Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Never Put Off Until Tomorrow..."

Years ago I received a card from my sister, who was trying her best to help me to lighten up a little. The card showed Lucy from the Peanuts gang, dispensing her famous psychiatric advice, and it offered up this little bit of wisdom: "Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day AFTER tomorrow!"

I kept that card for many years because it made me laugh. But also because there really is some wisdom in Lucy's advice. It is not just about "putting off", or avoiding the unpleasant tasks we face. It is not just about procrastination. It is also about prioritization. How many times have I let the insignificant crowd the really important out of my day? How many times have any of us "majored in the minors"?

In the movie "City Slickers", Jack Parlance plays a crusty old cowboy who lives by his own code of ethics, what might be called "Curly's Law", summed up in this little bit:

Jack Palance in City SlickersCurly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Curly: This. [holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.

Mitch: But what is the "one thing?"

Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.

Curly's Law, Do One Thing... It's a variation on Lucy's prescription and my own intuition. In order for me to find out what my "one thing" is, I have to go through a continual process of prioritization. I have to find out what is major and what is minor, each and every day. And then I have to surround myself with people who will support my majoring in the majors and letting go of the minors. Because I don't want to put off until tomorrow what I can easily put off until the day after (or the week after, the month after, the year after, the decade after...) tomorrow.

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