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The Value of Doing Nothing

We live in an age of speed and opportunity unlike anything mankind has ever known. There is freedom to build a business or create a product cheaper and faster than ever. While a lot of books and motivational speakers tell us how to push forward even faster and further, there are some important words and phrases that seem to have gotten lost in all of this forging ahead. Words and phrases like:

  • Pause
  • Hold
  • Wait
  • Don’t change
  • Stop
  • Not yet

These words don’t fit neatly in our modern business lexicon.

Ready. Fire! Aim?
The fact is, the words and phrases from that list have an image problem. They’re seen as hindrances to forward progress. They’re seen as limiting factors to achieving success. They’re viewed kind of like that little devil on your shoulder whispering into your ear.

Those are pretty limited perspectives on the words. In fact, I think we could make the argument that in a world moving faster than ever these words have likely never been so valuable to us. When was the last time you stopped long enough to think about whether the path you’re following is even leading you in the right direction? When was the last time you asked yourself which things you should stop doing? You have a “to do” list but where’s your “to don’t” list?

Our world moves so quick that we’re getting used to this speed and it’s not always good for us. I know there are plenty of people out there who still need a kick in the pants to get going, but this post isn’t for them. It’s for those of us who go hard and are determined to move ahead. If you’re reading this post you’re more likely to be in that camp than the “get off your seat and get going” camp. This is for you.

The Value of Doing Nothing
I sat in a meeting with several entrepreneurs yesterday. Among the various people in the group, one guy has a music production company here in Nashville and another has a  lawn and landscaping company. They are both successful and driven to grow but they both described situations in front of them that need to be resolved. Ironically, as we learned the specifics about their situations and contemplated the opportunities and threats, both guys decided to do nothing. That’s right. They’re going to do exactly nothing right now because it doesn’t make sense or the timing isn’t right. They were both relieved when it was all said and done. The idea of doing nothing didn’t seem like a reasonable option before the conversation but after talking about it they realized that was the wisest thing after all.

Yes, we want to be bold and visionary and agressive in our business but we want to be smart too. Smart business means knowing that holding or pausing or stopping something altogether is just as much a card you can play as charging ahead.

I, for one, have thought more about this idea and have found that the value of doing nothing, if only for a while, can far outweigh the need to act now. Sometimes the smartest action you can take is no action at all.

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  • http://www.brandaiddesignco.com Jeremy Mansfield

    Great write up, Bill. I’ve not seen anybody push this message out, but it’s something we all know we need to do. It takes maturity to respond and not react both personally and professionally. Even harder for us type A’s that move fast and do need to slow down.

    • http://www.microexplosion.com bseaver

      Thanks Jeremy. Agreed. I’m preaching to myself here as much as anything.

  • Alycia Neighbours

    We certainly live in a world that pushes us to associate “action” with “success.” The preemptive strike is glorified and the one who laughs last stands alone.

    Wonderful article about slowing down to view the big picture and realizing that the clarity that comes in silence is sometimes the biggest things we miss.

    • http://www.microexplosion.com bseaver

      Thanks for the comment Alycia. Well said!