Actions are natural and automatic byproducts of emotional states, so much so that one need not focus on anything but their emotional state to be effective.
Georges Dorio, the founder of INSEAD and considered “the father of venture capital,” once quipped: “Without action, the world would still be an idea.” I write regularly on the phenomenon of action. Without action, nothing of importance happens. All we have are intentions, desires, and maybe even commitments. Much of my work is about helping business leaders access and master the domain of action. The ability to regularly access this domain requires a fundamental shift in physiology and mindset. And it requires ongoing, deliberate practice.
Yet, we are not just interested in action. Our goal must be effective action. We don't just want to communicate. We want to be able to engage in skillful communication – the type that is both direct and kind. We don't just aim to make decisions. We want to make decisions quickly, thoughtfully, and in a way that moves others to engage in effective action themselves.
The domain of effective action is much harder to access than the domain of simple action. It requires a shifting of focus from the action itself to its precursor. For every action, there is a precursor to that action. An action can only be effective if its precursor is effective.
Imagine preparing for a difficult conversation with a work colleague. Most people will focus on the content of their communication, or they will prepare how they are going to deliver or receive it. The primary driver of effective communication, however, is not its content or delivery. Rather, it is the emotional state from which the conversation is had – in other words, its precursor. If you are angry, frustrated, or contemptuous, no matter how much you try to mask it, your communication will be experienced by your colleague as derivative of that emotional state. Similarly, if you are curious, compassionate, caring, and clear, your communication will be experienced consistent with that set of emotions.
Actions are natural and automatic byproducts of emotional states, so much so that one need not focus on anything but their emotional state if they want to be effective. Every action carries with it an emotional signature that contains a gold mine of valuable information. Master your precursive emotional state and you will master effective action.
Maria Popova’s piece on George Saunders is particularly worth reading: “In a world full of people who seem to know everything, passionately, based on little (often slanted) information, where certainty is often mistaken for power, what a relief it is to be in the company of someone confident enough to stay unsure (that is, perpetually curious).”
Vulnerable, self-referential writing may be the most effective form of communication. I was reminded of this after reading Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s New York Times opinion in which he describes his own struggles with loneliness to support his proposal for a national framework to rebuild social connection and community in America.
I finally read Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question. This short story is considered by many to be the prolific writer’s best. I now see why. It’s an absolute must read.