Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Derek Sivers: Don't speak in future tense

How much of your pleasant conversation is feel-good promises of all the work you are planning to do? -- With no penalty for inaction because there is no true commitment towards action.

Derek Sivers - :
Images, from top, left to right: Downtown Los ...Image via Wikipedia
When I lived in Los Angeles, I noticed they have a strange speaking pattern.

Everyone speaks in future tense. (Or, more specifically, present-tense inaction, future-tense action.)

“This guy from EMI is interested and going to be presenting it to the VP.”

“We’re in talks to do a pilot for the fall.”

“I’m getting ready to work on some new material with a writer from Friends.”

Of course these are the things some people have to tell themselves to be hopeful when facing another day of challenges.

But of course nothing materializes. You never hear it mentioned again, and you politely don’t ask. (Surprising circumstances always foiled the certain event.)

I felt like wearing a t-shirt that says, “TELL ME WHEN IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING.”

So now when I hear a future-tense sentence, my ears shut down. I’ll say “cool!” and hope it helps, but I don’t believe a word.

Try noticing this in yourself and others for a week. Are you speaking more in future tense or present tense? Are they?

Wang Yangming (1472-1529), considered the most...Image via Wikipedia
This follows on the heels of reading Neo-Confucianist Wang Yangming [ ] and heavily discounting anything I call knowledge that isn't part of my current repertoire of action.

Wang Yangming (paraphrased from Wikipedia article): Any knowledge that had been gained then put into action was considered delusion or false.

Derek Sivers also links to his earlier column about how announcing your plans makes you less likely to do the work necessary to accomplish those plans.

Derek Sivers - :
Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you're less motivated to do the hard work needed.
Once you've told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

Ajaccio - CorsicaImage by janusz l via Flickr
I want to remind myself not to over-do it.  My current M.O. is all about talking up the future and not doing anything in the present.  To move from one state of affairs to a better one will be a journey - feeling glum about one-step-back should be followed with two-steps-forward.  Remind myself: Most of the goals and tasks that can be straightforwardly accomplished are not really worth doing.

Might be valuable to phrase it as: "I will do X.  A poser would leave it there, as only words.  I would appreciate it if you could embarrass and shame me if I haven't accomplished sub-task Y (related to X) by such-and-such date.  If I fail to do it, I will make a public donation to a political cause I find repellent, as consequence for my inaction."
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: