Stay in The Tension

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Every meaningful pursuit has one thing in common: the tension.

The tension between where you want to go, and where you are right now.  Between the time you need and the time you have.  Between what makes money and what makes meaning.  And on and on.

It takes on many forms, but the way you address it is always the same.

On today’s episode, Dan share about the concept of the tension and what to do about it.  He also shares a personal update and some thoughts on the future of the podcast.

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Seth Godin’s fantastic little book: The Dip



It always starts the same: ideas.  Dreams. Desires.  The thought that something could be different.

And then sometimes it sticks around.  You keep mulling it over and nuancing it.  You keep trying to find a way to make it happen— a way to bring it to life.

Finally, you take action on it.  You begin planning and brainstorming.  You lay a foundation and start building.

It’s fun to start.  It’s exciting.  Everything is possible.  But then things change, and you enter the tension.

When it comes to doing anything worth doing, you’re going to fight the tension.

The tension between where you are vs. where you want to be.

The tension between the job you have and the job you want.

The tension between the work that is meaningful and the work that makes money.

The tension between the work you want to do and the work that have to do.

The tension between your ideal and dream and your responsibilities.

In order to do work that matters, you have to face the tension.

It’s fun to have break through decisive moments, but that energy quickly fades away as you do the difficult work of pursuing your dream.

It’s the slog.  It’s the grind.  It’s when we feel like we want to quit.  It’s when we doubt that the idea was good in the first place.  It’s when things get hard.

Because, no matter what.  Things will get hard.  There’s rarely a simple path. There are always obstacles to overcome (listen to the episode called The Obstacle is the Way for more on that).

Things will get hard, and when they get hard, you are in the Tension.

And The Tension is hard.  It pushes you to abandon ship.  It tells you to quit it with this meaningful stuff— just get a real job or a job that pays better, no matter what.

It tells you that your dreams aren’t worth the challenge and difficulty.  Your desire isn’t worth the quest toward fulfillment.

Seth Godin talks about the Tension in his little book The Dip.

The Dip, according to Godin, is when the energy and excitement ends, and what you’re putting into an endeavor is less than what you’re getting out of it.

He points out that the Dip is necessary to weed out the people that aren’t dedicated.  It’s what separates the amateurs from the professionals.  He smartly tells says that if you’re not going to stick it out through the dip then you’re wasting your time.  Furthermore, the sooner you quit the better, because every day that you don’t quit is a day wasted.  That is, unless you’re going to  stick it out.

Personally, I’ve been really feeling the tension recently.  Especially the tension of time and money.

I don’t have enough of either, but the things that I’m doing are things that are deeply meaningful for me.  I’m caught between everything that I need to do and what I want to see happening.

The tension of not having enough time to give to my projects.

The tension of wanting so much and only being capable of achieving so much.

I’m feeling these things now more than ever.

I say all of this simply to tell you that I’m in it.  I’m in it with you.

The trick to the tension is to stay, even though don’t want to.  To quit on your dream and just pursue something that pays is to sacrifice a part of yourself.  There may be a time for that.  But for many of us, it’s not a place we want to return to.

As we move into the holiday season, and look toward the new year, i want to encourage you to stay in the tension.  If you are pursuing something that is of value and significance, stay the course.

When it gets really bad— the kind of bad that makes you want to quit everything bad — take a step back.  Breathe deep.  Get some exercise.  Find a way to gain perspective.  And don’t give up.

Stay in the tension.

This is the Meaning Movement.  I’m Dan Cumberland.

A quick word before I go.  This is the last episode until January.  I’m currently strategizing what will come next year with the podcast— and I’m not sure.  But I’d like your help.

I’ve put together a survey to collect your thoughts on the podcast thus far.  Go to to find it.  It’s very short.  And I’d be SO grateful for your time.

Also, as we move toward the new year, spend some time doing a year end review.  It’s a very clarifying process!  You can find my guide at

Thanks for listening.  See you in a while!

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