Digging Ditches


As someone who always advocates celebrating successes, this is going to sound weird.

Being in business isn’t all about the successes.

It’s not all about the highlights, the celebrations, the ideas that go viral, the launches that sell out, the results that go way beyond your wildest dreams.

We think it is, it’s what we hear about, it’s what we cite in great examples, role models and industry leaders.

Often when people ask me “how’s business?” I feel this pressure to reel off the highlights – achievements, successes and what’s gone right, whilst brushing under the table what’s flopped, what looks crazy and what I’m still trying to get working.

And if I say I’m busy, people think, ‘that’s great, you’re busy with clients’. But what if I’m not? What if I’m busy getting clients – isn’t that just as important, or even more important?

I recently sent this out on Twitter and judging by the amount of times it was re-tweeted, I think it really resonated with a lot of people:

“One reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with other people’s highlight reel”

That quote came from Steven Furtick, a speaker I was particularly encouraged by recently at leadership conference, in a talk he gave about digging ditches.

He talked about a biblical story where the kings of Edom, Israel and Judah were leading a campaign to overcome the Moabites, and found themselves in a dry and barren land where they could not water their armies. The prophet Elisha gives them a message to ‘dig ditches’, even though no clouds could be seen, that the rain would come and fill the land. They dug. Rain came. But the digging wasn’t to bring on the rain – God could send the water regardless – it was preparation, so that everything was in place ready for when the rain came.

Sometimes we find ourselves in dry and barren times, when it is hard work and there’s no sign of rain. Those are the times when we question our vision, when we’re tempted to give up and start looking elsewhere, where the grass is at least growing, let alone greener.

But sometimes that’s precisely when we need to dig ditches.

Digging ditches means believing enough in a vision to act on it, even when there are no signs of certainty or success. In fact the difference between a forecast and a vision is that a forecast is limited to what you can see immediately in front of you, whereas a vision goes beyond the horizon, where nothing is certain and anything is possible.

Not that a forecast gives certainty either – it just feels safer to react to a forecast than to act towards a vision that (at the moment) can only be seen in your heart.

It’s having audacious faith. As Furtick put it “the difference between a vision and a daydream is the audacity to act and faith to get started”.

Are you acting on a vision, or just simply following the forecast?

Digging ditches means you put in the hard work now, to be ready for the opportunities that are yet to come, rather than waiting for a sign or chasing rainbows.

And it goes beyond that first moment of inspiration, which can sometimes seem fleeting or ungrounded. It’s the act of putting your stake (or shovel) in the ground and saying I’m going to see this happen. I’m going to work towards this vision. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out, but I’m going to invest myself and prepare for it nonetheless.

Digging ditches doesn’t look successful. It can seem pointless, even laughable, especially when you see no sign of rain. Sometimes what we’re working on doesn’t look successful or fruitful. There’s nothing glamourous about digging ditches. Sometimes it looks like dry and hard work. But it’s precisely this work that prepares you, stretches you and grows your capacity to take on, harness and run with the opportunities when they arise, to reap the blessings when the rain comes. Remember Noah? He looked ridiculous building an ark… until the rain came, then it made sense. Only with hindsight does digging become obvious.

Digging ditches means your focus is on your behind-the-scenes efforts, rather than staring longingly at other people’s highlight reels.

That’s what I mean when I say being in business is not all about the successes.

It’s about the work we put in, before it looks successful, before we see any signs of certainty. It’s about what we do behind the scenes that enable anything to happen out front.

That’s what real business is about. Digging ditches.

So next time you ask me how it’s all going, and I tell you I’m digging ditches, this is what I mean – it’s all good 🙂

PS. If you liked this post, please do go ahead and share it, and let me know your thoughts in the comments box – I love hearing from you!

  • Thanks
    for the encouragement, Grace. It’s so important to continue doing the right
    things while we wait for our dreams to come to fruition. Your message reminds
    me of the song by John Waller that says “I will serve you while I’m


    • Thanks for sharing your comment Erin. That’s a lovely song. I remember someone saying to me that waiting isn’t passive. Like in pregnancy, it’s an active thing!

  • Fab post – and a reminder of the importance of having a good supportive network around us while we’re digging ditches.

