How I Do Everything

The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.” — Carrot Quinn

When I read this line, I write it down on an index card and tape it to the wall facing my desk.

Every morning I wake up before the sun, do some yoga, then belly up to my laptop and write until it’s time to go to work. Between thoughts, I repeat this card like a mantra. The way I do one thing is the way I do everything. The way I do one thing is the way I do everything.

I think about how I make my morning coffee. That perfectly edged scoop from the chilled bag of 4.4-gauge grind carefully spilled into the belly of my areopress. The gentle shake to level the powdery beans. The rolling boil allowed to barely mellow before a full pour, a stir, and another quarter-pour and gentle stir before capping the press and giving it exactly three minutes to steep before leveraging my weight onto the stopper until it hisses.

The way I do things is the way I do everything.

I think about how I do my work. Some days I wake at four for a six a.m. coaching Zoom with freelance clients back east. One at a time, for forty-five minutes each until my nine-to-five starts, I follow a similar pattern: I ask what’s good and why. What’s not good and why. Where are they motivated to get better and how can I help make it happen. I listen. If I catch my attention straying, I listen even harder. I ask questions along the way. I take notes. I circle back. At five minutes to nine I tuck away my freelance notebooks and start in on my other job. It’s more of the same: I ask. I listen. I ask more. I listen more. I take notes and circle back. Some days I prepare topics to train—topics I’ve trained thousands of times but still prepare as if it’s the first time. I know my stuff, but I also believe I can get better. It matters to me how the content is received. It matters to me that I give all I can. It matters to me that everyone gets my best effort.

The way I do things is the way I do everything.

I also think about how I spend my down time. The night before, I open my personal notebook—a different one than my freelance or work notebook—and write out my plan. It looks like a to-do list. I spend my off day looking at that list and crossing things off. Things that need to get done—like groceries and cleaning and mailing shipments of books or junk I’ve sold on eBay—but also things like take a walk and draw a whale and sit outside and read that book of poetry that’s been sitting on my desk for months. Sometimes the list says trim nails. Sometimes it says write a card to Gram, Joel & Brittany, Katie, Maya, Mom. Sometimes the names are different. Sometimes it says things I scribbled a few days ago and now I can’t read what I had written—which makes me feel like I’m forgetting something important. I try to rewind my brain back to when I wrote it. Often it’s gone. Forgetting things bothers me. Missing small details bothers me, too.

I don’t want to care what people think of me.

But I also don’t want to be perceived as lazy, or a corner-cutter, or aloof, or not intelligent, or thoughtless, or crass, or rough-around-the edges, or perverted, or ugly, or out of shape, or late, or sentimental, or inept, or guilty, or unable, or unkempt, or messy, or stinky, or unaware, or homely, or irritating, or unappreciative.

I want people to know things.

But I also keep my life so private that very few people know much about me. Like how much I enjoy sitting at my table and watching birds fly back and forth from my sill. Like how I could easily spend hours, days even, walking around staring at the ground while finding little treasures like marbles, arrowheads, coins, and remnants of handwritten notes. Like how I don’t really like exercising, and never have, and only do it so I don’t get fat. Like how if I could do it all over again I’d be a skater punk. Like how a good writing session makes me feel so wildly alive that afterwards I want to tell strangers how much I love them. Like how much I love tattoos. Like how these days I miss family so much I consider moving to where they are just to be near them. Like how I want to sell everything I own and live with only the bare essentials, maybe in a van. Like how I am actually afraid of conflict. Like how I am actually afraid of authority. Like how I want to follow rules while challenging them at the same time. Like how I worry my voice sounds silly and childish. Like how I worry I’m destined to be alone. Like how I’m pretty sure I know how I’m going to die. Like how I feel as if time is running out. Like how I want to use my body and mind and good attitude and bank account to do do do before I can’t can’t can’t. Like how much I often wish I could hold back my feelings and speak evenly without having to fight the urge to burst into tears. Like how I wish I had the courage to tell you or you or you the whole entire truth. Like how I wish I could make a living as a cook, or artist, or walker. Like how much I get out of hearing someone else’s story.

The way I do things is the way I do everything.

And the way I see it, it’s what has propelled me this far and afforded me so many doggone delights. But it’s also what keeps me from showing you the fullest expression of me.

How I do things is the way I do everything. And maybe it’s these things, and not me, that would most benefit from a change.

2 thoughts on “How I Do Everything

  1. Tom – this is resonating with me all over the place. I think I’ll hear echoes for a long, long time. That you so much, and that’s before I go back to read it again!

    Liked by 1 person

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