You Are Not A Human Doing

The Importance of Being Present / CACtackk.02

It is hard to work with early-stage entrepreneurs and not find oneself constantly advising folks to just act. Just make the next call, schedule the next meeting, do the next thing on the to do list. In early stage ventures momentum is a magic ingredient, and getting momentum more often than not requires taking action. After all, the very thought of starting something implies actually doing; not just thinking or talking or planning. And yet I couldn’t help but be struck recently by a sign hanging in the home of a friend that offered the exact opposite instruction.

It read “Don’t just do something, sit there.”

At first I thought it was a typo, or that perhaps I had read it wrong. But no, in fact, it was counseling me to stop my relentless doing and simply be present. Once I got my head around the phrase I realized just how much power was unleashed by turning the old phrase, “Don’t just sit there, do something” on its head.

First, and perhaps most important, it gave me permission to stop. This is hard for me to do; especially once I build up a head of steam. But the simple fact is that when we stop we see things very differently than when we’re racing forward. So stopping can actually be quite revealing. Second, it reminded me of the importance of patience as part of any building process. Sometimes things just have to unfold at their natural pace, regardless of the pace we want to set for them. When that’s true we might as well sit still and catch our breath rather than stomp around as though our activity will somehow alter the nature of things. And lastly, these words reminded me once again of the fundamental truth that we are all human beings, not human doings. And as such, the urge to do, do, do does very little but trick us into thinking that we are the accumulation of our doing vs. the personification of our being.

So next time you find yourself building up a really good head of steam, convinced that if you could just get one or two or three more things done everything would turn out better, consider the possibility that the most powerful thing you can do to move forward is just be present.