjoy and care about.

When I launched this site, I set a schedule of one post a week. Every Tuesday morning, whether I want to or not, a story is going up.

Where I thought the schedule would restrict me, it freed me. It directed my energy into writing. Because I didn’t want to disappoint my readers, the cost of not posting became higher than the cost of posting. I had no choice but to write.

And so I have. Today’s story marks the completion of one year of consistency.

Along the way, I’ve created a few other habits to help me. Every day, I write at least three pages – my thanks to 750words.com for the helping me start that habit. Every day, I post a poem on Google+. Every day, I make time for silence – space to think and reflect.

***

Surrender requires giving up control. It demands you put aside your ego and pride. You don’t know where life will take you. You can’t guarantee the outcome. But that’s OK.

In place of the battle, you find peace. In place of the struggle, you find meaning. In place of the fight, you find contentment. You have enough. You are enough.

***

When the best laid plans
Fall victim to circumstance
Will you surrender

My parents, wife, and I take an afternoon trip to Geneva, IL. The downtown area has several fun shops to explore – handmade clothing, art, and food. Best of all is a coffee shop that roasts their beans fresh every day. We are going to sit for a while and enjoy a cup. It’s the perfect plan.

Except it’s New Year’s Eve, and we forgot to check what time the store closed. A call from the car reveals the coffee shop will be open for only ten minutes after we arrive. No time for a coffee.

I fight with myself, wondering why I didn’t think to check the closing time. I get frustrated at the others. They should have checked the time too. I wish I could control the circumstances and make everything perfect for me.

The whole afternoon is ruined. We might as well turn around and go home.

Yet again, I have to surrender. Yet again, I have to give up control.

There is nothing I can do to change the fact that the coffee shop would close. All I can do is make the most with what we have and have a good time anyways. So I do.

We walk through the shops, stopping at tables here and there for a sample of delicious food. We admire the art. We enjoy being together.

And we find another coffee shop. At a table by the fireplace, we sit enjoying our treats – hot chocolate for my dad, ice cream for my wife and my mom, and an espresso for me.

I surrender to gratitude.

###

A place to sit and do nothing. Slovenia.

10 thoughts on “To Surrender”

  1. Thanks for sharing lessons, Josh…
    I have really enjoyed hearing how the Lord works in your life and heart, in your thought processes, throughout the years and especially this past year. It’s been a real pleasure and it’s good to hear how it came about.
    May God continue to bless you and your family… and especially the little one joining you and your wife… imagine all you’ll have to share with him/her!
    Love to you all — Barb

  2. Great that the first anniversary of ‘The Bright Army’ comes about when Dad and Mum, Jeff and Mathew are all there. What a blessing. Surrender to appreciating a ‘Happy birthday to The Bright Army. You have been consistent and and envisoned many.

  3. Thank you, Barb and Frances. I’m so grateful for your generous gifts of attention and encouragement. Each story is my attempt at honoring those gifts.

    I wish peace and contentment to both of you.

  4. Joshua, congratulations on the year. And Bright wisdom on surrendering to free yourself, and open up to bigger things than schedules and deadlines. Here’s to a fine 2012!

  5. Tom, A fine 2012 to you as well. I hope it’s full of many lovely stories (both written and experienced).

    Joel, They sound like interesting books. 🙂 I’d love to chat.

  6. Josh, congradulations on reaching a year of beautiful and meaningful writing! I admire the passion behind each word. Keep it up! Hmmmmmm and an error pops up saying my comment might be too short (thus the unnecessary last sentence :p)

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