Remember the old adage: all work and no play make Jack a very dull boy? I recently faced this on a different level.
I consume quite a bit on a regular basis. Not physical or material goods. Books.
I promote doing it, too. I have advocated for the mantra of our public library system at meetings, conversations, and presentations I have given. Read to learn, grow, and have meaningful conversations with others.
Several months ago, after reading a Seth Godin book gifted to me by a friend, I began to contemplate how I was using the information I was accumulating and whether or not I was allowing the noble mission of continuous improvement to interfere with the practical mission of Getting Things Done (great book by David Allen, by the way).
Recently though this really came to a head. I am fortunate to have found a small number of friends that share my interest in acting as each other’s advisory council. This conclave of wisdom has been a fabulous resource of inspiration and motivation. But it comes with the price of confrontation.
At our most recent gathering, I was the focus of the discussion and the accountability grilling challenged the very fiber of my beliefs:
“You need to stop reading and actually get something done.”
Don’t get me wrong. I was doing things that mattered. They were helping me focus. But still… that smarts.
I’m a very literal person, so initially and for a very brief moment the words struck me as heresy. Stop reading? Of course, this was a very, very brief moment because the deeper message is what was really at stake.
The real message here is to take action with what you’ve learned and produce something. There are a couple ways of looking at this.
The first is to actually use what you’ve read. To transmute the information consumed into something you or others can use, or that will contribute to the community in some way.
There is a lot of great information that can be read, but what good is it if it is never put to action? I don’t think every idea from every publication should be implemented to the letter every time a new book is read. I do, however, believe that we should be critically evaluating what we learn and how some aspect can be applied.
The Seth Godin book that I mentioned earlier is a good example. Not everything in the book applied to me because most of the book was about believing in yourself enough to “step off the curb” so to speak. Another part was about actually sending it. As Mr. Godin likes to say, to “ship.” To have the courage to send your creation out into the world and to engage customers. This “shipping” part was what I needed to focus on.
If we are going to take the time to consume this great information from these great resources, don’t we owe it to ourselves to do something with it?
The second is to not let reading or the growth of knowledge be the excuse for something not getting done. This is close cousin to “paralysis by analysis” only less direct.
We’re not going to be 100% ready for everything we do. There is always going to be some level of ambiguity or something we don’t completely know, but that can’t stop us from moving forward.
When you think about it, this is really fear preventing action. Fear that we won’t know how to deal with something. Fear that something will go wrong. Fear that it won’t be a smashing success. I could go on and on. We can’t let this happen.
Napoleon Bonaparte is credited as saying, “Engage and see what happens.” or something close to that. At some point you simply have to engage. There is only so much preparation that can be done and then you just need to see what happens.
So what about that “boring” part of this post title?
I’ve come to embrace the serendipity of “see what happens.” I’ve come to find that it is what makes our lives rich with experience and wisdom. It is those tales of entrepreneurial or personal swashbuckling that make life worth living. That instill the swagger in our step upon success or “contribute to our character” when things don’t go as planned.
Sure, there is some trepidation associated with actually engaging, but the adventure is worth it.
I’m still going to listen to books on CD in my car and I’m still going to read physical books, but I’m also going to engage. The rough draft of a new book is complete and initial critiques have come in. Revisions are in the works. Look for a finished product soon.
For now, consider this shipped.