This is a world of action, and not for moping and droning in. – Charles Dickens
I mentioned yesterday that I had come across James Thurber again.
Over the last few days I’ve been copying his drawings in my sketchbook – trying to get a feel for how they work and I noticed something.
In every drawing there is something happening.
You don’t see it at first – it doesn’t grab your attention because it just seems like his style.
But as you look more closely, draw the pictures, you see action, movement, tension in the lines.
Many of my drawings so far, for example, have a person standing there looking at something – passive, uninvolved, disinterested.
The fencers in Thurber’s depiction are anything but disinterested.
And it comes out using the spare economy of a few lines – two people walking past each other holding umbrellas in the rain, his animals creeping and peering, and my current favourite – a man hiding under a fortress made from his chairs and tables.
And that got me thinking about real life and work and trying to sell stuff.
All too often we look at things from a static point of view.
We see things as set in stone, as rules, as dogma – and we think that if we follow a formula then things will happen.
Think good thoughts every morning and the universe will move things around to give you what you want.
Things like that.
But really, what we need to be doing is looking for where the action is.
For example, you could commission any number of studies telling you what people should pay attention to.
But, you’ll do better focusing on what people are actually doing.
It reminds me of that story by Gary Halbert where he says that he’ll bet you that he can sell more burgers than you can.
You can pick any type of burger you want – the quality, the advertising, the colours.
You have the ability to do whatever you like to make your burgers the best in the world.
But he will still sell more – because all he wants is one thing.
A hungry crowd.
And that’s the action bit – that’s where the real thing is happening.
It’s what the Japanese call Gemba – where the work is done.
You can spend a lot of time thinking and agonizing and wondering.
And I think that is a good use of time – I’m not averse to thinking and I think theory is useful.
But when you come into the real world and try to apply that theory – you need to be able to see where the action is – where things are happening.
Because that’s where life happens to be.