The word Nothing in the title is enclosed in quotes so that you do not mistake the title for Nothing is Important as against the thing “Nothing” is important.
Let me start by telling you a short story.
Somewhere in Africa, there was an old crocodile known to be a very fierce hunter. While it was floating at the edge of the river, a young crocodile approached it. “I have heard that you are the fiercest hunter in the river. I would love to learn your ways” said the young croc.
Awoken from its slumber, the old crocodile cast a glance on the young one and fell back asleep without saying a word. Feeling disrespected, the young crocodile swam away upstream to chase some catfish, thinking to himself “I’ll show him”.
Later that day, the young crocodile returned to the old crocodile, who was still napping, to brag about his catch. “I caught some meaty catfish today. What have you caught? I guess you are not that fierce as they say”.
The old crocodile, unfazed and still droopy, looked at the young crocodile and said nothing. It continued to float atop the water, unfretted by the arrogance of the young croc.
The young crocodile was now angry as he couldn’t get any response from the senior. He thought to himself, maybe if I could catch something and bring back, then I can show him who is a better hunter.
After a few hours, the young crocodile could catch a small crane. Proud of his achievement, he swam back to the old crocodile holding the crane in his jaws. As the young crocodile was about to near the old crocodile, who was still floating lifelessly in the same sport at the edge of the river, he saw a change in the scenery.
A large wildebeest was enjoying an afternoon drink just inches away from the jaws of the old crocodile. In one lightning-fast movement, the old crocodile shot out of the water, wrapped his jaws around the neck of the wildebeest and dragged it down to the bottom of the river. The young crocodile who witnessed the awesome hunt was dumbstruck. He swam up to the senior, who was now feeding on his 500-pound meal, still holding the small crane in his jaws, and said “How did you do that? Please … please teach me to do that”.
The senior crocodile, through mouthfuls of wildebeest finally responded, I did nothing.
Today, when I look around, I see an epidemic of busyness. People feel that being busy is equivalent to being productive. People complement each other for being busy. Not having time to engage in some personal activity is being successfully employed.
Society seems to determine the worth of a person on how busy they are. An extremely busy CEO, a politician who works late into the night, some person who sleeps only 4 hours a day… these are nowadays considered as a trait of a successful and dedicated individual. Yet, some of the most notable achievements in the history of mankind were achieved when people were doing nothing.
Take for instance the Eureka moment of Archimedes, Newton’s Apple moment (the apple did not actually fall on Newton’s head for him to realize the law of gravity), the enlightenment of Buddha and many others.
It is as you would see, that the people who step back, take the time off and quit being busy are the ones who achieved great breakthroughs. While it is also rightly said that “Chance favours the prepared mind”, or else you wouldn’t have sticky notes today, that was made from a glue that did not stick!
Take some time off from your busyness, a couple of hours a week, without the distraction of social media, television or the radio. Shut off all the gadgets and be by yourself. If you can afford, take a week off, go to some place where you are totally disconnected from everything and everybody, that is everyday distraction for you.
Trust me, it is quite difficult at first to do nothing. You have been trained for years to keep doing something, measure and improve what you are doing.
Doing nothing does not mean you should be devoid of any activity, sitting in one place like a statue. You can engage yourself in something that is not related to your work. Something that you do, not for the sake of money, or to create something of value, it could be a hobby, it could be helping someone or even just trekking the mountains.
But if someone asks you “What have you been doing?”, you should be able to comfortably say “Nothing!”.