Make the Fires Wait

I don’t remember where I heard it. I don’t know if it actually happened or not. But it’s a tale I think about a lot. It’s something like this:

One day, Gandhi’s advisors came to him and told him that he had such a busy day ahead, there was no time for his usual hour-long meditation.

Gandhi replied that if this was the case, that if this was how busy he had let his schedule become, then he had better meditate for two hours instead of his usual one.

I love this. But… why?

Because it’s an illustration, as clear as day, that in life there is that which matters, and then there is everything else. There is signal, and then there is noise. And unless you consciously and deliberately decide to put what matters first, then what doesn’t matter will sprout up like weeds and take over your life.

And when this happens, when things have gotten a little bit out of hand, then you’re at a crucial juncture, because it’s ever so tempting – as Gandhi’s advisors suggested – to attend to the bullshit first, to fight the fires first, to try and clear the path of any obstacles first. And then if there’s time, do the important stuff.

Don’t do it. It’s a trick. If you focus on fighting fires, intending to get to what matters when you’re done, you never will. You’ll just start seeing more fires breaking out everywhere.

Do the important thing first. Make the fires wait. Ironically, this lack of attention is often enough to make them put themselves out. And for the ones that remain, you’ll find dealing with them a whole lot easier when you know you’ve attended first to the shit that matters to you.

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