The grounding nature of physical work


Taking your head out of the clouds by getting your hands dirty

by Jonas Ellison

A few weeks ago, I went on a self-awareness binge.

I looked more into my Myers-Briggs profile (INFP). I did some numerology (37/1). Reviewed my enneagram (9w1). And Alex bought me this personal interest and aptitude assessment that’s incredible.

During this little sojourn into my psyche, not only did I learn a ton about myself, but I confirmed a lot of things.

Here’s a few of the many things I discovered…

  • I’m creative, unconventional, and am naturally an esoteric thinker, so I have a hard time staying grounded in the physical world (which explains why I barely graduated high school).
  • I need projects that have clear intent of completion instead of being open-ended (hmmm, interesting).
  • I visualize in 3 dimensions (which is why I’m pretty much a virtuoso at Tetris).
  • I’m a specialist, not a generalist (which explains why copywriting was sometimes painful for me having to write about ALL KINDS of different businesses).

Ok. Back to the nature of physical work and how this all relates…

I love writing. It goes very well with my esoteric and creative nature. But it also lacks a clear sense of completion. It’s open-ended. You kind of figure it out as you go along. I never start a piece knowing how it’s going to end. Which soothes my creative nature, but leaves a whole other side of me unsatisfied.

In order to stay grounded, I learned I could use some physical projects and activities. Building stuff. Fixing stuff. Drawing something. Martial arts (the topic of tomorrow’s plog — stay tuned). Things of that nature.

So, I’ve taken the task of sanding and painting this furniture for our new office space (soon to be revealed here on the plog).

I used to get really frustrated when I did stuff like this. Pretty sure that came from watching my dad work on our cars when I was a kid. He’d throw wrenches and punch the hood and curse at the top of his lungs.

Never did he NOT walk away bleeding from a project.

A big reason my dad always hated projects that involved physical labor like working on cars, doing yard work, etc. (although he was actually really good at it) was because it was a physical reminder to him that he couldn’t afford to hire anyone to do this, so he had to do it himself. And, being an old-school alpha male, this was hard to stomach. He’d complain he couldn’t afford the right tools, couldn’t afford the perfect workshop, blah, blah, blah. Total poverty thinking.

But that’s what I grew up with. As much as I’m working my ass off at transcending it, this kind of thing provides a nice little flashback that keeps me on my toes.

So, I’m seeing it as a meditation. It tests my weaknesses. It shines a very bright light on my shadow thoughts so I can release them. Ahhhh.

A couple times, I was super annoyed when things didn’t work. Like the paint wasn’t taking very well to the surface even though I sanded the sh*t out of it so I had to put, like, three coats on.

But for the most part, it’s been extremely enjoyable. Getting out from behind the keyboard. Doing stuff with my hands. Seeing immediate results in the work I do. It either looks good, or it doesn’t. Feels good.


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