Why the Most Productive Thing You Can Do Right Now Might Be NOTHING


I’ll bet your life’s pretty crazy right now, isn’t it?

I’m right there with you. The end of the year, family coming into town, traveling, the whole holiday thing – it’s nuts.

For most of us the end of the year is a bustling blur of activity. Personal and professional deadlines rain from the sky and we’re all trying to make something happen right now.

It gets overwhelming – and it can distract us from a special growth opportunity.

That opportunity I’m talking about is spending some time in quiet reflection looking back over the last year with gratitude for another 12 months of conquered goals, survived failures, and amazing experiences.

In other words, I’m trying to sell you the value of spending some time at the end of this year taking it slow.

Stop and take a look around you, and even if what you see isn’t quite what your dreams are made of, appreciate it for what it is.

How I Woke Up to the Wait

Recently, on a particularly hectic business trip that included flying across the country a few times in the same week dealing with things that weren’t fun to deal with, I found myself in one of those overload situations.

You’ve been there – when you’ve just had enough of everything and your brain’s fuel tank is so low, you’re running on fumes.

I had previously read Jeff Goins’ book, The In-Between. Except I read it on my Kindle app – and to be honest I usually only use my Kindle app on planes, so my comprehension level the first time through wasn’t great.

For whatever reason during that particularly stressful business trip, I decided that I needed to go buy a physical copy of the In-Between and re-read it.

I read it cover to cover in my hotel that night – and it resonated with me strongly. In fact, the timing was such that I felt like Jeff had written it for me personally.

One of the points of The In-Between is that most of us live a “push” kind of life. We push to make things happen quickly. We want to get from A to Z as quickly as possible. We’re always waiting for the next big thing.

“I’ll be happy when X happens.”
“Things will be easier once I’ve achieved Y.”

Promotions, home ownership, having children, getting a certain number of clients – we’re always looking for what’s next.

The problem with looking at life in that way is that it often causes us to miss the special times in between. The down times.

The times when you finally sit still and appreciate a sun set. The times when you let the dog curl up and fall asleep in your lap and you simply watch them enjoy your company. The times when you really listen to your kid tell you about their day.

I’m not badmouthing ambition. We need to push. It’s how we achieve things. But if we do nothing but push, we miss major life lessons, special moments, and often significant opportunities.

Sometimes we have to let life take us in the direction it wants to – like floating on an inner tube on a river.

Don’t push the river, it flows by itself
— Chinese Proverb

The In-Between teaches us that the wait is sometimes the event. Although it can be uncomfortable for a driven person with a lot of ambition, often waiting can teach us lessons that pushing never could.

Three Readers Who Embraced the Wait

The In-Between made me realize that while abandoning the push lifestyle completely is not an option for me, I certainly had been neglecting and under-appreciating the value of the wait – the spaces In-Between.

I thought it was a valuable lesson that could benefit others, so I wanted to share that message with others. So not long ago, I emailed all my subscribers asking them to share a story of a time when they didn’t want to wait but were forced to – and it turned out to be beneficial somehow. I received a lot of great stories.

The first three to share their story received a free copy of the Kindle version of The In-Between. Their stories are below.

(I do things like that from time to time for subscribers, so if you’re not one yet, here’s a way to fix that right now.)
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Three Reboot Authentic Readers Who Understand The Wait:

Cynthia Rodriguez

A few years ago, Cynthia was planning to move from her home in Mexico to the UK to study a Master in History of Art.

The process was slow and annoying: trying to get accepted by the university, applying for a scholarship, saving money, applying for loans, and the particularly long process of applying for the student visa.

A laundry-list of items stood between Cynthia and her dream. Many of them were beyond her control – dependent upon the actions of other people and agencies. She planned on leaving in six months, but there was no telling if she’d receive her visa by the deadline. It was a tense situation.

But realizing that the results of her application were beyond her control, Cynthia decided that instead of worrying over the results, she would surround herself with people and activities she loved during the wait – and she went on an experience spree.

  • She started writing for a few local music and arts magazines.
  • She went to went to festivals and interviewed musicians.
  • She got certified to teach Spanish as a Second Language.
  • She went to film festivals and iPod parties with her friends.
  • She spent afternoons in cafeterias writing fiction and non-fiction.
  • She wrote a short story that she turned into a zine and sold at a local alternative video store.
  • She organized and participated in a Writing Jam, where she wrote in front of people showing her process through a projector while music played.
  • She did radio interviews about the event and her writing.

