The Stonecutter

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” Jacob August Riis

29 April 2014

Those of you who know me, know how much I love this quotation and how often I refer to it, quote it, when delivering speeches. I almost believe it is the perfect quotation, as it simply and elegantly expresses the kind of determination that we need in order to live lives of meaning: quietly, patiently, persistently pounding away at the rocks in our lives. So much of who we are and what we hear encourage our seeking instant gratification, but life concerns itself with our taking small, important, daily steps toward success. I think that it is easy for us to admire, even envy, those who live seemingly easy lives, but as Theodore Roosevelt opined, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

I shared my WordPress blog site with a friend, and she shared her site, Pancreas Interrupted, with me. Her son has been diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, and her site is filled with advice for those who struggle as she does and with words that express her anxiety and her exasperation with her hard row to hoe. Her writing, however, never slips to self-pity; rather, she uses her sharp sense of humor to share her advice, her anxiety, and her exasperation. Her most recent post pokes fun at a made up word she learned at a conference in DC: Inspiracon. The website for this made up word encourages us to learn the art of living in the present moment by using a simple technique, Activate, which will help us manage conflict and concur fear. The three principles are center, focus, flow. As easy as it is to poke fun at the technique, the concept seems sound: first, center self, then focus, then go with the flow.

So, as we seek to approach our daily work, I encourage all of us to hammer away, striking, perhaps, hundreds of time. As you do, center yourself, knowing that you have the strength and the courage to complete the task; then, focus on the work, knowing that what is right in front of you right now is the most important work that you can do; then, when the best laid plans go awry, go with the flow. Hammer away, center yourself, focus, and then go with the flow. As my former colleague used to say to wrestlers before he sent them on to the mat, “You’re ready.” With all this good advice, you’re ready for a perfect day tomorrow.

2 responses to “The Stonecutter

  1. Another great post, Mr. Obel-Omia. It is so beneficial to be reminded of the “small, important, daily steps toward success” knowing you will be ready in the end. Always enjoying and inspiring to read. Look forward to the next one!

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