Last time we talked about this all too common word ‘busy’ and why it makes my left eye twitch. When I was writing this last post, I thought about the common idiomatic phrase we use: He was busy as a bee. I find it odd we’d choose to call bees busy. Bees are not at ALL busy.
Bees act with plan, purpose, vision, intention and have very clear goals wired into their DNA. Unlike humans, bees always know precisely why they are doing what they do day in and day out. Bees are relentless in all they do. Again, unlike humans, bees are aware that flitting flower to flower results in something tangible and essential for their survival.
Sure, when we watch bees buzz from blossom to blossom, they might appear aimless when, in fact they are anything BUT. Those little suckers are on a mission every day with single-minded purpose. Today, we’ll talk about how we can bee all we can bee.
One: Bees Have a Clear Result in Mind
Bees operate with a clear result in mind, relentless in everything they do. All their ‘activity’ serves a singular purpose. Granted, bees do have a bit of an advantage. First, I’ve yet to encounter a bee who’d watched a single episode of Game of Thrones or lost time collecting pollen because it got distracted arguing over stupid crap on Facebook.
Bees don’t have Netflix, carpool duty, or kids who play soccer, lacrosse, and take ballet. Bees don’t need to do laundry. They’re able to buzz about in the open ‘nude’ without fear of fines for being tiny winged perverts.
I get that us ‘enlightened’ bee-ings have more ‘stuff’ that gets in the way, clouds our vision, and that can lead to a slow drifting away from our purpose. Yet, I might also challenge all of us to state what our purpose truly IS. One reason we fail to be relentless in what we do, is that we never stopped to even define what we want.
When we fail to state our core GOAL, it’s almost impossible to discern meaningful activity from fruitless distraction. This is why every success book worth reading emphasizes writing out clear and attainable goals. With no defined objective, we end up with mission drift.
Bees are relentless because they can’t afford mission drift.
If they dawdle about in the flowers, stop to buzz smack about the wasp family that moved in, and fail to return with the pollen? They die.
Some might argue that humans won’t die if they don’t fulfill their purpose, but I’d say that isn’t entirely true. Purpose is wired into humans as well. We do die, albeit in a different way. Humans with no purpose can suffer burnout, depression, exhaustion, and crippling neuroses.
If deep down you KNOW you were born to be an author, there is a very real reason your job in that cubicle makes you dread waking up every day.
Two: Bees Possess Enthusiasm for Results
Bees are able to get going every day a flower is to be found with an enthusiasm I covet. They’re relentless all day every day largely because they ‘know’ all this work will lead to a tangible (and vital) result. In our modern culture, there’s been an explosion of stress-related illnesses.
In a time where we should be healthier than ever, in many areas we’re sicker than we’ve ever been with illnesses we’ve never encountered.
Granted there are many theories and reasons why stress is taking a major toll on modernized countries, but I believe it’s because the nature of our work has changed.
Anyone who works at a computer knows it seems we’re digging a sand pit every day. We dig and dig and the more we dig, the more ‘sand’ piles in. Emails are relentless. Meetings are relentless. Demands are relentless. Drama is relentless.
We work more hours than ever before, yet rarely do we see tangible RESULTS. Money in and of itself is not enough. Without purpose, without meaningful results, something inside of us withers. Eventually, we drift because we’re unfulfilled. Being relentless has no point.
I’d like to offer these three ‘excursions’ in my life to illustrate.
Syria—Relentless for a Vision
The day after I graduated college I boldly hopped on a plane to Damascus, Syria, eager to use all I’d learned in the university. I had grand plans, a vision, drive and purpose to improve the lives of others. Alas, what began as a dream ended up something vastly different.
I didn’t mind living in a refugee camp, having to trade with the Bedouins, or the time-consuming drudgery of having to buy nearly everything on the black market. The lack of water and showers and prevalence of rats and packs of wild dogs I could endure. Why? Because I had purpose.
Syria undid me because I so badly wanted a far different future than the one I sensed was inevitable. Hard to believe I used to live here 🙁 .
Alas, despite my best efforts, it was impossible to attain meaningful results. Between having to bribe everyone and his uncle to simply keep the place open and miles of red tape, we couldn’t get to WORK. No matter how good our intentions, how relentless we worked…nothing changed.
Within only a few weeks, it became crystal clear why the owners and workers were less-than-inspired to ‘achieve more.’ With any increase in production/profit came an inevitable increase in the amount of the bribe or the number of new ‘officials’ expecting bribes as well.
