Sun & Clouds (Paradox Pair #82)

If everyday was a perfect day we'd start to become desensitized, eventually once glorious days would no longer inspire us at all.

A sunset paints fluffy clouds pink and yellow, mirrored in the reflecting waters of a lake
Sun & Clouds, JLP

Let's talk about the weather ... well, the weather as a metaphor anyway. The best days are those with warm sunshine and bright blue skies, where we manage to get outside and move, maybe do some deep thinking. Those are great days, and when they align well with our schedule so we get to take advantage of them, then they turn in to some of the most precious days.

We want our work to be like those great weather days, sunny and clear, where we avoid obstacles and unexpected interruptions. Smooth sailing days, of which, at the end, we appreciate the sense of accomplishment and progress we made in our work. And like great weather, those days come along periodically — not always when we want them — yet enough to refuel us, granting us energy to tackle tomorrow.

If everyday was a perfect day (weather or deep work) we'd start to become desensitized, these once glorious days begin to relinquish their power. They would give us slightly less energy tomorrow than they did today, until, eventually, they would no longer inspire us at all.

What we need then are some cloudy days, some days with rain and a bit of wind, to keep us grounded, to provide context to appreciate those sunny ones. Of course, these kind of days have their own energy. When we are suddenly faced with a problem to solve, an unhappy client to address, a service outage, or a missed deadline, these events serve a similar purpose as stormy days. They generate their own excitement, a camaraderie with our tribe, a short-term focus of our attention. When reflecting on the events of a stormy day, we can still appreciate the work we contributed, the crisis solved or averted, the perspective we gained from the unplanned.

Our initial reaction to a troubled day may be one of annoyance at having our time monopolized or our plans diverted. The clouds forming on the horizon are a sure sign that today we're going to have to spend some energy we held in reserve. Our patience may be tested, our stress levels increased. Yet, we will rise to the occasion, reforming our day's priorities, already moving into problem solving mode. Our flexibility is a virtue, and once we've charted our course of action, we move into execution mode.

Eventually, the unexpected passes, is resolved, or on some occasions, transforms to become part of our planned activities. The storm diminishes and we catalog what we've gained in perspective to our mental models, to the body of knowledge we call our experiences. We are now better equipped for a similar event, and we are reminded of our appreciation for those sunshine filled days because it has been overcast. After all, we know the most spectacular sunsets occur when you have some clouds in the golden hour sky.

The Paradox Pairs series is an exploration of the contradictory forces that surround us.  A deeper study finds that these forces often complement each other if we can learn to tap into the strength of each. See the entire series by using the Paradox Pairs Index.