Having grown up with a German grandmother, I have a fondness for the typically underappreciated language. I like the precision of it, and the words that mean exactly what they describe.
I recently learned a German word that’s gaining recognition in the English language: Sitzfleisch. With my rudimentary GCSE-level German I’d say that translates literally to “sit flesh” but its meaning is “the power to endure or persevere in an activity; stamina.”
It’s the thing millennials are maligned for supposedly not having. It’s the grit and sheer determination that I’ve always had, which enables me to take on the tricky, messy tasks that others might baulk at.
It doesn’t always get you much credit in the workplace – there may be better ways to make your mark!
But as a Virtual Assistant, clients love you for it – because you lift the weight of their thorniest problems off their shoulders, and hand them back a solution with a bow tied around it. I suspect it’s one of the key defining characteristics of a good VA.
Sitzfleisch versus flow
But this concept of sitzfleisch has got me thinking, as it runs counter to another viewpoint that resonates with me. Right now, there is a big movement towards doing what you find easy. Honing in on your zone of genius, getting into flow, and stripping back what’s not essential.
From the classic Essentialism by Greg McKeown to the more woo-woo (but still fantastic) Do Less by Kate Northrup – it’s about working with your own natural capabilities, and being lazer-focussed and intentional about where you spend your time.
So, how does all of this sit with sitzfleisch? Should we be grinding away at the tough stuff? Or should we stay in our zone of genius, and delegate what we find hard but others find easy?
My entire business is built around the latter (people delegate their tricky and time-consuming tasks to me). And being someone who derives a lot of satisfaction from an impeccable spreadsheet or a well-planned fieldwork schedule, I can happily pick up tasks that might drive other people to distraction.
But even if most of my work is satisfying, not every job is fun. Sometimes you have to dig in whether you enjoy it or not (and I will take on some jobs I don’t love, if it helps out a regular client). This is when the ability to grit my teeth, sit in the chair and JFDI remains important.
Trying to reconcile these two opposing concepts – sitzfleisch and staying in your flow – I realised that it’s not an either/or choice. Instead, it’s a matter of timing.
When to sit in the chair, and when to delegate
If you’re self-employed: A freelancer, consultant or entrepreneur – it’s pretty much a given that you’ve got grit and determination. Building a business is not for the faint-hearted, and there isn’t really an option where you get to sit out the hard bits.
The ability to sit in the chair, stay in the chair and get shit done is crucial.
However once your business is established, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If the tasks exceed the time you have to do them, it makes sense to delegate the jobs you find hard and unsatisfying – and focus your energy on the things you do best.
If you’re an independent market researcher and your time is at a premium, I can help with that.