I haven’t followed Seth Godin much lately for no reason in particular. I got out of the practice a couple of years ago and just haven’t given it much thought until recently. And I’m glad I did, because he recently made a distinction that, fittingly, has some real depth.
When things started to shift for everyone back in March, no one was prepared for it (in general, for sure, though this could apply to more specific situations, too). We did what we could, made adjustments as necessary, but then something else kicked in (or didn’t, depending on your previous work). An invisible system kicked in, a system based on relationships and trust that aren’t always in the spotlight. Which ties in some to Godin’s idea of bridges and tunnels:
Robert Moses, the road builder, understood that building tunnels takes just a little longer and costs just a little bit more.
And it turns out that bridges are monuments and create glory for those that find the resources to build them, there in the sky, for all to see.
Those are the two reasons why we end up with more bridges than tunnels. (Same is true with work culture and society at large).
But tunnels allow all sorts of productivity without calling attention to themselves or those that build them. A tunnel creates progress without changing the landscape. Many times, it’s an elegant solution to the problem for someone with the guts and fortitude to build one.
These are tunnel days, where the deep down and unnoticed work has been necessary and helpful. And while I wouldn’t take the same approach to bridges as Godin does, I understand his point. There’s a time and place for bridges, but it hasn’t been that way for the last couple of months. Those days will probably return, though, as life readjusts. But for now, we would be wise to remember the hard work, the hidden work, that is the network of relationships and community that often aren’t that obvious.