The Most Important Thing
To Be Doing Right Now

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Do Good Now, Make It Better Later

It was a time long ago, I was bankrupt, depressed, unemployed, no credit, no assets, no car. I had hit bottom. It was a liberating feeling, to know that things could only get better! But I still didn't know how I was going to make it happen.

I did some serious introspection with the goal of getting my life headed in a better direction, and I gave a lot of thought to the question of "What to do" and finally came to a general-purpose answer: Do Good Now.

Many people put off doing something good with the excuse that they want to do something better, and of course neither the good nor the better get done at all.

Doing something, anything, according to a Plan, will always be better than doing nothing. In this case, the Plan is simply to "Do Good Now". Physical activity (Do) is mandatory. Even if the activity is sub-optimal, inefficient, or possibly ineffective, the important thing is that the action produces feedback from which you can learn, and adjust future actions ("make it better later"), and continue to "move in the direction of your dreams" (Thoreau).

I like that this life philosophy encourages the creation of many random acts of kindness, for your self, for friends as well as strangers, and animals or even plants. The simplest action, requiring almost no cost whatsoever in time, money or energy, when done with the heart-felt intention of Good, creates within the giver a building sense of happiness. And this is the case even if the recipient is unaware of the kindness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Importance of a Single Snowflake

"Tell me the weight of a snowflake," an eagle asked a wild dove.

"Nothing more than nothing," was the answer.

"In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story," the eagle said.

"I was standing on a branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow - not heavily, not a raging blizzard - no, just like a dream, without any wind and without any violence. I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 8,583,426,949. When the very next snowflake dropped on the branch - nothing more than nothing, as you say - the branch broke off."

Having said that, the eagle flew away.

The dove, since Noah's time an authority on the matter,
thought about the story for awhile and finally said to himself,
"Perhaps there is only one person's voice lacking for peace to come to the world."

Author Unknown


In the previous blog entry, the word I was looking for, but could not find in my head at the time, is Nihilism. Without clicking the link and reading up on it, the word indicates a conviction that there is no meaning to anything in life. So, if there is no meaning, then it would seem that there is no importance to anything except that which we give it, and that is simply an illusion. Therefore, this entire line of inquiry about the Most Important Thing To Do Right Now is completely without merit, without meaning, and a complete waste of time, so I should be on the beach playing Frisbee rather than trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Maybe a little time spent playing Frisbee on the beach wouldn't hurt...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Questioning Importance

Just doing some Major Premise Validation here: Is it possible that there is no Most Important Thing? Is the opposite of the Most Important Thing that nothing is important, that everything is irrelevant? What proof is there that anything is important? Is the concept of "importance" purely subjective, and that if we consider the bigger picture, that nothing matters at all to anyone except ourselves? Or, as Wittgenstein is purported to have said, that there is no "meaning" anywhere in the universe, outside of the sentence which creates it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Smart people thinking about "important"

One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), On Education
The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie
The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.
Edith Sodergran
If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it.
George Burns (1896 - 1996)
Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forego an advantage.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)
Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking.
R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983)
When you kill one enemy, you then must plan for the one hundred enemies you have now created. No enemy ever stands alone. He comes with a mother and father, brothers and sisters. He has a wife and children, friends and neighbors. When you kill this enemy, you must be ready to face the angry revenge that comes from the grief of this loss for all the people who knew and loved this man. The only way to stop this endless chain of enemy killing enemy is to forgive it. And in doing so, teach each one that life is the most important, precious and valuable thing.
Anwarshah Anwary
The beginning is the most important part of the work.
Plato (427 BC - 347 BC), The Republic
The most important things in life aren't things.
Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book
The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.
Henry Boye
When you determined what you want, you have made the most important decision of your life. You have to know what you want in order to attain it.
Douglas Lurtan
Excellence is best described as doing the right things right - selecting the most important things to be done and then accomplishing them 100% correctly.
Author Unknown
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930), (Sherlock Holmes)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It could be worse...

There has been a thought going round in my head since I started this inquiry: that as long as I keep working on this Discovery of the Most Important Thing To Do Right Now, that it is certain that I will not be doing anything Trivial. There is a certain sense of Assurance, Confidence, that I will always have something that I can do that is Important. It is a great Centering, a Balance Point.

