I will start this post by assuming few of you reading this are blacksmiths. If you are indeed a blacksmith-slash-Tarot-aficionado or at least the apprentice of a blacksmith that has an interest in Tarot (or even a Tarot reader’s apprentice that dabbles in blacksmithing) then I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know…
There’s the old expression about putting too many irons in the fire. The expression is as old as the profession of blacksmith, coincidentally enough. The wisdom in this expression warns of the danger of overstuffing your forge with too many pieces of iron with which you wish to work. Each piece of iron has to be heated to just the right temperature to be sufficiently malleable. If it’s not up to a high enough temperature the metal is still too hard to work, requiring twice as much hammering with half as much result. If it stays in too long it gets burnt up and is essentially useless.
The danger of having too many irons in the forge is the smith risks losing track of what stage of heating each piece has reached, lest the smith can’t work the pieces fast enough to get them out of the fire in time. They might pull them once they’ve reached the right temperature but by the time they get to working on the last piece pulled it has cooled down too much to be workable.
Okay, so that’s my brief 17th century Mr. Science lesson. Taking that into the 21st century, this expression is often used when one has too many projects going on. They are trying to juggle a myriad of tasks and doing at best a barely adequate job with each. This horse-and-buggy aged expression is frequently offered as a warning to managerial folks and multi-child soccer moms and uber-artists and the ADHD afflicted and stage managers. I bet dollars to donuts that each will tell you it is a hard and fast requirement of their station, that is if they don’t get distracted and pulled off-course before they can provide you with an answer.
Each of us falls victim to the mayhem of the to-do tempest, becoming the whirling dervish of task coordination. In each case we feel that we are under life’s grand imposition and we flail our arms and animatedly proclaim that we have been compulsorily thrust into a game of 52-card pickup (or 78 card pickup for my fellow Tarot readers). Thus we now have a beautiful justification for providing the attention and quality to each given task that reeks of slapped-togetherness.
I ain’t buying it. What I am buying, however, is the perspective taken by Russell Wilson, quarterback for Superbowl XLVIII Champions Seattle Seahawks. He says, “That one mission week-to-week is to go 1-0”. In a season with 15 games he isn’t worried about how they will do in week 7 against San Francisco or what their schedule looks like on the road or who can stay healthy in the back half of the season. He is only concerned with winning the very next game before him. All else is irrelevant.
I guarantee if we took that kind of approach for each bulleted item on our bloated checklist, we would not be crying out in anguish over the crumbs of time doled out by a cruel taskmaster of a Universe. Unfortunately we behave like subjects under the rule of the tyranny of the urgent. The task whose hand is raised causes us to jump to it in a purely reactionary state, simply compelling us to complete it as hastily as possible in order to strike it from the to-do list so we can scurry off to the next one that much sooner… ad infinitum, ad hamster wheel.
The truth is, there are enough hours in the day, provided we are focused on what it is we want to accomplish. If our goal is to clear the list of as many of the tasks as possible by day’s end, then we will find ourselves subject to a Sisyphean reset when we wake the next day. However, if we see only one item on the list at any given time, the one task before us, when we complete that task having given it our fullest attention we will experience a satisfaction that is beyond measure. The sense of urgency will evaporate along with all the other items on our list and will only become relevant at the time each of them is taken on.