To be or to do?

To Be or To Do? (That is the real question.)
By: Douglas G. Garner

For hundreds of years we all thought that Shakespeare’s Hamlet spoke of the real struggle between life and death in Hamlet’s soliloquy in the beginning of Act III but I believe the struggle that we all suffer is how to manage the polarities of life, being or doing. Do we do (work) so we can be (rest)? Or do we be (rest) so we can do (work)?

People have struggled with this for years. Just think about the number of people you know who worked all of their lives (at work they detested) simply to save and look forward to retirement. Or the people who didn’t work hard but still were not able to make a go of it. In both cases, I believe what was missing is the balance of one with the other.

Have you ever met somebody who was really in tune with their vocation? Someone who seemed to be in the “flow”, connected with their soul and moving to their own “beat?” I know it sounds as though a cliché but I don’t know a better way of describing it.

There were times in my career when I felt like this, when I seemed to be doing something that came naturally, almost effortlessly. Leading a group’s problem solving discussion was one example I recall fondly.

I had been approached by one of our corporate sales people complaining about how long it took to get an order approved, manufactured and shipped to Poland. First of all I realized immediately that something going overseas was fraught with different variables but even I was shocked when I asked “how long does it usually take?” And his answer, quite quickly, was “Nine months!”

Wow, can you imagine some Buyer being able to project an order at least nine months out? Well, I quickly found out our industry was a bit longer scheduling but our competition was getting it to customers in six months.

Well, to make a long story short, we pulled together a cross functional team to look at every step in the process and we found many steps that could be eliminated, shortened, run concurrently and other improvements that led to a reduction in turn- around to 3 months. Needless to say the sales person, having sat through the hours and weeks of discussions was very happy with the results and I got a few pats on the back and thank-yous from a variety of folks.

The fact that I was “grooving” in all of those meetings and getting people to look at the situation from other sides and thinking like “us” instead of “them” made me super charged with what I was contributing.

We had been managing the doing AND the being. Everybody in the process began to look at their piece of the puzzle as having activities (that could be changed) and image or symbolism or “brand” that had to be managed. It was not enough to just do your 9 hours (less lunch) and then go home. All of the doing had to be connected to our being. Both, what was done and how it was perceived by the people, internal and external.

Another example was doing an accident investigation like a ‘root cause’ analysis to uncover corrective steps to eliminate a hazard or the potential of a similar injury in the future.  These were the times when I could ask open ended questions. I could see peoples’ faces and tell whether they were troubled with something or had an idea that should be offered for consideration.

I could be so blunt to ask them, to say what was on their mind, to get an issue on the table for people to consider. Invariably, these were the breakthroughs that led to improvements and the small celebrations and satisfaction of peoples’ work.
So was I doing or was I being in those moments? It seemed like I was just being because it was fun and I didn’t feel like I had to work at it.

You know, that’s the key. If it feels like work then it is. It’s doing not being.
Is it possible to make a living not working?

I’ll be honest, I’ve searched for many years to find the right mix for me but I let the old “society push” lead me astray. “Society Push” is the explicit and implicit motivations we all receive to do more, buy more, have more, to show we are succeeding.

Of course we know that our consuming makes up 70% of our economy. The media reminds us every time they report on the economy or unemployment. If we’re not buying then somebody loses their job. But does that drive more doing and less being?

The advertising that tells us we need the bigger car, the bigger house, the fancier clothes, the fancy meals in the fancy restaurants. Or maybe it’s your spouse’s observation that your friends seem to be doing better because of their new boat or vacation spot. Possibly it’s your parents’ comments about your siblings doing so well in their jobs with their new titles or perks. And, in the end, it’s the “thought file” playing in your head that says what you have is not enough and you desperately seek the way to get it, the loan, the credit card or the new job paying a bigger salary although it’s not really what you want to do.

I would challenge you; especially as we consider the debate in Washington about how much Doing we need from our Government to provide all of us Beings a better life, to consider the balances in your life.

Do you find yourself like the character in the old Twilight Zone series episode, A Stop At Willoughby? You may remember the episode where the lead character finds himself running from a boss who is constantly saying “It’s Push, Push, Push, all the time, Push, Push, Push” to make a living to meet the status needs of his wife (who describes him as a loser). The end of the show finds him getting off at the station stop called Willoughby which is a (in his imagination) return to simpler times where people appeared to enjoy “being.”

I won’t spoil the ending if you have a chance to review it sometime, but simply put, a better journey is had when a person balances the “doing” with their “being.”

If you have an interest in learning what professional “doing” careers may better fit your “being,” visit our website

Our goal is to help you find just the right work for you to live, to balance your doing with your being ... to find your “flow” where you are having fun making a life for you and your loved ones.
Best of Luck! 


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