Surrender to the Work

The other day I was in a spin class, 30 something minutes in, holding on for dear life (as always), just focusing on the song and wondering if I was going to make it through. It was a particularly hard class. The kind where everyone around you is also just barely making it and you find some sort of camaraderie in the fact that you might all fall off your bike at the exact same time. Well, this was that sort of class.

As we took the corner into the height of the chorus, and the instructor told us all to turn up the resistance, I was just about to do the exact opposite and lean out when I heard him say, “sometimes you just need to surrender to the work.”

Bam. Bitch slap.

This hit me hard. I’m a hard worker, this I’m sure of. I was brought up that way. My father always worked hard, my mother always worked hard. I had my first job at 15, and have been working ever since. I worked through college, through my M.A. and I’m on my seventh startup – all of which basically means I’ve been working, working, working since as long as I can remember.

This isn’t to glorify it – I just love it. I love finding meaning in my work, and it’s always been a big part of how I self-identify. But that isn’t the case for everyone. Or maybe even most people? I’ve been thinking about the balance of working hard and too hard quite a bit lately as I try to lead my marketing team. I’m a driver, but I also care. I want the business to succeed but not at the detriment of my teams’ health or happiness. This is freaking hard – as we try to build a remarkable company in a competitive space.

I think that’s why this sentence hit me so damn hard. I believe that there are seasons when you really do need to just surrender to the work. In marketing, it can be during different campaigns, or holidays, or just around the time of a new launch. But the reality is, there are times we just need to lean in and get it done. You do sacrifice during that time. It’s not always balanced, and it doesn’t always fit in a work day or work week.

And that’s what we signed up for joining a startup taking big swings. We signed up to build something impactful, and special – and that doesn’t happen without work, real work. 

As the instructor said that, it sort of echoed in my ears as the chorus hit, and wouldn’t you know it – I found another gear, I just let the work flow over me and before I knew it – the class was over and I had crushed a personal best.

Next time you catch yourself beat down from something – a project, a week, a to-do list – rather than stop and stare at it, letting it win…surrender to the work. Look at it, say namaste and just lean in. You might just be surprised.

It feels sometimes like our generation is always looking for ways to “find balance” or we’re too scared to ask our teams to just jump in with us, and work their asses off. We’re scared to say “this is going to be so freaking hard, it’s going to be exhausting and challenge us in every way, but we have to do it.” Because that’s too harsh. It’s “too much to ask.”

Or maybe it’s what’s required to be great? Maybe doing the work is exactly what separates the good companies from the best companies? The followers and the leaders? Those that wish they did and those that did. 

I mean history would suggest that’s the case. My father waking up at 4 am every day for 20 years to provide for us – would suggest it. My mom building our family but still managing to be a #girlboss at work – would suggest it. Every Fortune 100 CEO that has built something worth building – would suggest the same thing. It’s the work that matters. 

Maybe we shouldn’t try to fight the work, maybe we should just surrender to it, and see where it takes us.


1 Comment
  • 7 Mile Marketing

    I couldn’t agree more Joanna. Yes, working hard means you are into it and you do this not just for yourself but for your family. When there is passion, there is hardwork. Being passionate in everything that you do makes you successful. I am blown away about what you said in this article, hardwork is important but you should be also be doing the “real” work and I bet that’s the real meaning of surrendering to the work.