Just as appetite comes from eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning.”

– Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

With this jewel of wisdom, Stravinsky shares one of the most pragmatic ways for all of us to get a whole lot more done in our lives. While we might hope that the inspiration to do our work would descend upon us, a free gift granted by the gods for no reason other than that is what we wished would happen, ‘inspiration by grace’ isn’t a game plan that we may count on.

The good news is that work usually isn’t drudgery totally driven by necessity. It can and often is fueled in large part by inspiration. And inspiration may be beckoned. Oddly enough, it isn’t as easily invited into our work life by first getting into the right mood, setting up the perfect work-conducive setting or arranging for a time period guaranteed to be free of interruptions.

As Stravinsky says, inspiration to do work ironically trails right behind the actual doing of work! While a very young man, with more time than money, and with the help and expertise of a very eccentric and inexpensive handyman/gravedigger, a rural water well was installed. Using shovels, we first dug a 6’ hole in the ground, crawled down into it and then pounded 21 feet of 2 inch pipe into the ground by using a very heavy weight to pound the pipe in. It took both of us a couple of days of physically demanding manual work.

At the end of that pipe was a sand point, which is used to extract water from the ground by using a pump at the top end of the pipe. After every few feet of pounding in the pipe, we would check to see if we had yet hit water by taking off the cap at the end of the pipe that we were pounding on and attaching a small hand pump to the top of the pipe and then testing it. We needed to keep adding lengths of pipe and pounding it deeper into the ground until we finally had reached the water table.

During this process, I learned that the old expression we have all heard – “priming the pump” – is based on an actual requirement. Even if we had hit water at a particular depth, the pump would not be able to bring the water up through the pipe unless we first poured about a gallon of water into the top of the pump and pumped it up and down like crazy while the water we poured in connected with the water within the water table through the sandpoint at the end of that pipe. This is the technical process of priming the pump.

When we eventually did pump water back up through that pipe at a depth of 27 feet, (the 6 foot hole in the ground that we were crouched down into plus the 21 feet of pipe we pounded into the ground), we knew that we reached a depth where the underground body of water resided.

So to get water, you had to already have water to pour into the pump in order to get a lot more water. [Note for the curious: After finally drawing water up via the hand pump, we installed an electric motor driven pump and that water well was the sole source of water for my rural home for the 15 year remainder of my time of living there.]

So it is with work. Doing work primes the pump… inspiring a lot more work that seems to flow upward with much less effort than that first chunk of work. Do your work. Prime your pump. The work that follows is likely to be cooler and more refreshing. It might even flow abundantly, with ease, grace and a satisfaction that eludes those who didn’t initially work hard at pounding it in.

– Richard J. Chandler August 9, 2007

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