I arrived a hopeless idealist and left a defeated cynic, deeply grieving the people I felt I’d somehow ‘let down.’ All that work, relentless planning, bartering, bribing and compromise…for nothing.
Mexico—Relentless for Status/Money
After Syria, I decided I needed a real J-O-B. Again, paper sales. A major part of my territory was in northern Mexico, supplying the maquiladoras. Again, dirty and dangerous work…but great money, company car and an expense account!
I also had the interesting experience of stopping to use a restroom and having a chicken wander into the stall.
Who can put a price tag on THAT?
And Mexico was probably safer than most of the places I had to regularly visit. Since I sold industrial paper, I did business in the roughest areas of Houston, Dallas, El Paso and New Orleans…which I actually didn’t mind at all.
It was company politics that kept me from fulfilling promises to my customers. Deals made with upper management approval…that they later backed out on.
Again, no matter how hard I worked, there were no meaningful results. I was plagued with migraines, constantly caught pneumonia, and eventually couldn’t even drive to the office without having to stop the car and throw up.
A paycheck alone (even a really good one) couldn’t make up for feeling I was working for nothing.
After enough of this? I quit.
Belize—Relentless for…a Sidewalk
Belize was the only completely UNPAID work. I volunteered and actually PAID my own money to go help. A contractor had messed up a large expanse of sidewalk in front of the only school in this vastly remote area. Being in the jungle, it rained…a lot. The sidewalks canted inward, meaning the school was constantly flooding.
In Syria and Mexico, I used my schooling, my skills and what I was ‘trained’ to do.
Belize? I was utterly untrained to tear out faulty sidewalks and build better ones. The work was miserable. I thought I’d die from the heat (and I’m a TEXAN). Day after day I toiled in the rain, knee-deep in mud, a machete always nearby (to kill poisonous snakes).
When I wasn’t swinging a sledgehammer, I was hauling concrete in buckets, or cutting out and replacing rebar. At the end of every day I was filthy. I was definitely unprepared for the scorpions that rained out of the shower curtain my first night trying to take a shower.
Yet, of all my excursions into dangerous, impoverished places with no modern amenities, Belize remains one of my fondest memories. Why? Because after all that suffering, there was a pristine, perfect sidewalk for the children. My relentless toil paid off in a tangible way.
Like the bee, I could work day after day no matter what because I KNEW it would pay off. There would be something worthwhile to SHOW for my efforts.
Three: Bees Know What Bees Do
To bee or not to bee is never the question…for bees.
Whether we like to admit it or not, much of our identity is forged by what we do. Bees have it easier because they know they are bees and know what bees are meant to do. They work with intention, know their purpose and expect the payoff.
Humans? We tend to go to extremes. We either over think or fail to think at all. In the last post I challenged all of us to ask the crucial questions. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Do I want—whatever—for the right reasons? Have I set myself up to fail? Will this goal/dream fulfill me?
In Syria, I dreamed I’d make a meaningful difference in the lives of those at the paper plant…yet was woefully out of my depth. My failure to respect the sheer enormity of my goal (and my pride) inevitably led to defeat.
In Mexico (sales), I believed money would make me happy. That I could drive thousands of miles, work absurd hours in the most dangerous cities for the right pay.
I’d grown up wearing KMart clothes my Christmas gifts often supplied via Toys for Tots. Yet, when I worked in sales? I wore designer clothes, had a company car, an expense account…and a nervous breakdown.
Belize showed me more of my true self, what actually gave me joy. This trip also revealed why I’d met with so much failure. I’d always known I wanted to be a writer, so why wasn’t I a writer? Money, influence, approval couldn’t make up for my failure to be what I was meant to be.
Bee Brave, Bee Bold, Bee Relentless
Our lives end up cluttered, crammed with meaningless activity because we’re failing to own up to and live out our purpose. Lack of purpose (or a distorted purpose) has serious negative psychological effects.
When we work for a paycheck at a job we hate, we mask our spiritual emptiness with distractions (food, drugs, Netflix, volunteering to bake cookies when we hate baking).
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with money or wanting to make money. Yet, those truly driven by money are inherently entrepreneurs. A doctor who builds a successful name and practice and scores a slot on daytime television might be a healer but this person is a healer-entrepreneur.
Business, making money, expanding influence is part of their purpose…which is why they don’t burn out.
Conversely, think of the fine folks who endure years of schooling to become a doctor, only to ship off to Africa to risk their lives to save lives. These doctors know they are healers.
These doctors know who they are, their purpose, and that entrepreneur is not part of who they are. It’s why they’re content to sleep in a hut, not in a mansion. They are happy to drive an ancient rusted Land Rover with a winch instead of the latest luxury Land Rover with GPS and Pandora radio.