What did the wait do for Cynthia?

For six months, she had an amazing time, made a name for herself, and enjoyed the people she loved during a time when many people would have been worrying and waiting for news about their student visa.

As it turns out, Cynthia didn’t get positive news about her visa until just two days before leaving. Can you imagine what a stressful wait that could have been if she hadn’t chosen to embrace the wait? Visit her at CynthiaEScribe.com


Bobbi Emel

Reboot Authentic subscriber, kingpin of The Bounce Blog, and my personal friend Bobbi Emel endured a painful wait that she credits with making her a better person.

A terminal condition claimed the life of Bobbi’s partner unexpectedly and at a young age. If you’ve ever lost someone very close to you, you know that an untimely death of a loved one can throw off literally everything about your daily existence.

Bobbi struggled through all the daily activities of life that used to feel so normal and easy for her.

Bobbi says, “I had to wait a really long time for the grief to subside to a point where I could function at a decent level again. I hated it.

As a licensed psychotherapist, Bobbi can now look back and see what really happened to her during that time of grief.

She says, “Unbeknownst to me, I was gaining all sorts of resiliency skills during that time: acceptance, endurance, pain tolerance, the knowledge that just putting one foot in front of the other isn’t a bad strategy.”

Waiting for the process of grief ultimately made Bobbi a stronger person.

She learned that people who grieve form a kind of club because they have common feelings and experiences while bouncing back after a loss.

Today, Bobbi runs The Bounce Blog – helping others learn to bounce back from life’s setbacks and develop their own resiliency. Because of a forced wait to become productive again, Bobbi is now able to help others in similar situations.

You should visit The Bounce Blog. It’s an excellent blog and Bobbi is wonderful at what she does.

Elizabeth Littlepage

In 2007 Elizabeth was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Normally a take charge and power through type of person, she quickly found that her normal style of adapting wasn’t going to work with PTSD.

Elizabeth says, “The harder I pushed the worse my symptoms and functionality became. Still, I pushed and rushed for years, all the time sliding back and forth between dangerous lows and just…low. Never better, never happy or healthy, never able to see the simple joys around me.”

Only after accepting that this was a process that couldn’t be rushed, Elizabeth was forced to slow thing down – and wait.

She began to realize and appreciate the power of the mind to heal when given the space and gentle support it needs.

She says, “It was actually in the waiting I found growth, healing, and an amazing gratefulness for the richness of slow, for the power of that liminal space where one’s body and mind rejuvenates, mends, and becomes whole once again. My quiet moments, my moments in waiting, were the very moments that saved me.”

Elizabeth is in the early planning stages of launching her website HelloPaprika.com – which will be oriented to capacity building for non-profits.

As all these stories teach us, there are times when pushing the river doesn’t work. Sometimes we need to trust that it’s taking us somewhere and let it carry us.

(And thank you to everyone who sent in their stories. I wish I had books for all of you!)

How to Stop Pushing the River

Take a look around you. Is there a wait in your life right now that you’ve been cursing at and pushing against? Maybe it’s time to let the wait win. Go with the flow and let the river take you for a ride. <—- Click to tweet this!

Especially during the holidays, please do me a favor: Watch, absorb, really listen, and just be. Then let me know how it went for you.

And if you haven’t noticed, I highly recommend reading The In-Between by Jeff Goins. (That’s an Amazon affiliate link.)

Well? I’m Waiting…
Tell me about when an unwanted wait in your life led to bigger and better things. Let’s talk about it in the comments.


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About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

17 Replies

  1. Michele Kearns

    My first wait period started 5 1/2 years ago when my husband Joe unexpectedly passed away. Then a year later when I was through a big chunk of grief, I was laid off due to a reorganization. During my 3.5 year wait for a new job, I got to spend time with all 4 parents, 3 of whom I buried during my wait period. After each parent’s passing, I said to myself “This is why you are still unemployed – to help the surviving parents.”

    I also know God used the wait time to help me start my blog JoyReturns to help other widows through their grief journey.

