The Virtues of Procrastination

“You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.” -Aaron Sorkin.

How many of you would have guessed that moderate procrastination is a good thing?

My friend AJ and I took a first step last night: we have started a podcast about the books we read in our mutual journey toward leadership, business, success, and self-discovery! And already, there’s been lots of talk of future procrastination…

In Adam Grant’s TED Talk on “Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers”, procrastination is lauded as: “…a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue when it comes to creativity.” Fantastic! I think I need to hold off on writing more for this blog and go see if I can dig out my Super Nintendo from my old room! Unfortunately, Dr. Grant, a PhD in Organizational Psychology and top-rated professor at Wharton, founded a study that seems to indicate too much procrastination can actually decrease inflow of creative ideas around a project.

Although AJ and I have batted around the idea of a podcast before, truthfully there was never anything we felt mutually motivated to speak about until my journey toward the subtitle of this blog started a few months ago. That makes this particular venture a new idea. A new idea that we are in no particular hurry to publish.

As Grant says:

“Originals are quick to start, but slow to finish.”

We’ve accepted that we want to do this project correctly. We’ve also accepted that it’s likely it will take awhile to get things right. Grant indicates that successful “originals” skip the step in creative creation where you take poor-quality project results personally, and instead, accept them as an inevitability toward making something great.

So, we don’t have a name yet. We might take a year to get our first material out there. There are lots of things we need to learn about podcasting in the meantime…

“The first movers [have] a 47% failure rate compared to 8% for the improvers.” -Grant

All that said, I think we’re on the right track.

You can find Adam Grant’s fantastic TED Talk on “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers” here:

The Hero’s Journey

Another piece to the puzzle of what makes a great leader? The journey.

Think about it. Every great leader I’ve ever heard of is constantly on a journey; I mean literally, they are always traveling. Their stories often take place in cities I have only dreamt of, talking with people I used to believe I’d never have access to, flying thousands and thousands of miles around the earth on deep pockets. While out and about, they nurture and maintain contacts to the point where, because of their vision, their network, and how they treat people, they accomplish great things. These accomplishments create a burning urge to get the message out because the stories are fascinating, and potentially helpful to humankind, while having the added benefit of increasing their influence among the masses.The cycle repeats.

I started this journey seeking employment and somehow it’s turned into so much more than that. Seeking employment meant learning about how to find it effectively, which also meant learning about myself. Learning itself suddenly became valuable to me. Then, I learned that networking was the best possible way to find a way to meet my financial needs. Now I seek connections and listen for the needs of others, with an ever-strengthening belief that I will be provided for. Through continued learning, I realized that I’m a leader, although a novice one, and that is where I will find my bread and butter. I began questing locally to see what it means to be a great leader. I’ve discovered so far that leadership, more than anything else, is about honest self-exploration, a willingness to learn, to grow, to improve. All of these things are building into each other. The more contacts I make, the more books I read, the more my network grows…well, it’s becoming something bigger than me and my needs.

And I realized something today in the shower (where all great ideas come): I think I’m going to have to leave soon. I mean physically. I can see it on the horizon: I have to travel away from home. The time will come soon to start my own “hero’s journey”.

I’m not really sure why it is nascent leaders need to do this, but you see it throughout history. Jesus Christ-the founder of Christianity-pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his home country and he traveled everywhere throughout Samaria and Judea. Saint Paul himself was rumored to have reached all the way to Spain from a journey that started on the road to Damascus-that man started, lead and nurtured several of the earliest Christian churches under threat of death, imprisonment, torture, and a couple of shipwrecks. Saint Thomas (Doubting Thomas!!) was said to have reached India. INDIA in 54BC from Judea! He successfully started a Christian tradition that still exists today and claims him as their founding apostle. Theodore Roosevelt was elected to governor of New York after travelling to Puerto Rico and leading the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War; we know what ends up happening to him. We remember Herman Cortes for bringing the downfall of the Aztec empire through conquest and disease-he wasn’t the best guy, but he was a leader and sailed across an ocean, burning his ships behind him to accomplish the mission of his journey. Sir Edmund Hillary is known for being one of the first to summit Everest and definitely the first to touch both poles as well as summit Everest, ever-nobody would deny his influence. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first two to land on the moon and walk on it, and they carried sway for the rest of their lives (Aldrin is still alive!).

What’s my point? Great leaders travel, inspired to accomplish great things through their journey. For me, my mission or purpose has been clear for a long time, but up until now, I’ve been clueless as to how I get there. I am fantastically glad I didn’t delete this blog, as I considered doing once or twice. I was afraid that my open exploration would reveal that I am a novice leader and that it would end my story before it began. Now, I realize, great leaders share. Though I am not a great leader yet, that this is part of my journey. I hope it inspires others to find ways to accomplish what they are meant to do.

Mosaic Vision

Sitting at Chick Fil’a over delicious chicken-based fare, my friend A.J. and I had a conversation about a leadership opportunity where I wasn’t able to accomplish the goals set out before me. To be fair, the goals were pretty astronomical and the odds of failing were high. That said, it happened, and at the time, it devastated me. A.J., as is often his role in my life, was less focused on my mistakes and more focused on what could have been done better. The line of thought that followed made me consider leadership in a new light.

Have you ever seen one of those collages where the picture of somebody’s face is created out of thousands of tiny pictures?

What if, being a good leader, a good visionary, means that instead of simply trying to create my “big vision”, I interview everyone in my organization, draw out their “small” visions, and piece them together over time?

By doing it this way, I could also throw my full resources into accomplishing the smaller vision goals until such a time as they are either complete or sustained. I might then have budget to throw into the next set of visions.

What results is a big-picture dream work made out of smaller vision pieces that I, as a leader, or as a part of a group of leaders, help to guide and create. Obviously, not every smaller vision makes the cut, but members usually have more than one idea. People generally don’t like change, but if it’s their idea, and comes in small enough parcels, they become enthusiastic about that change, and sell it to everyone else. They are also more likely to buy into the Mosaic vision as a whole.

Credit for this one goes to the sea of books on leadership and business AJ has read and shared with me. Thank you as always, my friend!