only be harvested by diligent labor


“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”

Terry Pratchett


Teddy Roosevelt, in 1904:

“… we, the people, can preserve our liberty and our greatness in time of peace only by ourselves exercising the virtues of honesty, of self-restraint, and of fair dealing between man and man.”

Freedom has to be earned by the exercise of restraint, and its bounty could only be harvested by diligent labor.”


Labor, as in ‘work’, is one of those topics of which it is almost getting absurd to think about. Between work-from-home, quiet quitting, trophy generation, Purpose, and, well, at least a dozen other things I could argue we are losing sight of what work is all about – diligent labor.

And by diligent, I mean a combination of invested energy and invested ‘what to care about’ focus <maybe craftmanship in some form or fashion>. But we seem to be having an existential crisis over competing extremisms. This is where I toss in Kierkegaard who suggested “the crowd is untruth.” I find the ‘crowd’ tends to institutionalize good ideas so they lose any valuable nuance in combination with the ‘crowd’ has an unhealthy relationship with binaries and extreme.  It almost seems like with everyone engaged everywhere in suggesting how to make things easier, an alternative group has stepped in only to make them difficult again.

Which leads me to fluidity and flow.

The reality of meaningful diligent labor is a bit simpler than we tend to make it. I will suggest two primary aspects of meaningful labor is fluidity and flow. Simplistically, they represent direction of energy for diligence.

  • Fluidity

Fluidity is an inherent attribute of progress and, in particular, to the connectivity necessary for collective impact. Diligence becomes an important concept because it captures the attention necessary for the temporary situations of a unique combination of circumstances which present a unique set of problems/opportunities which requires an original solution that represents work/labor ‘applied effectively’. Nevertheless, no temporary situation can be viewed in isolation, but rather each temporary situation merges with those that precede and those that follow all simultaneously, but maybe not equally, shaped by the former and shaping the conditions of the latter. I belabor that point because labor is then a continuous, fluidity of activity replete with fleeting opportunities and unforeseen events. Since labor is a fluid phenomenon, it requires flexibility of thought and adaptability in behaviors/actions. Circling back to the opening, this may include creating new rules. I state that because many rules are constraints and fluidity often demands new rules. Anyway. Successful labor depends in large part on diligence and the ability to adapt — to proactively shape changing events to our advantage as well as to react quickly to constantly changing conditions. This can sound exhausting, but the cadence of labor in fluidity fluctuates from periods of intense activity to periods of information gathering and reflection. This actually means diligent labor is found in the competitive rhythm, i.e., conflict, between entropy (or desire to replicate and standardize) and emergent fluid organizing intent to optimize events to suit the purpose of the business (and the individuals). In addition, this is fluidity between self-interest (impact) and collective interest (impact) and generated value. This fluidity feeds diligent labor at an individual level. That is, well, work.

  • Flow

Flow is fluidity working in sync. Flow has a number of states, but let’s say that the desired business objective (which diligent labor makes possible) is, the continuous, smooth flow of value from the business (collective labor) to the market. Oddly many people think of this as ‘labor at scale’ when it really is simply ‘a system in flow state’. Economics, and individual meaning, almost always arises from flow. Simplistically:

  • The whole is the part. The part is the whole. Flow is all.

  • People are imperfect. Business is made up of people. The imperfections are what makes flow in business perfect.

  • The system, the whole, is made up of layers and nested systems with their own pacing and flow accommodates all paces.

The last point above is very important. Flow can be asymmetrical and it can also contain a variety of speeds. I often refer to organizational flow as ‘cadence.’ What I mean by that is a business tends to have a rhythm when it is in flow which is a reflection of the combined individual ‘diligent laborer’ pacing. Flow is actually when all layers of the organization find synchronicity – not same speed or pace. Flow at an individual level is almost irrelevant if it isn’t multiplicative to the energy of the system as a whole. In fact, I could argue individual flow can hamper organizational collective ‘flow’ if the individual self-interest is not in the greater system interest. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that often existing business ‘rules’, including incentives & performance metrics, encourage a belief in individual flow over collective flow. My point here is that organizational flow is diligent labor at a collective level. Obviously, this is an even higher level of diligence – above that of simple self interest and what is right for me.

Which leads me to a thought from Samuel Brealey: “There are still idiots out there who know so little so confidently. Which is bad for all of us.” This is exponentially true surrounding any discussion of diligent labor and “the future of work”. Its almost like we do not want to speak of work AS labor as well as  go out of our way to discuss ‘diligent’ as “success is always a reflection of hard work”. What I mean by that is we seem to dislike admitting work is work and that just working hard, alone, is often not the ‘secret’ to success.


“Navigating mystery humbles us, reminds us with every step that we don’t know everything, are not, in fact, the masters of all.”

Martin Shaw


The truth is, in my opinion, found in Carse’s finite versus infinite games. Far too many people conflate finite and infinite while attempting to discuss labor/work, diligence and outcomes/achievements. What Carse neglected to share with us is there are vapid bottomless pit infinite games and then there are enlightening infinite games, i.e., not all infinite games are created equal. The sooner you can recognize what is finite and what is infinite in labor, the sooner you can be more diligent in how you apply your labor and the sooner both fluidity and flow can be optimized (or functionally applied). And, yes, diligent labor is not just about ‘work applied’, but also functionally attaining some progress or meaning. Not that I need to remind you, but it was Victor Frankl who said “The ultimate meaning in life is ‘to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment’.” Regardless. Much of the discussion about work and labor these days, if you are not careful, is an infinite suckhole of mental masturbation. We must be, well, diligent in our discussions of what is meaningful labor. This is important. Its important because freeing business potential, freedom to be the best it can be, is a bounty which could only be harvested by diligent labor. I end with that thought because I would bet you will not hear one ‘future of work pundit’ say anything like that. And maybe that is why you should think about what I just wrote.

Written by Bruce