    • Fiona, you’re absolutely right – fellow diggers who like you are supportive make all the difference. Thanks for sharing your comment x ——————

  • Beautifully written Grace. From the heart.
    We are all digging ditches at some time.
    Thank you for writing this.
    Speak soon x

    • Bless you Simon, thank you for your comment. Appreciate you, and yes, let’s speak soon x

  • Jenny

    Great post, Grace – I think it’s important in business that we share the message that it is often hard work and often we don’t see an IMMEDIATE return, but that perseverance and focus on our vision all helps to contribute to success overall! Lets keep digging!

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Grace – I think it’s important in business that we share the message that it is often hard work and often we don’t see an IMMEDIATE return, but that perseverance and focus on our vision all helps to contribute to success overall! Lets keep digging!

    • Thanks so much Jenny – I think it’s such an encouragement to recognise that digging is the norm, not to be disheartened when we don’t see immediate results – we’re on the right path!

  • Ntathu

    thanks Grace for the reminder re its what goes on behind closed doors that makes the difference to final outcome. Stay well and keep up the valuable work. Peace

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your comment Ntathu. I’m so glad this post has encouraged you. Keep up the good work, you’re doing great!

  • Marion

    That’s a blog post to return to again and again, Grace.

    An inspirational thought, beautifully expressed.

    Marion x

    • Wow thank you Marion, I really appreciate you saying that. Hope it will continue to bring you fresh inspiration. Bless you x

  • That is such a great post Grace, now I have a name for how I have been feeling the last 6 months or so. My ditches are dug and now I am prepared for success. As always you seem to know just what to say and how to put it across. Thank you

    • Yes! So glad this post has encouraged you in the hard work you’ve been putting in. Thanks for sharing Shelly, keep digging and enjoy the rain when it comes 🙂

  • Very inspiring post! The ditches concept is so very true. Keep building, one shovel full at a time. The quote from SF really hits to the core of what we often do when comparing ourselves to others.. I know I’ve done it. Thank you!

    • Yes that quote really does hit home – I’ve done it too. Thanks for sharing your comment, it inspires me to know that this post has made a difference to you!

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  • Thank you for this post – I need to keep telling myself that my efforts will bring bigger rewards in the longer term 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment – yes, do keep noticing your efforts and be encouraged by your progress – keep believing 🙂

  • Interesting post!  Very important as well, particularly if you are working by yourself, for yourself to recognise this.  After all, you don’t get growth without digging and building!  Can’t just keep standing back and admiring what you’ve got or you will stand still

    • You’re right Julia, we’re often so used to looking to bosses, teachers, parents and peers for recognition and direction, yet what makes the biggest difference, especially when working for ourselves, is that we recognise what we’re doing and what we need to keep doing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Julia, here’s to what you’re digging & building!

  • TinyTalk Newcastle Central

    Interesting. I don’t think we acknowledge the importance of ‘prep’ or the ‘behind the scenes’ work that we all do.  I sometimes tell people that I am like a swan – they see the calm, serene creature floating effortlessly ontop of the water, what they don’t always see is the hard work, the flapping legs that keeps me moving and stops me from drowning.  Digging ditches….hmm hard work but jolly statisfying too, I think I’ll ponder on this a bit more.

    • Exactly, the outer appearance is what we see, but it’s the work that goes on behind the scenes that make that possible. And yup it is jolly satisfying 🙂 Thanks for stopping by to comment, happy pondering!

  • I’m digging lots of ditches at the moment, ditches that are going to change the way the world does business… 🙂 

    I celebrate the successes of being able to build ditches! WOOOO HOOOO!! 

    • Woohoo!! Fantastic to see you embracing digging ditches so enthusiastically Claire! Love what you’re doing 🙂

  • Meg Farnden

    Love that quote about comparisons Grace, it’s so true, we think we are the only ones struggling and life is a breeze for the rest!! Nice to know other people dig ditches too.

    • Absolutely Meg, so glad you found it encouraging too. Thanks for sharing your comment!

  • Rachel

    Read this post for the first time last night Grace, really resonated. Very useful and encouraging, thank you 🙂

    • Hi Rachel, welcome to the blog! You’re most welcome, and I’m glad it spoke to you.

  • KDO

    Great piece on fighting ditches. Very much on point scripturally and your article involves deep thinking. You need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help you understand. I intend to share your article with others. It is a blessing.

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