The old crocodile was floating at the river’s edge when a younger crocodile swam up next to him,
“I’ve heard from many that you’re the fiercest hunter in all of the river bottoms. Please, teach me your ways.”
Awoken from a nice long afternoon nap, the old crocodile glanced at the young crocodile with one of his reptilian eyes, said nothing and then fell back asleep atop the water.
Feeling frustrated and disrespected, the young crocodile swam off upriver to chase after some catfish, leaving behind a flurry of bubbles. “I’ll show him”, he thought to himself.
Later that day the young crocodile returned to the old crocodile who was still napping and began to brag to him about his successful hunt,
“I caught two meaty catfish today. What have you caught? Nothing? Perhaps you’re not so fierce after all.”
Unphased the old crocodile again looked at the young crocodile, said nothing, closed his eyes and continued to float atop the water as tiny minnows muched away lightly at the algae on his underbelly.
Again, the young crocodile was angry he couldn’t get a response from the elder, and he swam off a second time upstream to see what he could hunt.
After a few hours of thrashing about he was able to hunt down a small crane. Smiling, he kept the bird in his jaws and swam back to the old crocodile, adamant about showing him who the true hunter was.
As the young crocodile rounded the bend, he saw the elder crocodile still floating in the same spot near the river’s edge.
However, something had changed — a large wildebeest was enjoying an afternoon drink just inches near the old crocodile’s head.
In one lightning fast movement, the old crocodile bolted out of the water, wrapped his jaws around the great wildebeest and pulled him under the river.
Awestruck the young crocodile swam up with the tiny bird hanging from his mouth and watched as the old crocodile enjoyed his 500 lb meal.
The young crocodile asked him, “Please… tell me… how… how did you do that?”
Through mouthfuls of wildebeest, the old crocodile finally responded,
“I did nothing.”
Doing what matters vs. busy-bragging
When I was first building Jotform, I was a lot like the young crocodile — believing that I always had to be doing something to get results.
Back then, if someone would have told me that I would see greater results by spending more time doing nothing, I would have rolled my eyes and continued to chip away at my 16 hour day of work.
I thought that in order to be successful, I had to constantly be building, working, growing and developing the next thing — whatever that “thing” was.
All of us have a problem with busyness. But being busy and being successful are not one in the same. And, I think if we were to make “doing nothing” more of a priority, we might find ourselves catching more wildebeests versus measly catfish.
It worked for me, and I hope it can work for you, too.
But, doing less or nothing at all is easier said than done, especially in a society that suffers from extreme busyness. Let’s take a closer look at our unhealthy obsession with staying busy…
The extreme busyness epidemic.
Mankind has struggled with busyness since the beginning of time — or at least since 425 BC when Homer walked the Earth.
The Odyssey tells the tale of the Lotus-eaters — a strange people that slothed around all day long eating lotus and doing nothing. And, what was stranger than fiction was that these people were content with their lives.
Homer wrote that after some of Odysseus’s crew ate the Lotus-eaters Lotus fruit (say that three times fast), they became like the Lotus-eaters — content, relaxed and a bit lethargic.
Terrified that if all of his men ate the lotus fruit they would be unmotivated to return home, Odysseus ordered the affected men to be tied to the ship benches and for the ship to set sail immediately.
It ’s interesting, Odysseus’s reaction to this feeling of “doing nothing” sounds similar to the Corporate CEO, the Startup Founder and the collegiate football coach we know today — hardcore workaholics that despise anything that might allude to a sense of complacency.
Though, they of course are just the tip of a much larger societal iceberg that feels frozen with fear at the thought of doing nothing.
The world as a whole now measures value in terms of busyness versus quality of work. In many ways, it has become something of a status symbol to be “busy”.
How many times have you heard or had a conversation like this…
“How have you been lately, Mark?”
“Oh man, just insanely busy!”
“That’s awesome to hear man — keep killing it!”
We’ve grown to subconsciously measure a person’s worth based off how many hours they work, how much is on their plate and put simply — whether or not they are running around like a chicken with their head cut off.
In Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week, he pokes fun at this idea by facetiously saying that if you want a promotion, you should appear to be more busy by working longer hours, scrambling around and constantly answering emails.
But, sooner or later, all of us have to ask ourselves what our mission is — is it to be the busiest or is it to make the most impact?
And, what’s fascinating is that when we look at some of the greatest minds to grace planet Earth, we see an interesting commonality — they all make time for doing nothing.
The power of doing nothing at all
Making time in your life to do nothing can be challenging — especially during the work week where we are constantly pummeled and bombarded with meetings, notifications and an ever growing list of tasks.
Busy founders have started implementing “Think Weeks” into their annual schedules — week long periods they spend reflecting, reading, thinking and living outside the all-encapsulating world that is running a business.
