Thought vs. action

One of the most qualified financial advisers I’ve known was such a perfectionist that he spent most of his time researching, critiquing, testing, revising different business concepts that he almost never got around to actually doing anything that would build his business. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I am inclined to jump right in and learn as I go along. Those who work with me may become frustrated by sudden and often dramatic changes in business strategy triggered by gains in the learning curve.

We live in an “action beats inaction” culture. Leadership in our society requires that we heed the call “Don’t just sit there, do something!” Yet I try to give ample weight to the counter eastern philosophy that says “Don’t do something, just sit there”. There is a third philosophy that says thought and action are one and the same once we reach a state of spiritual transcendence; I don’t have enough grasp to even comment further on that.

Underlying the action/thought discussion for me are two core values that often seem to be in conflict. Being a force of positive disruptive societal change seems to require plenty of action ahead of the curve. It means going it alone on untested positions; testing and adjusting positions as you go along. Yet a core value of tolerance and acceptance of diversity requires restraint. Keeping quiet and uninvolved often turns out to be the smartest thing we could do. I would go as far as to say that most of the professional recognition and financial success I’ve had is directly attributable to the action principle and that most off the goodwill and perception of leadership skill is attributable to times I’ve demonstrated the thought principle.

The important thing – and the purpose of this post – is to acknowledge that somewhere there must be an optimal balance between thinking and doing. Finding that balance is likely to remain a long term challenge for some of us.


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