Too busy to do the scary stuff

We have to give ourselves credit – we don’t hide from the hard, scary things in obvious ways.  We get creative, and do things that look similar enough to important stuff that we can fool ourselves.  For example:

  • Yesterday I needed to call someone to have a “fish or cut bait” (that is, are you in or are you out?) conversation.  I calendared it and everything (for me, not for him).  But the calendar reminder came and went, and I kept on doing the “important work” I’d been doing.  Tick, tick, tick….it took a while for me to stand up, walk away from my computer and make the call.  I was probably busier and more productive in those minutes when I was putting off the call than I’d been all day long!
  • The other day I was talking to the founder of a smart new nonprofit.  He’s trying to get 150 institutions of higher learning to make a substantial change in their curriculum.  Right now, for various reasons, he’s focused on getting 1 million signatures to an online petition as ammunition for those meetings (so far he has 8,000 signatures).  Sure, the signatures will help, but why not call the 150 schools right now and talk to them?  Why not commit to calling the first 10 this week?  The strategies can (and will) be complementary, but it also will be easy for him to spend so much time focusing on the 1 million that the 150 (which is the real, harder goal) fades to black.

These are just two of many examples.  We see this every day – we build our websites before we have any customers and hire staff before we have any clients – not because we don’t know what the real work is but precisely because the real work is so much harder, and being busy with stuff that looks a lot like the real work is a wonderful way to hide.

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2 Responses to Too busy to do the scary stuff

  1. Forrest cate says:

    Do you suppose we put off the scary stuff out of fear that we’ll find out that what we are doing isn’t as important or relevant as we want to believe?

  2. Sasha says:

    Forrest, I think we know what the really important things are but because they are important it means that we can fail if we do them. So it feels safer to put them off, for fear that we find out that we’ll fail.

    But of course if we never try to do them we’ve failed already…

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