Vail Daily column: Get stuff done
I’m a fan of moments when the conversation is so good that you don’t care if you just threw something onto the floor. Dave Argo and I were standing only a foot or so away from each other at the Habitat for Humanity Carpenter’s Ball, the group’s annual fundraiser, just a few weekends ago. The event connects volunteers, staff and folks who love good food and drink. They talk about the impact that Habitat has on families in the community. A family speaks. You should consider attending next year.
It was during the event that Dave and I had the best conversation of the evening. The topic: getting stuff done. As we looked around the room, both of us commented on how much in talent, influence, resources and ability was present in the crowd. Between the two of us, we could name at least 100 people, describe their contributions and their priorities. Unfortunately, we could also likely identify obstacles.
“Imagine what we could accomplish if we helped all these people see what we see.”
It was after this little exercise that one of us turned to the other and while emphatically gesturing, knocked an entire plate of food onto the floor. I’m not going to comment further on the owner of the food or the originator of the emphatic gestures.
After the event, I was standing quietly, drinking a last cup of coffee before leaving and trying to calm my mind down. The words kept on rolling over and over through my head. Imagine what we could accomplish …
The next day when I woke up, I was still thinking about it. I don’t like the word “could.” In fact, in the phrase itself, when I read the word “could” I actually get a little angry. I’ve said the word “could” plenty of times in my life, and I’ve been using it for more years than I’d care to reveal. I “could” and everyone “could” do all sorts of things. So why don’t we?
The rational and reasonable voice within most of us will see the use of the word “could” as an essential human evil. It’s a hedge bet. It allows us to look back when the going gets tough, or when things blow up in our face, and brush off the failure as if the universe itself were responsible. We tried, and now we can retreat. We did our part. It simply wasn’t to be. It could have been done, but it just didn’t happen. It wasn’t as easy, as comfortable or as simple as we wish it would have been.
Does vocabulary really matter all that much? I’m not sure. In my case, however, I’ve seen people take on some pretty interesting battles when they’ve used the words “I will” instead. As a young 20-something I had a mentor who would only ever allow me to respond “it’s done” to an order. This act of commitment was frustrating at times, but it resulted in pushing limits and accomplishing things that I would not have accomplished otherwise.
I’m starting to think that as we get older we start to see more and more vocabulary like this as simply a foray into platitudes. We dismiss the responsibility of accomplishment, and replace it with the mere responsibility of attempt. We get knocked down once or twice or a hundred times during a particular quest, and we call it good. We let the fight die off within us. People don’t usually drown by falling into the water — they drown when they stop fighting to get out of it.
Further, when we talk about getting things done for ourselves or others, we tend to talk about doing our “best.” What does doing your best even mean? There is no “best.” There is simply doing and not doing. Action and inaction — just like Yoda said (platitude?). Skills increase and wane — and it doesn’t matter that much.
So what does matter when it comes to getting stuff done? I believe it has very little to do with doing things to the “best” of your ability. Most people who get things done aren’t truly the “best” at anything — at least not at first. Usually, the people who are getting things done aren’t necessarily people with high levels of resources either. People usually perform not to the best of their abilities but to the best of their willingness to perform.
And so, when we ask ourselves about what we want to do, the next question should always center around our own willingness and the price we are willing to pay to get it done.
Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546.