    This past January I stared a job as loan officer for a small local credit union (5 people). Two months later I had the duties of teller and collector added to my job description as the part-time teller/collector left. Having multiple personalities for 8 months took it’s toll and I ended up back in another wait period November 13th. My plans for ending the year strong in regards to my job search, went down the drain this week when the sewer backed up and the washer broke.

    I will be doing nothing but reading and spending time with family these next two weeks. Who knows what God has in store for this next wait period but His faithfulness will bring me through it.

    1. Michele:

      Thanks very much for that story. Wow. You’re a resilient person for sure. Make sure you check out Bobbi’s blog. I think you’d like it.

      Anyway – weird question – have you ever lived in Iowa? The name is very very familiar.

      1. Michele Kearns

        I will check out Bobbi’s blog. The closest I came to Iowa was a 2 minute visit to Kansas when Dad made a wrong turn during one of our trips to Texas when I was a kid.

        1. Just checking. I had a pen pal from Iowa in grade school with your name. It was a long shot 🙂

  2. Gary, I appreciate you writing about this topic which I think is an essential one. We really are ‘pushed’ in our society – way too much. After I wrote to you with my brief story, I realized I had written a post about waiting on my own blog a few years ago. I hope you and your readers might like it: http://thebounceblog.com/2011/10/13/just-wait/

    Thanks for everything you do, Gary!

    1. You are the answer to the question, “Who will Gary allow to post links in the comments?” 🙂

      The funny thing about being pushed is that for the most part, we do most of the pushing on ourselves. There may be societal reasons for it, but a lot of it is internal – not external like you’d think.

      Thanks, Bobbi!

  3. Anca Dumitru

    Gary, thank you for a valuable reminder about gratitude and taking the time for *being* instead of *doing.* We get so caught up in DOING that we so often tend to forget to just BE and live in the present moment. This is what I plan to do. I’ve reserved my last week of this year for spending time with my family, to watch and to listen. Thanks again and wishing you all the festive best! 🙂

    1. That sounds fantastic, Anca. Enjoy your family and the holidays!

  4. Elizabeth L

    Thank you for writing this, Gary. It’s amazing how – looking at our stories in the post and reader comments – the wait can lead to connection and growth, regardless of the differences in our experiences, our backgrounds, our goals. Just that little shift in perspective opens up so much. Imagine the power in the possibility of everyone learning how to slow down by “embracing the wait,” becoming conscious of the moment, trusting it, and then sharing that with one another.

    Oh – and thank you for Jeff Goins book! I, too, first read it quickly, but have now started going through it slowly, savoring the little insights and thought-gifts a gem like that has to offer.

    1. Hi Elizabeth!

      Thanks for sharing your story with us all. It’s a great example of why we all need to step back and let things happen sometimes.

      As you mentioned, all these stories add perspective. I think we tend to talk ourselves into the mindset that waiting or being still means doing nothing – and that doing nothing means laziness or lethargy. And sometimes it does, I suppose. But other times, *nothing* or waiting is a much-needed part of the process of growing and/or healing.

      Very glad you’re enjoying the book. Thanks again!

  5. Dean Brightman

    Interesting post, Gary. While this isn’t something I suffer from personally (my problem may be just the opposite), I do agree with the sentiment. I think John Lennon was right — “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

    Wise words.

    1. Hey Dean:

      You make an interesting point. “Healthy” is often walking the line between a couple of extremes, isn’t it? In this case: The line between doing nothing *all* the time and never taking time out to breathe. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth, I suppose 🙂

      Thanks for joining in.

  6. I’ve always struggled with the pushing; when I want something, I want it now! This post is very timely for me, though…I’ve been reflecting, journaling, and planning for next year and I’ve decided I want it to be a gentle one. Not forced, not rushed. I want to learn to be content in whatever situation, enjoy the in-between, and create balance. Phew! I’m relaxed already…

    I’ll be bookmarking this one for those times I’m bound to slip up. 🙂 Thanks for the always fantastic writing, my friend! I love how you’ve found value in the waiting.

    1. Thanks Kaylee – and good to see you here again! You’ve had a big year, so some down time at the end of it sounds like a good idea.

      I too struggle with “shutting down”… I even struggle with slowing down 🙂 so I understand completely. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

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