Nothing Happens Next—This is It
“New Yorker cartoon: Two Zen monks in robes and shaved heads, one young, one old, sitting side by side cross-legged on the floor. The younger one is looking somewhat quizzically at the older one, who is turned toward him and saying: “Nothing happens next. This is it.””
—From “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn
I guess in some ways a Zen monk has the perfect job. No disruptive forces, no revenue model to worry about, no employees, a simplified wardrobe, no iPhone to lose, just mentees to enlighten with minimal conversation.
I quite like the cartoon referenced above. I’m sure that if we all took some time to reflect, be still, and appreciate the present we would all be better off.
If you have been in a leadership role for a long time you’ve seen the pace of business and life outside of business ramp up to warp speed. It’s not all due to electronic devices and it’s certainly not all bad. It is, however, not always healthy and speed paired with uncertainty and complexity can lead to disastrous decisions.
Speed can be an advantage. Playing the game faster than your competitor can help you win the day. However, I believe that you must also frequently slow the game down.
If you don’t currently have a practice of finding a quiet space and turning off the noise for a bit, I strongly recommend it.
Even after you’ve built a thriving business or a successful career, you cannot just stop any more than a fish can quit swimming. If you don’t look for what is next, you’ll soon be irrelevant, broke or both. The trick, I believe, is to balance stillness with future focus; satisfaction with the desire to learn, improve and do more.
I’m reading the mindfulness book referenced above, because I’m fascinated by dichotomies in leadership and business. One of those is introducing some calm into the calamity of the daily routine.
I don’t offer meditative retreats in my coaching and consulting practice. As far as I know, ohm is some kind of electrical measurement. I do, however, frequently find myself asking my clients how they can be still and reflect. It is usually a function of giving yourself permission and then summoning the discipline to do it. “I don’t have time” is crap. You might as well admit, “I have the impulse control of a five year old.”
Once you’ve decided to schedule time to be still and one of your people walks into your office looking for an immediate answer to a gnat of a problem, sees you sitting still with your eyes closed and asks, “What are you doing?” you can answer, “Nothing. This is it.”
coaches CEOs to higher levels of success. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000 people. Todd is the author of, Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing).