My son and I just got in from stacking firewood.
Around this time of year, the romance of feeding the wood stove fades quickly.
Wood stoves are a lot of work. So far this year, I’ve moved and stacked about 2,000 logs. And I handle each piece of wood 5 times from the time it gets dropped off at my house to the time it reaches my stove. The old saying is that firewood heats you at least three times and I would not argue with that.
I burn wood for lots of reasons. First, it fits the culture of where I live. It’s rural. Wood is plentiful and relatively cheap. Most everyone has a wood stove in these parts. Second, no heat source compares to a wood stove. It warms you to the bone. We have a centralized furnace and electric heat in every room, so we have options. But for the quality of warmth, it’s no contest. Third, while moving wood around for 5 months a year can be messy and tiring work, I rather like the whole process. Heating with wood is physically demanding between the stacking and splitting, and time intensive, but the work has several hidden rewards.
As I mentioned, with the (somewhat) warmer March temperature (I think we were at 36 degrees, but it was sunny), I took Alex outside with me to move the firewood from the shed to a rack on our porch. He loved work and connected to the feeling of satisfaction of using your body to do a job. I’d hand him appropriate-sized pieces and he’d throw them into the wood cart. A few minutes later, he did a solid job of placing the pieces on the stack. He felt the pride that comes from seeing the result of your efforts as a stack takes shape. We both got our exercise for the day and fresh air in our lungs.
When we were done and went in the house, he wanted to start the fire right away. I know the feeling. The ultimate satisfaction comes from making fire and keeping your family warm through your work. All I can say is it’s a primal feeling, one that makes me feel like a man.
So while I enjoy the work of maintaining a wood stove today, who knows if that will hold true in a decade or two?
Over the years of doing lots of outdoor activities I’ve developed the simplest of formulas to guide me. I call it the Work-to-Fun Ratio…
When something starts to feel like more work than fun, I allow myself to bail. For example, if I’m skiing and the conditions are sketchy or my legs are tired, I’ll check in on the Work/Fun Ratio to see where I’m at. If I’m working too hard, I allow myself to leave the mountain for the day.
This is my only guiding principle and flies in the face of how I used to operate. I used to have to stay on the mountain for as long as I could… somehow proving my toughness to, well… myself. (Of course, no one else gave a hoot.) Or I’d stay to justify what I spent on my lift ticket. Now, by making FUN my priority, all those sorts of thoughts are gone.
I allow the feeing of fun to guide me.
In fact, these days I make all sorts of decisions using this ratio. Certainly there are lots of opportunities for adventures that look good on paper or my mind’s eye, but if I go inward and find my energy dipping (even a little), I pass. This takes some courage too, as sometimes people are disappointed. But saying YES only to sweep some guilt pangs under the rug is a poor strategy. Using the WORK/FUN Ratio has become especially helpful in running my business and my work as a coach.
In short, just like stacking firewood, my work does not feel like W-O-R-K. The FUN/WORK ratio is heavily skewed toward FUN. Most important, when I hit some pocket of inevitable contrast in the way I’ve set things up (e.g., an offering no longer feels right or I’m not enthused to talk to a particular client), I take the bull by the horns and make a change.
In life and work, everything is not going to feel great all the time. But there’s no need to suffer, either.
Most everyone has been trained to believe that you need to WORK HARD (defined here as doing shit you really don’t want to do) in order to GET WHAT YOU WANT. And having studying lots of hard chargers (and martyrs) with this approach, I can say that if the ultimate goal is happiness, this approach has a shockingly low success rate.
If you want happiness, then you need to focus on what makes you happy. Rocket science, huh?
So, if you want to live a better-feeling version of your life, you might want to use the WORK/FUN ratio to see where you’re at in any aspect of your life.
Whether we’re talking about a career, a relationship, or a wood pile, if it feels more like work, it’s unlikely to lead to something you really want. You can LET. IT. GO. Really.