Why do a thing? Or Not?

Why? Not? Why do it?

Seriously. Why do it? Why invest the time? Or why do you not invest the time?  Why “waste the time?” Why do you return to a habit that you regret or detest? And what keeps you doing it?

All interesting. Very interesting indeed.

After all why am I reading this? Why am I writing this?  What motivates me to do something different or follow the same path? And which is better?

And now that I have all these thoughts of motivation written out, what now do I do? And again, why? Or why not?

Motivation. What motivates me to do that which I do?  And what motivates me to do what I think is good versus bad? What is good for me?  What’s the “point?”

Me? I find that I am motivated much by the impact or rather potential impact on the world I live in. The ecosystem I’m in. My family. My children. My wife. My own time. My own health. My friends. My community I live in. The things that I care most about and why do I care about them?

Discerning what I should do and when? And why should I at all and how it will potentially impact these things.

I say potential impact because much of what motivates me is avoiding negatives. Take my health for example.  I diet to  avoid the possibility of putting back on those 50lb’s that I lost.  I diet because I didn’t like the way I looked or felt with those extra 50lbs.  The potential impact of that weight gain is what keeps me from indulging in a diet of chocolate bars and cheesecake everyday of the week.  Disciplining myself on my diet has helped me potentially impact my health in what I hope is potentially a positive impact. I stay disciplined because I don’t want the negative impact. I don’t know for certain if I’d be healthier at one weight or the other, but I believe in the potential that the lower weight is better.

So probably a bit like you, I have to make choices every day on how I spend my time. And what I find personally most fascinating is the impact that previous decisions I have made have on how I spend my time today. And what will be the impact tomorrow based on what I spend my time on today? Is it a pattern? Since I started something, do I continue on?

Is it debt? Is it obligation?  Is it that a path was started and now it must be finished? But why? Why finish at all?

Is it financial gain? Is it a desire for recognition?  Do I feel better about myself? Do I make someone I care about feel better?  

The more I think about this, the more I realize there isn’t necessarily a quick answer, at least for me. And in more things than I care to admit there may not be a clear answer.

More importantly, if I start doing something, should I stop? For my best interest or for the best interest of the person I would rather I turned out to be?  Maybe it’s not the “me” of today? Maybe it’s the “me” of the future?

Well, this much is certain. Time spent by “me” cannot be gained back. Once spent it is gone. That minute is past, and this minute is over. Yet another minute and another investment spent on something.

It’s early in the morning as I write this. And why I am writing this is because I have been thinking a lot about why do I do what I do?  And whether or not I want to keep doing certain things? And why ask the question at all?  I have a big deadline at work. It makes me ask the question, “why?”

Again?

So much of what motivates me to do things I need to do is my wife and kids. There are fiscal motives. Things I do because of the need to pay for things with money. And then there is the personal desires. The things that are in my heart and soul and I cannot escape.

How connected am I? Between the time I spend and where my desires and motivations are? How lined up am I? Am I on track in this path?

And concerning those that I love, am I the best example and teacher for them? Am I the best friend for them? Am I the best son? Brother? Do I care if I am or not? And how do I pick and choose? I can’t do every thing or execute on every idea, so now what?

I have to think about this some more.

Do you find yourself saying, “I shouldn’t do this?”  Or “I should do that?”

Why? And how will you decide whether you will follow through?

If I suddenly become self aware of something I am doing or about to do, and if I cannot clearly determine why I am doing it, maybe I shouldn’t do it anymore?  Maybe it’s time to pick something else to do that helps me become the person I’d rather be?  And if I don’t know who that is?  Maybe I should invest the time in thinking about that so I can make some better decisions?

Then again, maybe there is nothing wrong with not having such a plan or a desire. Having no plan could be the plan that is right for you?  Or me?  Maybe I have no more plans?  

Perhaps the question “why do something” boils down to another question of “what do I care about and why”; then “what am I prepared to do about what I care about”? Or “am I okay with doing nothing”?

As for me?  Years ago I put on the headline of my blog “I do what I do because I believe I should do it…”  So what “should” I do?  

More on that later…

or not.

Procrastinate Your Way to Success – Seriously

Don’t do it!
Okay, it’s time to procrastinate your way to success.

Sounds odd doesn’t it?  After all why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?

If you are like me you have had it beaten into you that procrastination is bad.  You’ve been told all your life to, “Take action. Do it now. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Blah blah blah yada yada yada.  Over and over again. Enough already.

