Failure to Move is the State of Paralysis

I keep returning to the idea of action (doing) over inaction (thinking). I also have been likening doing vs. thinking as similar to producing vs. consuming.   The problem with the consumption/production dichotomy is that the lines aren’t always clear as to which is which.  Sometimes you have to consume to produce.

Things I consume:

  • food/energy/time (necessary consumption)
  • blogs/books/tweets/email (some necessary, some unnecessary)
  • television (almost entirely unnecessary)

Things I produce:

  • blog posts/emails/ideas (derivative of consumption)
  • work/research/analysis (requires consumption)
  • art
  • well-being

What I mean by producing “well being” is that I create satisfaction through expending effort.  It seems that production takes effort.  I have to push my body through the mild discomforts of squatting 275 lbs. to have the satisfaction (as strange as it is) of a fatigued body.  I have to work through the mental gymnastics of writing out my thoughts to create a blog post.  I have to gather data and cajole understanding to create analysis.  It takes work.

Production has costs.

But perhaps the greatest cost of production is breaking the inertia of not doing anything at all.  Or worse still, imagining all the things you could (should) be doing but never doing any of them.  Not only does all of this low-grade effort fail to produce anything at all, it also reinforces thinking over doing.  It habitualizes inaction.  It amplifies the inertia.

This is why failure to move is the state of paralysis.  It’s a tautology, but it also boils down inaction to it’s most basic component: not doing.

I’ve  been thinking about this lately because I have so many ideas bubbling around in my head, most of which could be “big.”  And it’s that notion that these ideas have huge potential that makes me fear screwing them up.  Meanwhile, by nature of being “big,” they also have explicit costs.  I can very easily envision how much work they will take to make them succeed.  And wouldn’t you know it?  The more I think about them, the harder it becomes to act on them.

And like all productive efforts, all I have to do to break the state of paralysis is to move.

It is that simple.

2 replies on “Failure to Move is the State of Paralysis”

Your production/consumption distinction is an interesting way to look at life. I agree that effortful “production” can be inherently satisfying, and that consumption, whether it be eating, reading or more passively absorbing information is less satsifying.

But the value of what you call “consumption” also depends on whether it is regarded as “cost” or “investment” — to use economic concepts. The most valuable production or output often involves considerable “investment”. For example, good writing or artwork may require a considerable amount of research or experimentation. This can be frustrating and not immediately productive. We can strip all this investment out and focus on immediate “production”, but the quality might suffer.

Spending a lot of time in consumption mode can be frustrating, because there is little to show for it. The problem seems to be in knowing whether the consumption is valuable — whether it will turn out to be an investment with a return, or rather a pure cost. Some costs are necessary, some are frivolous and unnecessary. But it’s not always easy to know which is which. Your television viewing might inspire an incredible idea. Your careful research might lead to a dead end.

I’ve also known people who are always busy, or who look busy, but it’s just pure activity without much real value coming out of the effort. Being busy can be a delusional drug.

Yet, with all those caveats, I do see the merit in being biased towards action over inaction. The main virtue I see is that even if you make a lot of mistakes and false starts, if you approach life with an attitude of learning and rapid self-correction, you’ll often reach a solution or satisfactory outcome fasting by doing (and adjusting) than thinking and planning with excessive caution and deliberation.

I think that if I had thought of my sandals as having a potential for becoming “big” from the beginning, I would have been frozen into inaction. If I had any idea of what it might become then the thoughts of all the business management, taxes, legal entities, accounting/budgeting, payroll would have caused me to drop the idea and just go buy a pair of huaraches instead. Now I am very happy with my decision and will never look back.

The thoughts of expansion scare me but I agree with you. The more I think then the more difficult it becomes to take action. Great post!

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