At Mollie Stone's, my boyfriend leans over to me and nods at a man at the other cashier. “That’s David,” he says, “he played soccer with me and told me he’s taking your online breathing course.”
I look over at David who is paying for his groceries. He looks up, waves and says: “Oh, so you’re the one! Breathing lady.”
We meet and start chatting, and he starts telling me about his positive experience with the course. Then he says: “thank you for giving me so much value.”
To be honest, I was really surprised. Since launching the course to a small group of people, my email stats told me that only a few people were engaging with the content, and I thought I knew who all those people were.
Then I randomly bump into David! At a supermarket on a rainy Saturday. And he’s giving me really positive feedback. He’s expressing gratitude and enthusiasm about the course.
From that interaction, I learned that he had been opening the emails and reading the content, but not listening to the guided episodes. Even then, he felt like he was getting a lot of positive value. As he put it in a kind of funny way, “When I read it, I just feel really full already, you know?”
From this interaction, I had two insights:
- It’s important to speak with a broad range of participants — those engaging and those you think are not engaging — to really understand what’s going on.
- I will never really know the total effects of the work I put out there. Some of those effects are hidden. Some of the effects peep out serendipitously here and there.
Take another example from a young woman and acquaintance who I knew as an undergraduate student at McGill. She writes to me:
“I am not sure if you remember me…it has been a while and I hope this email finds you well! I hope this isn’t too weird but I have been meaning to write to you for a few weeks to tell you that I love your posts and blog. You are very insightful and inspiring. I used it to reflect at the beginning of the year on some goals/resolutions and shared your website during a presentation on self-care that I did for the psych department at SFU. Anyway, I don’t often “like” or comment on your posts but I wanted to let you know that you are reaching many people with your work and that it is great. So, thank you!”
I had no idea that this old acquaintance was consuming any of my content. Until she wrote me this message, she was silently engaging.
Oftentimes, we put a lot of energy out there and we don’t know whether it’s making a difference. Some people come out of the cyber trenches to let us know that it does. But many people don’t.
In the world of productivity, we expect very tight feedback loops. We want to see the results of our actions immediately or in the near future. But every action we take is a seed that gets planted. Sometimes some of those seeds sprout right away. Other times, those seeds sprout in years from now.
Here’s what I learned from cultivating a yoga and meditation practice which has helped me frame the actions I take:
- Keep taking action and putting energy out there on a consistent basis.
- Trust that you’re planting seeds, even if you can’t see or measure the fruits.
- Don’t become attached to the fruit.
Yogis have been talking about this principle, falatyaga, for thousands of years:
“You must, of course, act; but do not have any claim over the fruit of your actions. One who acts is certainly entitled to enjoy the fruit of one’s actions, but one should voluntarily give up that right…The Gita, while asking us not to have any desire for the fruit of the actions, insists that the work must, however, be perfect.
The work of a desireless doer can rightfully be expected to be better than that of one driven by the desire for the fruit. The reason is that, because of attachment to the fruit, the latter is bound to waste at least some time and energy in daydreaming about it…
When the doer’s mind is free from the desire for the fruit, his absorption in his work attains the character of samadhi [meditation].” (p. 38, Talks on the Gita, Vinoba Bhave)
P.S. If you haven't already done so, sign up here to receive my creative confidence playbook for women as well as the latest wisdom articles in your inbox (all free).