The Pain of Digging Three Foot Wells


I have a couple of acquaintances that are always starting the next big thing. It may be a new career opportunity, new relationship, new diet, new classes, or new exercise plan. Through the course of the year, it is typically all of these activities, some start and restart several times within a year.

Somehow each next great thing, which garnered so much excitement and energy, ends up abandoned and mostly forgotten. And there is always a “reason.” It wasn’t what they claimed, they have a better new opportunity, there was no money in that, she/he didn’t understand me, and other justifications are standard explanations.

While these can be valid reasons for many to change course in their lives, for most, such reasons are only excuses for themselves when the latest short-cut to money, fame, or love turns into real work.

Person Digging

I believe many people treat their lives like digging a well for water. The problem is they dig about three feet and the ground gets hard, the work gets tiring, and despite only being down about three feet, they are disappointed they don’t see any water yet.

Suddenly they think, “Hey, that spot over there looks soft or wet, let’s dig there as I’m sure it will be better for a well.” Like the shampoo joke of “Lather, Rinse, Repeat,” people keep digging three foot holes in their lives. They do this over and over even though what they claim they really want is a deep well with the clean water of happiness.

Eventually, your yard, career, and life is just full of shallow holes and no meaningful progress.

Commitment is hard. It takes discipline that, frankly, most people just don’t have for long periods of time. And many of us are surrounded by those that lack the commitment to dig their own wells too. So there is an almost automatic, hidden peer pressure to not work too hard and wait for life to bring you an endless supply of clean water and happiness. Just think of what people say, “See you later, don’t work too hard,” or “Take it easy.”

Eternally searching for the next great shortcut to success will, over time, usually lead to a lot of work with little-to-no success. Many repeat this failing behavior because they repeatedly fool themselves about the relationship between work and outcomes. It is a habit they can stop if they choose.

Understanding ourselves is hard. It takes new skills, practice, and even mentors. But having control of our life, our feelings, and our thoughts sure beats an unhappy life chasing imaginary shortcuts to joy.


Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself.  You can email Glenn directly at

Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.