There’s been a Warren Buffet meme that’s been making its way around:
It links to an interview that includes Buffet and Bill Gates in which Bill Gates is amazed by Warren Buffet’s open calendar.
And it begs a question—
If busy is stupid, why are we so busy?
Busy is stupid, on one level. Busy lets others control our calendar, busy fills our days with things that we might be able to delegate, busy keeps us from paying attention to the things that we say are important (whether that’s longer term things related to our business, or simply having more time for our family, friends, hobbies).
But on another level, busy is very, very smart.
Because busy keeps us safe.
First of all, busy people are rewarded by society. There is an expectation that, if you have any level of success, you are busy. No one questions people who humblebrag about how busy they are.
But there are other rewards, too.
Urgent versus important
When you are busy, you are typically working on things that feel urgent. There is a dopamine reward every time you get one of those things done. It feels good, at a biochemical level. And the more things you do, the more you get that hit. The more productive you are, the more you can get that hit.
I have a CEO client who is the walking definition of this. He swoops in and solves crises. Every day.
But how does this equate to safety? On two levels.
First, the hit is predictable and predictable always feels safe. Predictable means known. I can insert myself into situations where I know or I can figure out the answer.
I’ve got this! I can fix this!
My CEO client has decades of industry experience. He has seen a version of almost every crisis that can come up. He is confident that he can fix it.
But here is the challenge for him. Here is his blind side.
He believes he is the only one who can fix it. And this is a huge limiter for his business.
Like many of us, he grew up believing that the harder you work, the better you are. Free time on his calendar aches to be filled.
He says he wants to expand his business into new product lines and geographies. To work on the business rather than in the business. But that requires asking some big questions—
What does he really want?
Who does he want to be?
What does he want his company to look like in twenty years?
Who is the team who can take him there?
We avoid the big questions because they are uncomfortable
These questions require time. They require contemplation. They have no easy answers. The decisions you make today could take years to play out.
And all of that feels the opposite of safe.
Are you busy? Busier than you say you want to be?
Have a little compassion for yourself, for the part of your brain that wants to keep you safe.
But then walk toward that discomfort.
Because what you actually want is on the other side of it.