I am a Doer. I come from a long line of Doers. My mother was a Doer. While growing up, I don’t remember a school activity she wasn’t involved in, whether it was making costumes for the school play, baking cookies for fundraisers, chaperoning class trips, or serving on the PTA.
My daughter’s a Doer. Obviously the apples fall very close to our family trees. She plays several sports, directs the school plays and serves as class president, all while carrying a 4.0 grade average. I could fill pages documenting the Doers in my family from my grandparents and their work with the church and Masons, to my father, a five term township commissioner, who had to serve for the love of doing, because it certainly wasn’t for the love of money. So, as fate would have it, I, the son of a Doer, and father of Doers, am trying to decide if I am Done.
As blasphemous as it sounds considering my family tradition, I am having second thoughts about this whole “doing” thing. I’ve had many wake up calls along the way but it has taken until now to fully awaken to the fact that there is a dilemma to doing. Doing can be dangerous because those that do, often forget one of the most important lifesaving words in our language – NO. We don’t say it. We can’t say it! Instead of No, we muster just enough courage to not say Yes until that project, we didn’t volunteer to do, starts to implode, and we find ourselves crying out, “I’ll do it!” We do because we know we can, and everyone else knows we can, which is why they don’t.
Doers don’t prioritize. If we did, we wouldn’t do as much. We are great plate spinners, but all those spinning plates begin to look the same after a while. In reality, some are fine china and others, plastic picnic ware, but we don’t notice the difference until the fine china shatters on the floor beneath us. We are then left to pick up the broken pieces of our lives, families or businesses.
My awakening started after the real estate crash in 2008. Like many in my industry, I encountered serious financial difficulties, and it became apparent that I had spent too much time doing for everyone else while neglecting my own personal welfare, and that of my family. You would have thought the heart attack in 2005 was enough of a wake up call, but I was too busy doing to notice. Two weeks after my heart attack, with a stent in my right coronary artery, I was hosting my 30th high school reunion in Pennsylvania. Unlike the heart attack, my financial crisis was more painful, more prolonged and more suffocating than any pain in my chest. Prioritization was no longer a choice. I had to do for myself and I became my first priority. If only it was that easy.
As I began to right the ship, I found myself slipping back into volunteering for a variety of projects, except this time I tried to justify my actions as being good for my business. In reality, focusing on my business is good for my business. Focusing on everything else is not. So here is the truth about Doing. Doing would be more rewarding if more people did it. I’ve discovered that there are no shortages of opinions, suggestions and recommendations from those who depend on Doers. If only they were as generous with their time.
Organizations are littered with Committees of One. Libraries are full of books that attempt to fix leaders to solve this problem, but I think we need to shift the focus on the follower. If Doing is not in your nature, at least respond when Doers ask you to do something as simple as responding to an invitation or showing up for a meeting or conference call. This is when Doers become Chasers, and it’s the part of Doing that we hate most. It is also when we begin to question ourselves. It is not burn out that causes us to quit doing, it’s the lack of respect shown by those we are doing for.
So as I contemplate my retirement from Doing, I ask everyone that knows a Doer to simply write a note, send an email or make a call today and say, “What can I do to help?” You don’t have to go “all in” like a Doer does, but as my grandmother used to say, “Many hands make small work.” A little common courtesy for the Doers’ time, energy and sacrifices will keep them doing, and that’s good for everyone. That’s how parties get planned, charities get funded and communities get improved. If all the Doers decided the were Done where would we be? Society needs Doers in order to thrive, so let’s take a little of their plates so they can keep them spinning.