Are You a Writer? Then BEE a Writer
If deep down you know you’re a writer? Write. Confess your GOAL is to write, whether that is poems, blogs, novels, pulp fiction, screenplays, fan fiction, haiku or dirty limericks and WRITE.
Writing is what powers you up, what fulfills your purpose, the goal where you’re most likely to be relentless.
Maybe you’ll never make millions (though we’d all love to), but money isn’t your driving force. Writing is. If today I told you that you’d never make a dime off your writing, would you still write?
If you answered yes, you’re a writer.
Maybe you’ll have to keep that day job forever, BUT if you carve out time to bee what you were meant to bee, what might happen? Suddenly that day job isn’t sheer drudgery because it’s no longer your identity. The day job shifts from tedium to what FUNDS your authentic purpose, the place where you find meaning and fulfillment.
The day job becomes the pollen (money to pay bills) that makes the HONEY (time/resources to write).
Show Me the Honey!
In the end, it’s okay to be busy…like a bee. This takes time, reflection, honesty, trial, error, failure, and courage. As writers, a lot of what we do looks like that bee buzzing around blooms. We read, take classes, watch shows, study dialogue, explore and all ‘busy work’ is necessary to make the honey…and ideally the money 😉 .
***Scroll down for some classes that might help with that.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Does the dreaded day job now seem different to you? Are you writing because you love it? Are you not loving it because you’re ‘success’ metric is money? Would changing that metric maybe help you fall back in love with writing? Have you ever felt stuck? Adrift? All out of GO? Were you/are you afraid to BEE you?
We all are! So join the crazy club 😀 .
What are some of the tough questions you’ve been too ‘busy’ to even ask?
I love hearing from you!
What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
May’s winner is Stephanie Scott. Please email your 5,000 word WORD doc (12 point font, double-spaced, one-inch margins) to kristen at wana intl dot com.
Backstory—The Yarn Behind the Book
June 8th with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds. We need to know our character’s past, their gols, conflicts and motivations…but don’t get crazy 😉 .
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Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)
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“Suddenly that day job isn’t sheer drudgery because it’s no longer your identity. The day job shifts from tedium to what FUNDS your authentic purpose, the place where you find meaning and fulfillment.”
Brilliant… the key words being ‘identity’ and ‘authentic purpose’. Everyone, writer or no, needs to seek these two things out. In my life, everytime I allowed a job to become my identity, I suffered. Every time I viewed my straight gig as simply funding my writing, I thrived. I now have the best of all worlds: writing and editing, producing my inspirations and helping other writers refine their inspirations.
The peace of mind I’ve found, knowing my writing funding also helps other writers is astonishing and incredibly freeing.
Thank you, Kristen, for bringing this essential mindset to the forefront.
I am very jealous of bees.
I have been writing for most of my life, and I finally published my first book this year. I’m working on the second.
Here’s hoping for “honey” along this journey.
“If today I told you that you’d never make a dime off your writing, would you still write?” Funny you should ask! Just recently my main plans for getting paid for books sold fell through. But I persist, because writing is what I do. One day I’ll make it work – it might just require international travel and an offshore bank account. The downside of living on the edge of the world…
Incidentally, did you know that the name Deborah means bee?
That is really cool! Alas, a post just for you ((HUGS)).
As a custodian of bees for many years I love your analogy! And the idea that ‘Like the bee, I could work day after day no matter what because I KNEW it would pay off. There would be something worthwhile to SHOW for my efforts’ is gold ??It’s at the heart of every happy productive workforce and missing in every disenfranchised company.
And now, as my latest book is about to release, I’m going to take your advice and get cracking on the next book by writing what powers me up . Thank you!
Another excellent post!
Prioritizing and balance are constant struggles for me which is probably why my characters face the same issues. One particular issue for me isn’t whether writing brings me joyful purpose but if I’m good enough. Now, I must wonder whether need ponder their bed purpose! ?
Thanks for continuing to share these insights!
Excellent post. I loved reading and reflecting on your personal experiences.
Since I’m retired I obviously have no job to hate so I try to write, with the emphasis on the word try. So I guess I’m a writer now even though it is difficult.
I look at the mountain of work the actual writing is going to take, the inability to afford a professional editor, and worst of all, the 40 hours a week spent on self-promotion. I know how to do it all (conceptually), but lack the iron will to execute it.
Great message. This is so true. I find each day I am doing something other than writing I feel down. And it is amazing how much time I “work” at my job and feel like nothing gets done. Thanks for posting.