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Accomplish More in a Fluid World

Accomplish More in a Fluid World

Often when I walk into a company or organization as a coach or consultant, I am struck by the feeling that everyone working there is attempting to change an environment that they, in the sinking pit of their stomachs, believe is solid, immovable, and permanent. I see people working harder — they work more hours, and with more intensity, but also with more frustration. In order to change a toxic environment, we have to change how we perceive the situation and how we work. This is not easy, of course, especially when the predominant culture is rooted in fear and responds to it with frantic nonstop busyness.

Harry Roberts, trained as a Yurok shaman, was my welding teacher at Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm, and he was one of the first people in my life to introduce me to this concept of accomplishing more by doing less as it relates to work. As a young Zen student, I was charged with the daunting task of farming by using horses instead of tractors, and I struggled to learn the vital skill of repairing old horse equipment.

Harry taught me that the secret to welding is to see and understand that the natural state of metal is actually liquid. What we call metal is in fact liquid that has become solid. By applying heat to metal, we soften it, returning it to its original condition, and we can then shape the metal with very little effort. Attempting to shape metal when it is too cool and solid requires tremendous effort and doesn’t accomplish very much.

As Harry shared this “secret” of welding with me, he let out a hearty laugh and said that this is also the secret to living fully as a human being: we as human beings, our world, and the nature of time all appear to be solid. Our perception and belief in this solid world lead us to act in ways that are much like attempting to shape metal while it is still solid and completely hard. At the time this was a very radical thought to me, and I too laughed heartily.

Our minds and bodies are considerably more fluid than we assume; everything in our world is less permanent than we conveniently and conventionally imagine. This was an “aha” moment for me, a lasting gift from Harry Roberts, still one of the greatest teachers I have studied with. I have been digesting and applying this lesson for much of my life. That lesson is this: if the metal doesn’t bend, don’t hammer harder — apply more heat. Particularly concerning ourselves, our beliefs, and our relationships, everything is malleable. Once we understand and embody the fluid nature of our world, we reduce our fear and dramatically increase our ability to accomplish more with less effort.

Where do we find this heat? Much like the process of applying heat to metal, retreats, meditation, and mindfulness practices act to soften ideas, views, and emotions that have become hardened. Using them, we can stop reliving the past and thereby loosen the solid quality of our fear of what might be.

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Marc Lesser

Marc Lesser is CEO of ZBA Associates LLC, a company providing executive coaching, leadership development consulting, and keynote speaking services to businesses and non-profits. He is a developer and instructor of Google’s Search Inside Yourself program. Marc is a Zen teacher with an MBA degree and a former resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years. He is the author of Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less and Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration.


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1:58PM PDT on Oct 18, 2011

Thank you - a useful way to look at things.

12:57PM PDT on May 13, 2010

Ah, yes - thanks for the boot to the butt this AM! Greatly appreciated! LOL

7:04PM PDT on May 12, 2010

This article really spoke to me. Everything is vibrational and not solid like we percieve it to be. The idea of trying to soften our ideas is a good one

10:06AM PDT on May 5, 2010

Lovely, thanks!

11:20AM PDT on May 4, 2010


7:52AM PDT on May 4, 2010

Good article and comments as well. I'm starting to see the importance of mediation. I've never been very good at it and let my wondering mind get the best of me, but it's time to do it again.

7:34AM PDT on May 4, 2010


6:24AM PDT on May 4, 2010

Very educational! not only the article but the comments as well! THANK you!

5:24AM PDT on May 4, 2010

good post

11:09PM PDT on May 3, 2010

I think one of the best ways to 'add more heat', or to 'soften' our hardened perspectives is to invite open communication, and also to share our thoughts on the ways to a healthy environment and world. Just planting the seeds of thought in someone else's mind, that may or may not even realize their tendencies are harmful to the world and those in it, can start a major shift in his/her future actions. Frustration at the world for not caring can be replaced by simple dialogue to help inform. This has a much larger impact than we ever visibly see.

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