Seth and Morrissey on Work

Credit: Joi Ito

Credit: Joi Ito

Seth Godin’s insights into the human condition and the way we work, create, and produce meaningful stuff never disappoints.

And in his  post, “Just leave me to do my work”, he once again had me saying “Amen” and “Oh Me” in the same breath.

The “Amen” is because he’s right.  Our “work” encompasses all the little things that go along with what we create.

Things like answering emails, doing paperwork, accounting, building community, selling, and even getting our own coffee. (There is no coffee boy.)

All of this is just part of “the work”.

And as Seth posits

…The few people who find themselves isolated with nothing to do but what they BELIEVE is their ‘work’, find a way to distract themselves with something anyway.

And people who have too many distractions to actually do any REAL work are in that bind because they haven’t invested enough time, effort or risk in their organization and their process.

Maybe you can see the “Oh Me” part.

I did.  I had a bit of that, “oh man all this distracting stuff is keeping me from my work.”


The bottom line is that I/you/we have to take responsibility for doing ALL the work.

You have to earn this thing.  You have to invest the time effort and risk to not only create stuff that matters, but get it out to the people who will be impacted buy it.

You have to suffer and cry for a longer time.  Work until the work is done.

And then do it again and again and again.  If you do, you can likely avoid what happened to Morrissey of The Smiths

When they pulled me back
And held me down
And looked me in the eyes and said
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby
You just haven’t earned it, my son
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby

You must suffer and cry for a longer time

Do The Work Mon!

I was gasping for air.  And the gap was big.  I played with the thoughts in my head … do I really want this?  Do I want to chase them down?  If I do, will I be able to hang on after I’ve caught them?

It was like a bubonic plague of doubtful thoughts.  You suck.  You can’t do this.  Why even try?  Are you serious? There is no way you can do this.

cycling pain

Photo Credit: Clara S. via Flickr

Frankly, I’m sure there were a few other riders with a similar dialogue at this point in the ride.

It was Sunday morning … early.  There were at least 30 or 40 riders and we were already hitting 27 … 28 mph.  The front group had created a gap over the two or three riders ahead of me.


And since I had my head down as I sucked the wheel of the bike in front of me … and as my lungs exploded from the lightening pace … I didn’t see the damage until it was too late.

Too late to stop since there were 15 riders behind me … and too late to speed up since I just felt pieces of my lungs come up through my body and hit the pavement as I heaved forward with less and less oxygen after each pedal stroke.

The negative thoughts rushed in again … you don’t really want this anyway, so just quit and go home.  You haven’t been riding enough so why don’t you take the cue from your weak-ass body and pack it in.

And then it came from behind me like a bolt of lightning.  A simple phrase.  Was it encouragement or the ultimate insult? It didn’t really matter at that moment.  When your body is in oxygen debt … you can’t really make sense of things at the time.  You  only have two decisions … keep going or stop.

There it was again.

A simple phrase that cracked every negative thought in my head … DO THE WORK MON!

Gary was a cyclist from Jamaica with a clear patois accent.  A guy who was never afraid to turn on the afterburners and drag a whole line of riders up to the front group at 30 … 32 … or 34 mph.  And today, he had just called me out.


He was respected in just about every local group.  He was strong, fast, and still affable … even when the screws got tightened and everyone was gasping for air.

But this time his words were firm.  And they were directed right at me.

Two other riders had already peeled off to the left in front of me.  And now I was all alone.  The front group was over 250ft away … and their speed was increasing.  Even if I sprinted to catch them, I could blow every ounce of energy I had left only to see myself slide to the side and let the riders behind me latch on and race away.

But the simple words in that Jamaican accent rang true.

They not only pierced my head … they pierced my heart.  How could I stop now.  All I had to do was “do the work”.  Nothing more nothing less.

Show up, be intentional, and do the freaking work.

Of course the negative thoughts continued to plague me. But now I was on notice.  I wasn’t just in my head … my thoughts were now on my sleeve as riders behind me were counting on me to do the work.

They’d done it for me in the past. And now it was my turn.


Where did this phrase apply in other areas of my life?  As writer, as a husband, as a dad?  Do the work mon!  Suck it up, be strong.  Be in the moment and move your ass!

Whether it was ego, shame, or chutzpah, I slammed my pedals, put my head down, and cranked up the rpms.  In seconds I was flying at 30 … 31 … 32  mph hour as my lungs screamed for air and my hands and feet went numb.

I was going to do the work.  And the 15 or so riders behind me were going to reap the reward as I closed the gap and dragged myself and everyone behind me to the front group.

And here’s the crazy part.

Right as I caught the front group … 15 or so riders in tow … the fast group slowed down just a hair.  I caught the draft behind the last man, and my lungs gasped as sanity raced through my blood.

I was there.

I had done the work … right then.  No more hesitation.  No more negative thoughts.  I had done the work and the gap was closed.  We were all one group once again.

No shame.  No regret.  Just the satisfaction that I had beaten back the demons of negative thought and did the work.

But candidly.  That was just the start.

I couldn’t get Gary’s words out of my head.  Do the work mon.  Do the work.

What a beautiful phrase.  A life changing phrase.

When you do the work … the payoff is hard-earned but it’s real.  And best of all it’s yours. Its something you own.  Something you can share with others who can benefit from your hard work.

So here’s the question for you.  Where do you have a gap in your life that you need to overcome?  And who is tagging along behind you that will benefit from the hard work you throw down.

Think about it.  Is it a relationship?  A business endeavor?  Do you need to close a gap in your marriage?  With your children? With your dreams?  With your goals or ambitions?

Whatever it is, it’s ok if there’s a gap right now.  Just realize the gap exists and …


Trust me its worth it.  Your worth it and so are the 15 riders behind you.