While young founders like Skillshare’s Mike Karnjanaprakorn have adopted this practice, as well as big names like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Ferriss, it was Bill Gates who originally made the Think Week famous.
For many years while running Microsoft, Gates would retreat into week long Think Weeks twice a year — not vacations, but actual periods of time dedicated to doing nothing.
Gates was so adamant about his Think Weeks that family, friends and Microsoft employees were banned. Today, Gates attributes much of Microsoft’s success to the big ideas and concepts he stumbled upon while doing nothing.
On implementing “nothing” time.
You don’t necessarily have to ban family and friends to retreat into a Think Week, though. Take me as an example.
Every year, I take at least a full week off from my company and head back to my hometown to help my parents with the olive harvest.
All thoughts of startup growth or conversion rates slip away when you’re picking olives. It’s meditative and calming.
I know that olive picking won’t land me at the top of TechCrunch, but it’s a personal measure of success. And somehow, some of my best ideas come to me during this period.
For someone who can’t take an entire week off of work once a year to do nothing, I recommend taking a slightly different approach — embracing the digital sabbath.
On either Saturday or Sunday, force yourself to step away from all forms of technology — a practice known as a digital sabbath.
Shut off your smartphone and hide it in your closet. Powerdown the laptop and slide it under your bed. And, try with all your might to refrain from binge-watching Netflix.
Give your brain space to think by stepping away from the daily grind and doing nothing. Your mind will have time to stumble upon new ideas and further process old ones.
You may find the success that results from this practice to be similar to that of the old crocodile at the beginning of this article.
While we tell ourselves we can achieve more by scrambling, sometimes it’s better to close our eyes and just float.
And, wait, until the wildebeest shows up.
Thanks for reading!
Hi Aytekin Tank, Thanks for reflecting on your original thoughts and genuine content! to be honest I was floating like a crocodile for 2 minutes reading your article. Keep them more coming!
Nice Article, Keep provide this kind of information.
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thank you very much george santo pietro
Wow, this is very interesting reading. I found a lot of things which I need. Great job on this content. I like it.worth vee
Thanks for you very much
one of the best and a meaningful article, I have read so far... CEO jotform should start a new content related business.
Thanks for the article. It says many truths and breaks old patterns. For sure I will try to apply in my own life!
this article made my day! it's is inspirational.
This was a good read. I v gotten a piece or 2 out of this. Thank you...
I couldn't agree more with this article. Really profound,????
It's greatly inspiring and hope most of us will stick on it!
Interesting write up with much to learn. The art of doing nothing..a good practice to engage in
Story of two crocodiles is indeed a lesson not only for corporate world, also for people working in other sectors. What I felt is of 80/20 principal that gives us success and not by showcasing of busyness.
Great article.I got more information from ur article.Thank u for sharing.
It's very providing very useful information. thanks for sharing this post.
Thanks for such a wonderful post! I really enjoyed reading. Moreover, the layout / look and feel of your blog is simply amazing. I am inspired to create a such layout for my site as well.
Before publishing again, you'll want to change the spelling to "unfazed."
Unphased the old crocodile again looked at the young crocodile
Thank you for sharing this idea of doing nothing and mentioning the think week. Its unbelievable what comes from our minds when we give it time to process and start to pop up with brilliance.
As a longtime Jotform user and small business owner, I just wanted to say thank you. I really enjoy your posts - I value your perspective greatly as it comes from someone who has a) crafted a successful and useful application while b) maintaining a human perspective. That is encouraging to hear and gives me hope that I can get there as well!
Thank you again and keep up the great work, both here and with JotForm...
I like this article. I am a stay at home mom with one child. I clean and cook and do lots of stuff for my son. I go to yoga 4 times a week.
I constantly get, "What do you do all day?" And "You should get a job".
I am happy staying home, doing my thing and quite frankly nothing! I can go to yoga and stand on my head and breathe.
Thought provoking great article. Thanks.
Nice article & agree to your views. Like to implement suggestions like think week or weekly one day sabatial fm digital
Great article- Thanks for sharing! Totally agree 'mental chatter' breaks are so important to our creativity and overall health. Sometimes the problem is NOT you not wanting to take "do nothing time" but other people not letting you have that time that makes it difficult. I may not be able to have a ThinkWeek, but having mini-meditation-minutes or what I call: "think nothing minutes" throughout the day works for me...for now. But still working towards the whole week:)
This is good wisdom, but sure isn't easy for some of us!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience, Aytekin!
Excellent post. So important to enjoy the moment. Enjoying all the moments of a week is even better.
Parabéns pela bela reflexão. Acredito que na transição da escrita para era digital a filosofia seja uma grande alternativa.
Obrigada. Bom final de semana.