The hidden perils of “Passive Action”!

This whole blog is a rip-off of Brook Castillo’s podcast, episode #16: “Massive Action” – which I HIGHLY recommend.

Something I’m really good at is having that light-bulb go off and have a thunder-bolt of an idea of something that would be really cool to do.  A shower-thought, if you will.  I’m not going to list any of them off but there are many.  Some of them, I’ve acted on and succeeded.  Some, I’ve begun to work on and at some point in the process, I get mired down in details or other people that I have expectations of don’t follow the script I have set for them.  Then, I use that as an excuse for why I wasn’t able to do a thing or execute a great plan.

While this blog isn’t about making excuses – I do want to quickly say that when you reach those points, or when I reach those points, I often feel that’s the most essential time to pull the trigger and move ahead anyway.  I don’t always pull the trigger, but it’s important to recognize those points where action is called for.  Some phrases that motivate me through things like this are, “Don’t stop and throw rocks at every dog that barks” (it’s a metaphor so don’t read too much into, please!).  Also, “To hell with tactics! Go straight at ’em” (Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson regarding the overwhelming French Fleet at the maritime battle of Trafalgar).   In short  – when things grind to a halt, sometimes the only way to get things done is “ roll up your sleeves, hoist the black flag, and start slitting throats!”.

There – that should serve.. now back to the show.

Maybe you’re motivated to move forward on something that some excuse or other has brought to a dead-stop and you have the “Find a way, or make one” attitude.   What you have to watch out for now is this idea of “Passive Action”.

So what is Passive Action anyway?  Passive Action is best understood in contrast to Massive Action.   Massive Action is when you keep working and moving forward until you reach your goal.  There might be stops along the way, but you don’t give up and you don’t stop working until you reach your goal.  Massive action is type of action that actually creates something.   Now – Passive Action is the type of action that consumes things.  In passive action, you might read about a topic, take a class about a topic, attend lectures and films regarding a topic, but you are only consuming information – you aren’t creating anything.

Worse – you feel like you are actually making progress toward your goal when you haven’t actually done anything.

Now, it might sound like I’m saying that Passive Actions like reading and planning are bad things – I’m not saying that.  What I am saying, and what Brooke is saying, is that Passive Action tries to pass itself off as Massive Action and can leave us with the feeling that we’ve done enough for the day when really, we haven’t acted on any of the things we read, or heard, or saw, or learned.  After a week, we have gotten a great plan together, we created spreadsheets and researched contacts, but if we haven’t picked up the phone and pitched the idea to the right person, or if we haven’t applied for permits or cooked our weeks-worth of nutritious meals, if we haven’t actually gotten on the bike and rode the miles or put or shoes on and got our butts out the door to act.. to do.. then what’s the point of having a well-organized plan?  Why even commit yourself to all that passive action if you aren’t willing to pull the trigger and act?

Instead, you put all the time and work into generating this knowledge and know-how and it’s exhausting.  You can wear yourself out with thinking about doing things and you feel like you must have actually done something – why else would you be so tired?   It can even become a rat-wheel of despair when you consistently motivate yourself to do essentially nothing because you aren’t willing to follow up the plans and ideas you dream up with Massive Action.

Exhausted for having worked so hard to accomplish so little.


Tomorrow: “Playing it Safe” Passive Action on purpose!




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