My thoughts also turn to the Great Multitudes who may never have even considered the concept of The Most Important Thing To Do Right Now, whatever it is, for them personally. It may be that many people pass through Life on an hourly, daily, weekly, yearly timetable simply by reacting to the Random Events in life, and not in Creating the life that they can Imagine.

If there is any value to this blog it is that someone else may stumble on it and get the thought in their head that it really is possible to do something Important, that they can control and create what happens in their life, and that it will be Good. I may be long gone at that time, so it would not affect me, but it is an example of the consequences of our actions persisting through time.

In Search of The Most Important Thing To Do Right Now

It's becoming interesting to me that there are so many ways to describe something so indefinite as The Most Important Thing To Do Right Now.

Place - Is it Here, or There? If it is in a Place away from where we are Right Now, then we remove the Doing of the Thing until some time later than Right Now because it will take some time to move to the place. So, most likely, the Most Important Thing will be Doable right where we are at the moment. Breathe. Smile. Repeat.

Action - When we talk of "... to Do right now." and the attention gets around to the Do-ing, we might think that there must be some physical action involved, such as speaking, or typing on a keyboard, etc. However, there could be no physical activity whatsoever, as in meditation, visualization, affirmations, etc. Additionally, it could be the Not Doing that would be Most Important, for example: not eating that pastry would be Most Important Right Now. Possibly the better way to look at the tempting pastry example: instead of Not Doing, think of the positive, Action of turning away from the pastry while visualizing a healthier self. Everything that exists in our lives is the result of some Action by ourselves or some other person. We have created our lives to be the way they are right now because of our Actions (or lack of Action). If we want to change the conditions of our life, then it will require Action.

Creative - The Most Important Thing would more likely be Creative rather than Destructive. If we were forced to be destructive in self defense, of course that would rise to the level of Most Important. Creative does not mean Innovative, it simply means that some physical change is made in the Universe because of the thing that we Do Right Now.

The Hierarchy of Actions - It it possible that some Actions are More Important than others, because of some inherent nature of the Action itself? If the more common types of actions were listed (typing, handshake, speaking, writing, signing your name on an agreement), it can be seen that the same Action (signing your name) could be either Trivial or Most Important, depending on whether it was signing a UPS receipt or the contract for buying a new home. So it is the Intent of the Action and not the Action itself that makes a thing Important. However, some Actions communicate messages on their own. For example, a smile communicates more than typing on a keyboard, at that moment, but the typing may Creating something with far greater lasting Importance than the smile. And, of course, the example could be reversed where the smile were the more Important action, such as to signal the acceptance of a proposal, and the typing were simply to forward some junk email. A single keystroke in the moment of Now may seem trivial, but if it is part of an apology to a friend, it may be as Important as the keystone in the arch of a cathedral. We have heard so many times that "it's the thought that counts". But only if it results in some Action that Creates some Good. We are always capable of some Action, and even the simplest of Actions has the potential for some great Good. Smile. Breathe. Repeat. And move on to The Most Important Thing To Do Right Now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

More attributes of The Most Important Thing

Intentional - This rules out something involuntary such as flailing about trying to regain our balance, or reacting to a hot plate, etc. So now we can envision the Important thing to be one of Choice, something done according to some previous thought, and intended to be done as part of some Plan, something we have come to know as the Most Important Thing for ourselves alone and distinct from other people.

Duration - It would be something that would have a duration of at least several seconds to as much as several hours at a time without a break.

Celebration - The doing of the Most Important Thing would be somewhat of a celebration, because we actually get to Do it. One must remember that there are billions of people going about their every waking moment and never give the slightest thought to the concept of doing The Most Important Thing right now, or ever!

Breathe - The Do-ing of the Most Important Thing starts with a breath. An Intentional breath. A breath with the Attention put on slowly filling the lungs and slowly releasing all breath and any stress. With the breath we find balance, relaxation, energy. Several breaths, done intentionally, will be an excellent beginning of the Most Important Thing. Try a few intentional easy breaths right now! Imagine how this fits in with the other attributes of Enjoyable, Planned, etc.

