Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Your Best Work

by Bert Carson

Your best work...

On Feb 2, this year, I posted a blog (on my "other" site) called Chuang Tsu on Writing.  The post was written around Chuang Tsu's parable, A Way Of Working.  In the post, I paraphrased the parable, rewriting it specifically for writers.

The key passage from Chuang Tsu's story is:

“Your Highness,” said the carpenter, “there is no secret; but there is something.  This is how I begin.  When I am about to make a table, I first collect my energies and bring my mind to absolute quietness.  I become oblivious of any reward to be gained or any fame to be acquired.  When I am free from the influences of all such outer considerations, I can listen to the inner voice which tells me clearly what I have to do.  When my skill is thus concentrated, I take up my ax; I make sure that it is perfectly sharp, that it fits my hand and swings with my arm.  Then I enter the forest.  I look for the right tree:  the tree that is waiting to become my table.  And when I find it, I ask: ‘what have I for you, what have you for me?’  Then I cut down the tree and set to work.  I remember how my masters taught me to bring my skill and my thought into relation with the natural qualities of the wood.”

For as long as I can remember, I've carried a copy of the parable with me, to remind me that I have a single purpose - to be the best that I can be.  Anything that takes my focus from that, is an unacceptable diversion.

Recently I read a blog post by Seth Godin, that concluded with this line:

"Plenty of places to run, plenty of places to hide.  None of them are as important as shipping your best work today."  Seth Godin - Do You Have Three Minutes?

Obviously that is the same thought passing through Seth Godin's mind, over 2,000 years after it passed through Chuang Tsu's mind.  A Way Of Working, which is an account of a carpenter explaining the exemplary quality of his work to the king, concludes with this line:

The King said, “When the table is finished, it has a magical effect upon me.  I cannot treat it as I would any other table.  What is the nature of this magic?”
“Your Majesty,” said the carpenter, “what you call magic comes only from what I have already told you.”
You are an artist.  Your life is your canvas.  What you paint depends on:
  • Your total focus
  • Your complete dedication to the task at hand
  • Your lack of motive (or judgment) in performing the task
Yes Elizabeth, it is just that simple ~~~ yesterday, today, and forever.