But Are You Working Smart?

In the summer of 1986, I boasted to my boss at KAHI/KHYL radio news about how hard I was working. I was putting in 60 hours a week plus doing landscaping in addition to about 14 hours a week on the radio.

“But are you working smart?” he asked.

It pulled me up short. Working smart had never been my strong point. Even my bosses in landscaping saw this. “You’ll get one thing in your head and ignore everything else,” they said. They didn’t mean it as a compliment. Sometimes I’d refuse to see more important work so I could finish what I was doing.

I was just writing in my journal, “I’m working hard and I’m working smart.”

That usually has not been true. I’ve chanced on a few ends over the course of my life and pursued them to absurd lengths. It’s easier for me, in some ways, to get tunnel vision than to weigh up my many options.

I worked absurdly hard at landscaping from 1985 to 1988, never earning more than $6.50 an hour, while people all around me were making $20 an hour as gophers. Go for this. Go for that.

So what distinguished them from me? A working knowledge of how people work. A grasp of fundamental people skills. Common sense. An ability to network.

I’ve always tended to isolate myself so I can do my own thing. This has led to a few successes and a lot of loneliness and failure.

With my study of Alexander Technique, I’ve learned about the perils of end-gaining.

End-gaining means the pursuit of an ends without consideration of the means. For instance, in my dedication to finishing this blog post, I could be ignoring other more important obligations such as to the way I’m using myself. In my rush to finish, I might start holding my breath, hunching my shoulders, compressing my neck and my torso, and thereby ingrain bad habits that do me for more harm in the long run than whatever good this tawdry blog post accomplishes.

So, these days, I think a lot more about how I do things. I try to do everything with a free neck, with a head releasing forward and up, and with my back lengthening to widen. When I catch myself gasping for breath when trying to make a point in a conversation, I back off and consider my use. I must be doing something wrong to need to gasp for breath. Usually that means a compressed neck and torso along with hunched shoulders and a narrowing back. In other words, I’m giving in to a subtle version of the startle response in my reaction to stimuli.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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