Smile - If you are doing this Most Important Thing around other people, your smile will radiate calm and comfortable energy, and help them in whatever they may be doing. If you are doing your Most Important Thing alone, your bodily chemistry will be changed to a more positive state simply by smiling. This is a great secret that many more people could benefit from knowing: Actions create Emotions, and Emotions create Actions. A smile has enormous power. It has been written that it is the Gesture of Maximum Leverage. We smile because we know that we are doing The Most Important Thing right now. We are fulfilling our Destiny. What could be more enjoyable, more pleasurable, more smile-inducing?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who would know?

If I wanted to learn what is Important, I think I would ask someone who had a lot of life experiences, someone who had survived a fair amount of years. Someone who had earned his way and been successful. Someone healthy and happy. I would definitely want to know what's Important to them, because I would want to be healthy and happy and successful. I found those Important things in a book called "The Law of Success" by Napoleon Hill and used what I learned as the basis for a successful business.

And if I wanted to know what is important to do Right Now, I would probably ask a person who knows the end of life is quite near. I think that would sharpen the focus on priorities. Consider this video of Randy Pausch's Last Lecture:

The Most Important Thing Is:

What is the nature of The Most Important Thing to do right now. How would we describe this Most Important Thing? Although we may not know exactly what the thing is, we can know some of its attributes, for example:

1. Personal - one size does not fit all. We are all unique.
2. Immediate - what we do right now builds who we become, and creates the world around us.
3. Purpose - planning adds power to our actions. See
4. Enjoyable - our reward in the doing of it.
5. Good - for ourselves and for others.
6. Changing - everything always changes, and we can use that for our purposes.

Much can be said about each of these attributes of The Most Important Thing. Many examples can be given. But for now, these attributes are some rough notes, a starting point.

The Importance of a bike ride...

In several email conversations with a friend, Mike Wargo, who teaches at a university in Germany, we have talked of the importance of doing something to help make this world a better place, but with a surplus of negative news going around, and conditions being as bad as they are in so many places, and with little to no good news on the horizon, what could one individual possibly do?

We discussed so many options, but which is "The Most Important Thing" to be doing right now? How would a person decide what is The Most Important Thing to be doing right now?

It's a weighty question. I'm thinking that there are other people out there who seek an answer. Maybe they will find this, make comments, and working together we can figure it out.

Have patience
with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves...

Rainer Maria Rilke

The first thing I noticed in my determination to get to the answer to this great question is that there are not a lot of references to it. Google and GoDaddy show that there is no nor are there many variants of that eternal question. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know the answer.

For guidance in finding the answer, I turn to one of my favorite philosophers, who says:

The greatest challenge to any thinker is
stating the problem
in a way that will allow a solution.

Bertrand Russell

Well, I'm not sure that I have stated the problem properly, but it is a start, and that's what counts. Nothing happens without starting.

So I decided it was time that someone, even if it's only me, addressed the issue squarely: What is the most important thing to do, right now? Certainly, I want to know the answer for me, personally, to guide my own actions. However, in finding that answer I may find something bigger, and that is a System for finding the answer, so that I may find the answer again for myself when I get off the path, and so that others can apply the system and find the answer for themselves.

A funny thing happened on the way to finding the answer. I had just signed up for several domain names (URLs) and started this blog, but had not yet typed the first word, and the phone rang. Good friend Mark wanted to take advantage of the perfect weather to get some exercise and suggested we load our bikes into his truck and head south to Mission Beach and Pacific Beach for an epic bike ride and lunch. And so, this was my first challenge: should I go play, or should I stay focused on the burning question? Or, was it a sign that the most important thing is to go play!

I chose play. I figured that, surely, at some point The Most Important Thing Right Now would be to enjoy spending quality time with friends. There is a sign over my door, done in calligraphy, with some great words which have guided me and reassured me for many years: "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time". The words are by songwriter James Taylor. The sign was a gift from Maureen Gallagher, a girlfriend from 30 years ago. Imagine! Her gift has stayed a big part of my life for 3 decades, but I haven't seen her in almost as long. It's amazing how we have big, yet unknown, effects on the lives of people around us.

It was a great ride. I survived to continue this project, this inquiry, this discovery of The Most Important Thing To Be Doing Right Now.