Activity vs. Progress
I’m seeing it all over the place – desperation. The quiet desperation of an entrepreneur or salesperson who needs sales. Who could blame them? It’s a difficult time for everyone (even those who are growing – and there are plenty of businesses that are growing); and an almost impossible time for some.
Desperation is dangerous for many reasons. Among other problems, desperation begets desperation and repels opportunities. The biggest danger is that it creates a disabling form of myopia that kills productivity. Desperation leads to panic, the brain gets overwhelmed with adrenaline, and the first area of the brain to become dis-impaired is executive function where judgment resides. The ability to prioritize and focus also disappears and this further reduces confidence (which was the original cause of the desperation); and thus a vicious-cycle begins.
Because adrenaline is running high, we become more comfortable “doing things,” and we focus on more and more activity. Because our judgment is impaired, we are neither able to think through the implications of the ideas nor are to focus on effectively executing the good ones. The mind focuses more on “what” we are doing and “how much” we are doing; rather than “why” are doing something and “how well” are we doing it. Because we keep piling more on the plate, we under-allocate resources to a wide variety of actions, under the rationalization that “we don’t know what will work or when, so we need to put it all out there.” The end result of this is that we run around faster and faster and get absolutely nowhere – if we’re lucky (what happens even more frequently is we end up worse off than we started).
The effective approach (albeit much harder – physically and mentally) is to focus on progress rather than activity. To do this, we must – MUST – disconnect from our “problems.” We must work with them as if they were not ours. We must deal with reality and be completely honest in all aspects of our analysis (one of my favorite quotes is, “All Progress Begins With Honesty”). It is far better to eliminate activities and over-allocate resources to them, under the premise of “Do one thing, do it well, then do the next thing.” It requires patience to allow change to occur. At the risk of using a trite analogy, growth starts “below the surface” and if you don’t tend to it, you’ll never see it. This approach requires deliberate, focused action, and effective judgment.
I get how difficult this is, but it’s important to remember that the highest value words to deal with difficult times is “No, we’re not going to do that.”