Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, said: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Sitting quietly in a room alone is not what entrepreneurs do. I wonder if we entrepreneurs are not becoming poster children for a speed addled society. It’s like entrepreneurs are adopting an increasing societal go-go-go, move-move-move trope and taking it to the tenth power. Like we are on a wildly careening roller coaster chasing the killer app and the great disruption, yet never contemplating the why of our activity.
I particularly feel this when I am in a massed group of entrepreneurs. Take for instance Inc. Magazine’s GrowCo convention, which I attended last month in Nashville. It was full of an exhausting array of brilliant, passionate entrepreneurs, chief of whom was Mark Cuban, who gave the keynote address in which he mentioned that he never read a single book not specifically related to his business in his first eight years of enterprise. Surely that must be a loss and a sadness to Mr. Cuban’s soul. (Am I the last businessman extant who still talks about “souls”?) Such passion and focus may be necessary for success, but it’s not a price that is spiritually healthy to pay.
There is an addictive frenzy to our technology enhanced, evolving business process that is leaving little room for context, personal centering, or contemplation of the meaning of our activity. (I am particularly sensitive to addictive process since I am a former addict myself.) As entrepreneurs we can easily succumb to the escapist frisson and excitement of our high-risk balancing act and the adrenaline rush of our often fearsome process, that is not much different than the sex addict reveling in the euphoric chemicals of his/her own body.
James Gleick put out a book last year called Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything. (Random House, 2013) He states, “Our computers, our movies, our sex lives, our prayers—they all run faster now than ever before. And the more we fill our lives with time-saving devices and time-saving strategies, the more rushed we feel.” Gleick calls this “hurry sickness.” I prefer “hurry addiction.”
T.S. Elliot presciently nails our current conundrum in his poem “The Endless Cycle.”
“The endless cycle of idea and action,Endless invention, endless experiment,Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness,Knowledge of speech, but not of silence,Knowledge of word, and ignorance of the Word…Where is the life we have lost in living?Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
Dr. Edward Hallowell refers to our current parlous societal speed madness, in his book Crazybusy (Ballantyne Books, 2007), as “culturally induced ADHD.” He says, “When you’re ‘crazybusy’ your life is out of balance and you enter what I call the “F-State”—frenzied, fearful, forgetful and frantic.” It is almost like this induced ADHD state is a point of pride to many entrepreneurs. (Note my post of April 29, “The Brag of Busyness and the Entrepreneur”).
All this is easier said than solved for the speeding entrepreneur. Yet, as Mohandas Ghandi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Thanks, Mohandas.