“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is important.” Steve Jobs
We are busy people in a very busy world. Electronic gadgets consume us. A device has been created to do anything you want it to do. If it does not exist, just wait a few months. One will be invented.
Do you like to be busy? For some ambitious folks, busyness feels very comfortable. Throughout the years, I have heard countless comments on their appreciation for staying busy. Familiar comments include:
It makes the time go by fast.
I would rather be doing something than sitting here doing nothing.
It is healthier to stay busy.
It keeps the boss off my back.
Being busy is an approach that has supporters. It sounds right. On the surface, it appears to be a path toward productivity. And production leads to success. Right? What do you think?
Manufacturers sell products. They measure production in the factory. Every step is audited for speed and efficiency. Reduced cost is one of the goals which lead to a profitable company. Makes sense, right?
But efficiency is really only part of any success formula. And in my thinking, it is not even half of the equation. The plan for effectiveness is really the first decision. And, to discover productiveness, we need to answer a few questions.
What is the goal? What do we really want to achieve? In the factory, it may be very simple. The need to produce Product A that is our bestseller. Not much room for making a wrong decision. But manufacturers do get this wrong. And if they produce a product that is not selling today, then inventory quickly rises, sales plummet and all the efficiency in the world will not save a company that is making the wrong product. Have you ever felt like you were working really hard, but getting nowhere?
There are many examples in the history of companies that continued to make the wrong product with disastrous results. As Monday morning quarterbacks, we read numerous articles about businesses that made wrong choices. Or, they made no choice at all, which turns out to be a choice, a deadly one.
This topic is not as easy when it comes to review in our personal lives. It is too individual and too important. In a busy life, amidst much clutter, is it even possible to discover what we should be doing? What we are meant to do? How can we concentrate on effectiveness first before efficiency?
I am reminded of a song in the ‘60s by the Loving Spoonful. The lyrics point us in the direction of one really important question in life.
“Did you ever have to make up your mind?
And pick up on one and leave the other behind?
It’s not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?”
What do you want to be when you grow up?
The answer may not be easy, and some who surround you may not like or agree with your choice. It may require a change, leaving something behind and embracing a new way of living.
The question sounds appropriate for grammar school or high school students. College kids, too. On many occasions, I have heard parents complain about a child who has not decided on a major despite being in their junior year of college.
We understand the relevancy for young people. We comprehend the parents’ concern for children who are college students. But the question is appropriate for all of us throughout life.
What do you want to be when you finally decide (grow up)? Have you really ever decided? Is what you are doing today what you really want to do in life? Have you grown up?
In our busy world, the decades-old Loving Spoonful lyrics are appropriate. We may need to leave some things behind, choices we no longer make, so that we can choose what we really want to do in life. Being busy can get in the way. If our life is filled with hours of action that isn’t relevant to what we really should be doing, then efficiency at doing these things means just missile speed to disappointment and perhaps failure. And despite the perception of busyness and the propelling of our world toward this model, being busy at the wrong things leaves no time to do what is right. No time to even find out what is right. No time. Do you ever feel like there are just not enough hours?
What should we be doing? A great question for our choice of a career in life. But this question is also for those in retirement, for those just starting out – for young and old. And yes, it is a great question regarding the job in which you are currently engaged. Being busy may get us positive attention from our supervisor. And our co-workers may appreciate our efforts. But, is this success?
Every job needs to be effective. Doing the kind of things that bring success. Achievement of the most important goals. Not consumption of time. Time can be our enemy if we are investing it in the wrong actions.
If you are busy, doing the right thing is going to make you hugely successful. There is no better path to success than doing efficiently with much effort what we are meant to do.
Want a winning formula? One guaranteed to work?
With a great attitude and much effort, be busy at doing the right thing.
Current job. Find out what achieves success. Daily do what works. Be effective first.
Career.Are you doing what you were meant to do? If not, carve out a different path. Discover your intersection of passion and strength.
Retirement.Refuse to be just busy. Have a plan. Find joy in your life.
Young and old. Answer the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
“Did you ever have to finally decide?
And say yes to one and let the other one ride.
There are so many changes and tears you must hide.
Did you ever have to finally decide?”
I wish for you very few tears as you journey forward in life. No one wants to acknowledge the reality of doing the wrong thing for decades. No one wants to find out that they are ineffective in their current work. How would you evaluate your career, current job, retirement or school? Are you being effective?
Today, I need to decide . . .