For me procrastination has been the toughest battle I ever fought.  I started to study myself and specifically why I procrastinate about things that I “should” do.  I started to work on tactics to overcome procrastination.  Some of the gimmicks work for a bit, but I’d just end up procrastinating until the point that I beat myself up and say things to myself that I wouldn’t say to my enemies. That’s all bad.

How about a different perspective?  

What if it’s a good thing? It’s only recently that I learned how to use procrastination for my benefit. You have to admit that most people wouldn’t tally up procrastinator in the strengths column. But after all if I am so good at procrastinating. Is there a way to use it to my benefit instead of the alternative and amassing huge piles of guilt?

For those of you who don’t know how to procrastinate, I’ve decided that you should figure out how to do it.  Seriously.  Why? Everyone out there seems to say that procrastination is a bad thing, so they have to be wrong.  Here goes why:

First, as a leader of an organization – doing everything is a bad thing.

Entrepreneurs are notorious for ‘doing everything’ and working themselves to death.  As a leader in their organization the temptation is to ‘do everything’.  The stereotype has the owner of the business jumping in to rescue the employee at every bad turn.  The employer is upset that the employees can’t handle it and the place would just fall apart if they weren’t around.  And so on.

The same is true in parenting. I think getting the kids to clean their rooms is more important than doing it for them. Getting them to take out the garbage, vacuum, clean bathrooms, etc. All the things I would rather procrastinate on and have the kids do anyway. You have to admit this is starting to sound pretty good.

There is a fallacy that I see in the world of success thinking; that you have to do stuff to get stuff done.  I disagree. Obviously you can’t do everything. And doers are important; but so are thinkers and communicators.

I have learned that one of the most valuable things I can do to help someone succeed, is let them fail.  If I wasn’t a procrastinator, I would respond more quickly and bail them out.  When employees ask me how come I didn’t bail them out, I just tell them that I trust them and it’s okay if they make mistakes. I ask them what they learned and what we should do next.  This works really well in team building.

Because I am a procrastinator I let other people lead. I build leaders. I remove myself as the bottleneck.

Second, procrastination can be a fuel for my strategic and personal creativity.  

I use procrastination over issues to think through the strategic scenarios.  This helps me act more wisely when the time comes.  If I don’t need to take action – I don’t.

Procrastinating on things allows me to rethink tough issues, over and over again.  Avoiding hasty decisions in my role has proven to be very useful. Rushing to judgment without thinking through enough scenarios is dangerous.

So being a natural at procrastinating gives me time to prepare. I prepare for presentations and discussions.  I have better outcomes in those meetings.

Third, cash management for tough times.

Paying bills at the latest possible moment helps with cash management. You could say that this is a procrastination technique already employed by many successful businesses in these hard economic times.

Fourth, you’ll get more done if you are a strategic procrastinator.

You probably are still laughing a bit at this topic, but I am serious. Okay maybe it should be called tactful delegation or something else. Because I am a procrastinator I do less actual work and get more work done. Strange, but true. Other people I work with pick up the slack for their roles because I don’t watch over their shoulder ever 20 minutes to see how they are doing. Well, sometimes I can’t help it but it’s the rarity so when I do it they know that there is something really urgent and I need them. Procrastination helps me get more done if I leverage it the right way.  (Boy that sounds really weird to the PMA people reading this right now.)

I created my CEO todo list because of this very issue. I had to learn that my role was very different and working with and through others was more important than me doing everything. My list?  Think, talk, listen, buy food and wait to sign things. Serious. (See my previous post on this.)  

Are you procrastinating now? Awesome. Here are some questions to help you analyze your procrastination potential.

You can turn procrastination into a success principle for yourself too. The next time you are stuck in a procrastinatory state, here are some questions to ask yourself and some of the ways I handle it:

 1) What should I be thinking about while I am procrastinating?  

 2) Should I be making notes on something?

 3) Should I just ask someone to take care of this for me?

 4) Am I stuck and I am procrastinating because I don’t know what to do?

 5) Am I just afraid to do it?

 6) Am I lazy?

 7) Am I the only one that can get this done?

 8) Can I ask someone to work through this with me?

 9) Is this something I can just say “no” to?

If you are procrastinating because you are stuck, schedule time with someone to talk through the issues and work it through together. It’s a simple accountability partner thing. Even better, do it with someone that can take the workload off of your plate.  It turns from a procrastination, I’m stuck can’t figure it out into a planning session – delegated and done session.  Pretty cool eh?

If you don’t know how to do something or you are insecure doing something – procrastination is good there too.  Find someone else to figure it out with you. This becomes a team effort.

