What would you think about a farmer who started planning some corn seeds, got distracted, proceeded with planting watermelon seeds, noticed he had a need to plant wheat and then filled that "need" by diverting to that task...

Or what would you think if he just went off and planted in a new field and forgot to water and care for the field he just seeded. 

He probably might spend alot of time planting, but not enough sowing to reap much of what he wanted.

Well, most people are likely, to some extent, to be operating in a manner similar to that farmer.

We learn a little here and there.  We get engaged in solving a problem by relieving the symptoms only.  We only learn when there is an impulse or we feel badly and need to relieve ourselves of feeling badly - often making little spurts of learning.  We let our learning be random, or we are constantly switching between topics.

So let me tell you a little tale here, so that maybe you'll get your tail in gear about all of this.


I was about 20 years old, working as "assistant to the president' of a heating register (ducts and such) manufacturer.  I took inventory and did other things that he needed done.

One day, he said to me "well, Keith, I've got to take off for two weeks, so you'll be in charge of the manufacturing and order filling while I'm gone."  (Picture my stomach clenching...)

So, I tried to figure out what to, arriving really early to work to make sure of what to do - and living in the land of high anxiety, not knowing whether I could pull it off.

Here's what happened:

I thought about how the president/owner was so temperamental and impulsive, under so much nervous pressure.  When one customer called with an urgent order, he would reactively switch production over to the customer's desired products so he wouldn't be late.  But though he switched so often to make sure that he would not miss any deadlines, he was frequently several days late in delivering orders. 

I went about asking the machine operators which of the machines and tasks they most liked, as I had been aware of how they had been grumbling about doing certain things - but the individuals varied in what they didn't like and did like.   So, we switched around who was doing what and we had happier people - and we let them get even better at doing that which they liked the most.

I reasoned (with what brain I had left) that we would be late a few days anyway, so why don't I see if we can make longer production runs to increase our total production of a piece so that we didn't have to stop other production to produce that piece because we had run out of it.  

It seems that each time a different product had to be manufactured, we had to change the set up on the machine and then recalibrate it for the new item and get different raw materials, etc.  Each set up took alot of time.  If we ran our production twice as long as we ordinarily would have, then we would avoid the time and trouble of doing a second set up.  Also, once we got rolling our momentum went up and we produced more per amount of time.


When he came back, we had broken all previous production records by a huge amount - and we no longer had late deliveries.

Of course, he was pleased and told me "Keith, you're during such a great job that you may be president of this company some day, that is, if my son doesn't want to be."   I soon returned to school...


Anyway, the point here is that we do "produce" desired results in life, as our life product, so to speak.  But we do it sporadically. 

Failure to reap, failure to sow

We fail to completely sow what we've planted.  An analogous action to this is that we start learning something and then we drop it too soon and never get to the point where we can reap well with it (i.e do it so well that we get reliably good results).  Surely, no farmer could get away with this, but then he is dealing with tangible results, whereas we fail to note the intangibles and/or the problems that persist as unsolved.

Continue on the path, so not forgetting and stopping again to do a "set up"

Don't constantly "restart", as the process drags on and on, with so much going back to retrieve what you've forgotten and to set yourself up so you can re-start, wasting lots of time.  As soon as you can, set up long enough periods to concentrate and go down the path as far as you can.  You'll make significantly more progress this way - and I mean significantly more progress!

Failure to increase capability, as indicated by actual results

We fail to learn how to operate the machinery and we produce lots of defective product that we have to spend time dealing with and correcting.  We waste alot of time and energy with relatively little product being produced - and then we make statements like "life is so difficult" and/or "I just don't have enough time!"  But the truth is that you'd have plenty of time if you weren't so busy blowing your time!  It's a bit like the old story about the battle of sawing trees down, between the young, very strong fellow and the old, experienced lumberjack.  The young guy worked head down and relentlessly at sawing the trees down as fast as possible, gaining an early lead.  He did notice that the old guy was sitting down alot, fooling around with his saw.  And then after midday he noticed that the old guy was ahead of him in trees sawed down.  At the end of the day, the old guy beat him by double.  "How can this be!?  You were sitting down alot of the time and I am stronger than you and I kept working harder!   How could you be faster?  And what were doing sitting down so much of the time?"

"Oh, young man, I was simply making sure that my saw was sharpened so that I could cut through the wood more easily and much faster, while you just kept working so hard and not stopping to sharpen your saw."

Stephen Covey makes this point in his book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.  He recommends that we not spend so much time producing (which he abbreviates as "P") and spend sufficient time increasing our capability of producing (which he abbreviates as "PC").  It turns out that is it good, of course, to P, but you don't want to P your life away.  Your life will be much easier if you increase your PC.  Accordingly, on the weekly planning form, he includes a section called "Sharpen The Saw".   (Use the Covey Resources..)

"Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have--you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life ..."  Read Sharpen The Saw.

Being reactive, rather than calm progressing

If we're reactive, we end up being sporadic, acting without thought, getting upset, and not being very productive in life.  We've got to sharpen the saw of calm composure and perspective, such as in Pausing, Planning, And Pacing.

Being responsible for doing all that is needed

The young guy didn't respond to the fact that his results were not keeping up.  He didn't engage his brain and ask the questions necessary to seek out the answers to how to do it better. 

Read 100% Responsibility.  Perhaps you might watch the video playlist here:  Take Responsibility.


No way to live a life:  

Stop, start, divert, come back when there is a discomfort, do enough to relieve the symptoms, stop, divert...