Have you ever been one of those people that likes to just skip-to-the-end? I have.
Planting a garden? Oh! I don’t want to deal with the weeds, I just want to skip to July when all the plants are loaded with goodness, and I didn’t have to spend hours in the sun hoeing out weeds.
Flowers and landscaping? Why do I have to spend so much time digging in the dirt, planting and then waiting….waiting….waiting…until the flowers bloom and the bushes fill in the empty spaces?
Cooking dinner? Who wants to spend half an hour chopping, (actually I totally love chopping) another half an hour stirring and then 30 minutes washing dishes?
Getting a degree? A promotion? If only I could skip to the end and arrive at graduation without having to put in years of study first.
Designing a leather bag? If only I could skip through all the prototypes that look ridiculous and not have to go through ten iterations before I find my way to the perfect style that works practically and aesthetically.
Starting a business? Instead of years of steady building and intentional growth, what if I could skip-to-the-end and have a solidly profitable business without years of slow work into building the foundation?
But this year has been different.
As I planted and hoed and watered my little hobby garden. I realized one day that I was enjoying it. Walking down to my garden in the evening after a long day of customer service emails, plugins that needed to be re-installed (thanks WordPress) and packaging boxes felt honestly relaxing. Obsessing over why there were bugs on my ferns felt oddly soothing, a relief from obsessing over warranties for leather goods and Instagram hashtags.
I made risotto for the first time this summer during our week long staycation at home. I’d always heard, through my echo chamber of cooks which I surround myself with, that risotto was time consuming. Delicious, certainly, but only if you had an extra 42 minutes to stand by the stove on a Wednesday night. So, I was never motivated to try it, even though I’ve spent many a fiddly hour perfecting little mini tarts and cupcakes. But after reading the chapter about risotto in Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist, I added arborio rice to my shopping list and willed my herbs in the garden to grow a little faster.
And then one Thursday night, I minced shallots and garlic, swirled some butter in a hot pan and pulled out a bottle of wine. The short plump little grains of rice toasted in the fragrant butter while the chicken stock heated in a little pot. I splashed in the wine, enjoying the delightful steam that curled up into my face, and stirred carefully with my wooden spoon. As soon as the liquid had all absorbed, I added a dipperful of the hot chicken stock and kept stirring. It was all so pleasant really, that I wondered why I had waited so long. My favorite cooking tunes (Cooking with Honey by Judy Collins) played in the background as I kept moving the wooden spoon around the pan. The kiddos kept coming by to check on my progress, and I just stayed there at the stove, sipping a little glass of wine and dashing to my cutting board every few minutes to chop the mushrooms, herbs, and grate the parmesan.
Once the grains of rice were plump and soft, with only a little bite to them in the very center, I piled on the shreds of sharp parmesan, stirred in the mushrooms that had cooked delightfully in butter and more garlic and let the minced thyme and parsley sift through my fingers on the creamy rice that was looking more and more like my new comfort food.
As I piled the creamy rice into bowls and added just a touch more parmesan on the very top, I wondered if it could be that I had been looking at the many steps to get there as too much to go through for the end result. But really, the comfort was in the cooking.
The steps to get there held the value that created the outcome.
There is no way to skip to the end. If I tried to do that with a business, using all these growth hacking tips and jumping past the foundational building blocks, the business would not be solid enough to hold the growth, and it would easily crumble with the slightest crack.
Working my way through those ten design prototypes helped me get through all the ways it wouldn’t work so the final product was the best it could be, a design that would stand the test of thousands of users and years of wear.
Refusing to put in the work of preparing the ground and hoeing out the weeds yields spindly plants that wilt in the summer heat and little to no fruit.
This year our word of the year here at Urban Southern is delight. And as I keep thinking about it as this year moves on, I realized that it’s not all about delighting in the destination. It’s about delighting in the steps as well. Just as one cannot have a creamy bowl of risotto on a Wednesday night without an hours work, one cannot always land at the destination without taking the steps to get there.
So here it is, one new way to bring more delight into your life:
Delight in the steps.