If you are lazy, ask someone else to help. Wait, this is a recurring theme? Yup. For all of these issues find a “procrastination buddy”.  But let’s apply it to beer.  You are sitting on the couch watching TV and your friend gets up to go to the restroom. You’re lazy so you say; “hey since you are up can you grab me another beer?”  You didn’t realize that you have deployed the main principle in successful delegation. You are getting someone else to do something for you, while they are doing something else, and most likely they are glad to do it. Nice.

Do you need to say ‘no?’  I’ve learned that this is my biggest problem. I need to say ‘no’ more often. (See previous post on this one.) Too many times I let my good intentions mess up a relationship because I want to help, but my gut knows better. Now, I can’t say no to everything, that’s ridiculous. But I’ve learned that I need to be willing to say ‘no’ more often.

If you are the only one that can do it, do you have to do it alone?  Can you have someone help you work through the issues and organize what you need to do. Perhaps even do the work when it’s all said and done.  I am amazed how many times I thought I was the only one that could do it; and in reality someone else got it done and even did a better job than I could have myself.

I find that most people I talk with are too busy to actually strategically invest in their business or their lives. They just run from one thing to the next and it’s total craziness all the time.  For once in your life, probably the best thing you can do is ‘nothing.’  Try giving yourself some more free time to think through a decision. Find someone to help talk it through with you.

I’m not saying that procrastination is the answer to everything. Obviously someone has to do something otherwise it’s just plain silly. But the next time you are procrastinating, notice it and ask yourself why and see if there is a way to turn it into an asset instead of an expense.

Remember, procrastination is your friend.

What Makes Someone Great?

What makes someone great? What creates greatness? Do leaders ask to be great? Do they desire to be great? Or do they come from ordinary stalk and somehow make the decision that something has to be done. Do they wake up and realize that if they don’t act, things will get worse?

I venture to guess that most great leaders in history rose up out of dire circumstances. It was out of the trials and fires and ugliness of their circumstances they grew strong. They did not choose to be great, but in tough times they chose to do something great.

Granted that a case can be made for those that plot a course to be great, but it’s those that did not start out that way that we truly hold up as great. Whether by accidental invention or by incidental responses, the stories we read of great leaders are interesting to us because of what they have gone through. And yet, many of us; no most of us would not choose their path for ourselves. Who would chose economic suffering for themselves? Or disease or oppression? But here is where the furnace refines those who become great.

Look at the great depression, out of that came the greatest generation. Following worst economic times come the best economic times. Following oppression comes liberty? Why?

Greatness is in you. You have the capacity to be great. You may not know it and you may not feel it. And you probably don’t recognize it. For those that do great things, rarely do they recognize it as great. Their tasks are as minor as yours to start. Dr. King’s first speech was not the crowds on the steps in DC, and Washington didn’t start out as a General, and the list would continue on as we look upon the stories of those we now call great.

It starts with little things. And it’s these little things that compound and are refined. And not doing things is as important to greatness, by not choosing the easy path, not resting when there is work to do. There is plenty to not do from giving up to selling out.

I’m not one who can speak of greatness personally. I am just an ordinary person who has fought some challenging battles. I wonder an I think about what I do and am supposed to do. I’m probably a lot like you. And I know a lot of you who will read this are doing so when you are discouraged.

So today, remember this one thing; if you aspire to greatness or if you just aspire to be a little more – there is no difference. That is greatness. That inspiration is a gift; and you must act on it. Whether in business, in family, in love, in music, in art, in politics and in faith; do the thing and do it well. Don’t be satisfied with less than you are called to do. For some, you are called to act out in greatness; it’s your turn to do something about it. And the rest of you, stay on the couch and change the channel. Maybe it’s best if you just stay where you are at.

-d

CEO Tip – It’s Okay to lose your Balance

I have an adverse reaction every time I hear someone give advice about living a balanced life. It doesn’t matter who it is, it drives me crazy. I was talking with my pastor and it finally occurred to me what it is.

It seems that this concept of “balance” teaches that there is the perfect middle ground between your priorities that allows you to stay “balanced”.  That if you “balance” your life you can be happier in everything you do.  Not only is it technically impossible to live a balanced life it’s a total farce as a recipe for happiness or success.  

Balance implies every priority is of equal weight in your life. Balance also implies that time spent should be proportionate to your priorities. After all, if something is important to you – you should spend more time on it. I believe both of these assumptions are flat wrong.  Let’s see if I can articulate why.

Suppose I was going to proportionately distribute my time to things that are important to me. My wife is more important to me than my job, so I should spend more waking hours with her than work.  My children are more important to me than my career, so I should spend more time with them than work.  My parents, same thing.  My brothers, my friends, dittos. And then there is my music and writing and composing are also more important to me.  

