Sunday, July 25, 2010

Silence is Golden

I’m on vacation.

It’s nothing elaborate.

I haven’t gone off to some ritzy vacation resort where all the family members are overwhelmed with stuff to do.

I haven’t gone to a remote place that requires a PhD to plan how to get a family there and back again without losing someone along the way.

The thought of such a vacation exhausts me just thinking about it.  I thought vacations were created to help us rest, not run us down further.

What I have done is unplugged from my day-to-day regimen and taken some time to recharge in the middle of a cross-country move.

No client emails or voicemails …. no meetings.

Almost (yes, almost) no social media interaction.  Yep .. almost no Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the other services I am a member of.  Surprisingly and contrary to popular opinion, you can cut back significantly and still do quite well mentally.

Very few people know where we are.

It’s just me, my family (all but my oldest son), some good books that I’ve been meaning to finish for a year or more and practically no agenda.

Yes … I do have a cross-country move to finish and I will return to it.

However, right now as ocean breezes blow in through the window of the place we are in and the moon casts its glow across the gentle ocean ripples, I am reminded of something we all lose sight of on occasion.

Silence is golden … truly golden.

The silence was deafening at first.  My greatest worry was “How would I survive without all the activity in my life, most of which was taking place in my mind?”

However, as the calmness pervaded my sense of being, I realized that much of the activity in my life is not actually bringing the value that I would expect it to bring to myself, my family, my clients or anyone else.

It is just noise.

Vilfredo Pareto had it right with his Pareto Principle – 80% of the activity in my life is contributing to 20% of the value.  Conversely, the remaining 20% of the activity is producing 80% of the value.

How did I allow the 80% of activity to become what it is?

Well, I believe that we get so overwhelmed with information overload that we don’t even notice after a while.  It’s the boiling frog analogy all over again – the frog sitting in the pot of cold water on the stove doesn’t notice the gradual increase in the water temperature until it boils to death.

Whether apocryphal or not, the analogy is perfect.

Until we actually take time to silence all the activity around us, especially inside our mind, then we lose sight of the ability to truly understand the difference between activity and productivity; between action and traction.

It is easy for each of us to proclaim how productive we are all the time.  However, as with many afflictions, personal productivity is practically impossible to self-assess.  Only by asking others (e.g. family, friends, clients) or by using specific, measurable criteria can we determine how well we are doing in life.

Until we do that, we may be surprised to know the truth.

We may be angry at the feedback we receive.

We may be embarrassed or disappointed.

In addition, we may be afraid to slow down because we all want to believe the world will shrivel up and die without us.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Only our ego could dream up such a thing.

So given that the world will merrily continue to function quite well without us, what would it hurt us to occasionally put our hand up and say “Stop – I need a minute to think”.

I just did …. and I must tell you that the result was delicious, invigorating and revitalizing.  It is providing me with greater insight and clarity into upcoming projects.

We are happy to spend thousands on the latest gimmick du jour to help us improve our productivity.

Sometimes the greatest thing we can do is nothing at all … just for a little while.

Are you ready to give it a try?

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Silence is Golden”, please click here.