Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.
– Miles Davis
While finishing and reflecting upon a recent post exploring leadership and the necessity of action, I was reminded how often the converse is true: There is also the necessity of inaction.
Plenty of thought leaders and big thinkers have written of the power of the subconscious including Tim Ferriss, Malcolm Gladwell, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and others. The fact is we are working on solving problems constantly – we’re just not always aware of it.
For entrepreneurs and good business people, their passions are part of who they are. Sitting down to debate and discuss an issue or strategy is productive (as long as that time allowed for it is limited). However, most often, the real problem solving occurs outside the meeting and maybe even while you’re asleep.
Very early in Robert Grudin’s Time and The Art of Living, comes this passage:
Fast drivers can see no further than slow drivers, but they must look further down the road to time their reactions safely. Similarly, people with great projects afoot habitually look further and more clearly into the future than people who are mired in day-to-day concerns. These former control the future because by necessity they must project themselves into it; and the upshot is that, like ambitions settlers, they stake out larger plots and homesteads of time than the rest of us. They do not easily grow sad or old; they are seldom intimidated by the alarms and confusions of the present because they have something greater of their own, some sense of their large and coherent motion in time, to compare the present with.
More often than not, the fire drills of the day can wait. Or better yet, they have a way of taking care of themselves without you. We are becoming conditioned increasingly to act, rate, respond, and generally do, when that doing may or may not play a part in the something “greater.”
Knowing When to Act, Knowing When Not to Act
If you’ve started a new marketing initiative, for example, you have to wait until you get a good and reliable data set to know your next steps. If you’re tracking a prospect that looks promising, you have to know when you’ve done everything you can for that prospect, then wait – patiently and respectfully.
Acting for the sake of acting, doing for the sake of doing, and mistaking busyness for business lead to nothing productive. And, those paths are usually counterproductive.
After all, deciding upon inaction is a conscious decision to not take action – a form of action in and of itself.