If I were to live a balanced life, economically speaking I would be a bum. Actually, I’d have no time to be a bum.  My faith in God is my most important thing so I’d be a monk instead, seek exclusion and abandon all other priorities in my life and spend all my time with him.

Maybe that sounds a little extreme.  So lets take a look at this “balance” thing with another approach. Perhaps I am supposed to give all of my priorities equal value?  In that model my wife is equal to my work, etc.  Let’s just stop right there. That won’t work for me at all.

If I am to lead a “balanced life” I either need to spend more time in each area of my life that is important to me and less where it’s not or I need to admit that my life is out of balance. While I would love to spend more time in areas that are important to me, I still choose the later.

I believe in being out of balance.  I believe in being passionate. Out of balance allows me to focus at what needs to get done when it needs to get done. Balance is a principle that leads to moderation and eventually the withering and contraction of good things.

I maintain that being out of balance is a God made principle that creates growth in nature, in relationships, in education, in every area. When you boil water you don’t “balance” the water temperature.  When an airplane takes off from the runway, it doesn’t do it at a balanced speed.  It takes tremendous energy overcoming great resistance to do a thing of any significance.

I like to call these periods of being out of balance “seasons”.  Just like there is a season to plant and a season to harvest there is a season to work hard, and there is a season to play hard.  But this principle does not only apply to planting and harvest time. It’s seasons that make life work.  You don’t balance it out and say, “we just planted 5 minutes now it’s time to harvest 5 minutes.” How absurd is that?

If you make the assertion that less time spent means less value, you are wrong.  It’s impossible to balance your life in this way. Based on that assumption, I should never leave home.  And there is a multitude of things I should never waste my time on because their value is insignificant compared to what’s really important.  I work because I love my family, I love my friends, I work to serve others and in a season of work I am out of balance because of my priorities.

So in Danny’s world, time spent has nothing to do with balance or value.  The second it takes to plant a seed is not equal to the time it takes to grow the seed or the time to harvest.  Which is most important?  Can you have any harvest without the time it takes to plant that seed?

But it’s not just my world in which this “balance” thing doesn’t work. The concept of balance is foolish especially when it comes to economics and politics.  A balanced vote is a no pass.  A balanced government is non decisive.   A balanced view of liberty means you are not free 50% of the time. Balance in a spiritual sense means you are in heaven 50% and hell 50%? Balance is not a good thing in any circumstance where goodness is what is being balanced.  

We can not equally distribute our lives among the things we value, we must be out of balance. Balance is for mediocrity,  I want to be out of balance.  I want to live.

It’s foolish in my mind to try to balance your life because priorities should not be of equal weight. And concerning time management, you  cannot be balanced between your priorities because sometimes it just takes more time to do things that aren’t very important.  

One final thought on balance.  If you believe that balance is a good thing, odds are that you believe you can mitigate the affects of bad decisions, policies or even destructive behavior with balance. That there is an equilibrium that exists.  If I balance my drinking, I won’t become an alcoholic.  The absurdity of this statement is that you don’t spend 50% of your time drinking to become an alcoholic.  Nor does it take drinking 50% of your liquids.  And if someone is an alcoholic, they don’t stop being an alcoholic through moderation.  They have to get out of balance and stop drinking all together.

I’m not saying that you should drink obsessively, that’s even more absurd.  I am saying that the principle of balance is bogus.  The concept of balance as a means to avoid obsessive  excessive behavior is a bogus principle.  It doesn’t work.  You cannot balance or mitigate the affects of a destructive behavior or policy.  You can’t balance it.

It’s an excuse for not taking responsibility and not being accountable.  Whether in relationships, social governance, or drug addiction – balance is an excuse for letting something happen with the false assumption that you can contain the affects.

In conclusion

Personal accountability requires at times for you to be out of balance and that’s a good thing.  In fact, you cannot balance your life.  Sometimes you cannot chose the seasons and sometimes you can. You have to invest in what’s important and sometimes you have to do things that are a complete waste of time. That’s part of the seasons. Don’t deceive yourself with “balance” to make your life work.  You have to make it work.  You have to take action.  

More importantly don’t use balance as an excuse for mediocrity.  You are better than that.  

I probably have angered some of you who are balanced-life believers or advocates.  I don’t really know what to say about that. Perhaps if you believe in it to the level that it would upset you, you are probably out of balance yourselves.

Hmmm.  Now it’s time for me to get back to work.  And I feel good about that decision.  I am supposed to be out of balance right now.

-d