Taking life a bite at the time

Lonnie Adamson, General Manager

August 16, 2010

Many of my early lessons in work ethic came at about age 11, mowing lawns for neighbors in my north Alabama community.
I revisited some of the experiences recently, dripping with sweat one recent hot August afternoon while mowing the small amount of grass for which I am now responsible.
Here are some of the lessons boiled down in phrase form.
Of course you don't want to do it. That's why they call it work.
The phrasing of this lesson actually occurred to me later in life while rebelling against another task. I realize now, however, that had I adopted this attitude of acceptance, I would have made my job of mowing considerably easier.
But work is work and sometimes it is just easier to accept that sweating through thick clumps of grass in the full sun of an August day is not going to be as pleasurable as eating chocolate cake. This acceptance is a lowering of expectations and is important in suggestion number two.
Keep a positive attitude.
Mowing the grass may not be as nice as eating chocolate cake, but it is a way of obtaining chocolate cake.
My mother liked to offer the positive approach to motivation. $4 will fill a wallet pretty good, she would say as I squandered the cool mornings procrastinating my work to the afternoons.
I wasn't convinced at the time, but she is right that I should have considered the possibilities of what $4 could do for me in 1971. The weekly contract rate I had negotiated for each of my three neighborhood lawns would have gotten me ice cream at the local drugstore, movies with some of my pals, extras at summer camp. I was somehow blind to all of those possibilities. Instead of looking for the good at the end of the blistering day, I wallowed in the heat, sweat, biting insects around my ankles and the misery of the lawn-mowing profession.
This idea of positive attitude leads directly to:
Find the joy in what you are doing.
This is different from keeping a positive attitude in that it requires looking at something nice about the doing of the job, seeing the pleasure in making order out of the disarray of stray twigs and shagginess of a lawn. I came to see that even as a 12-year-old, I could become the purveyor of something beautiful-- the neatly clipped and orderly lawn. In a later job of transcribing obituaries in a weekly newspaper in Clinton, SC, I was able to adapt this line of thinking a bit and dream and investigate some about the lives of the now-deceased folks. I was amazed to think of a life encapsulated by the phrase. She retired after 40 years in the weave room at Clinton Mills and consider the importance of her life to family and friends and her church. It was a game, but it was invigorating and offered me hope about my contribution to the world.
Akin to this gaming, was a technique of tricking my mind into not being overwhelmed by a task of one of my larger lawns.
Take it a bite at a time.
This involved dividing the backyard or front into a grid of six or eight blocks and working through them a block at a time until I got to the end, finishing without the sense of doom of mowing an ENTIRE lawn. Today breaking down my days and weeks into segments like: Write column, Sell High Country Loafer ad to xyz, provides clear, achievable objectives that don't swallow me.
All that having been said, I am glad I graduated from the sunshine-filled days as a lawn boy to the air conditioned comfort of editor/general manager.
Lonnie Adamson is Editor/General Manager of the Jefferson Post.