By Max McKeown
How and why to apply the lessons learned from THEN to the opportunities to do something of value NOW
According to Max McKeown, “This book argues that for most people, most of the time, it is better to lean toward action rather than inaction. Nowists act on their belief that they will be happier and healthier if they keep moving. That they will achieve more and experience more of than if they move forward rather than stand still. The virtue of impatience is often of greater practical use than the vice of self-denying, motion-delaying, joy-draining, now numbing patience.”
He goes on to suggest that this book “is about the joy of moving. It is a book about motivation, because motivation means to be moved. This is also a book about what it takes to keep moving — ways of making the effortless decisions required to clear a path for clear effortless action — and the benefits this brings for your sense of power and well-being.”
It is important to keep in mind that McKeown offers an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that he hopes will be of substantial benefit to “most people, most of the time.” The title of his book refers to the potential power of the #NOW mindset when applied where it will have the greatest impact and value. There are also situations in which Mark Twain’s admonition is more appropriate: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow.”
Members of an ER staff offer an excellent example of when the #NOW mindset is of greatest assistance to making decisions, often with a life-or-death implications. Highy-developed skills in combination with extensive prior — and relevant — experience must guide and inform those decisions. The inverse of Twain’s admonition also makes sense when rephrased “Why put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, now.” In these situations, multi-taskers thrive. Presumably McKeown agrees with me that sequential tasking is preferential because it requires prioritization as well as an understanding of causality. Being proactive requires being selective.
As I re-read this book and the highlighted passages before composing this brief commentary, I realized again that the #NOW mindset includes some lean principles that involve the elimination of waste in terms of hours, dollars, energy, productivity, efficiency, opportunities, and expectations. Long ago, Stephen Covey observed that most executives spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. Nowists do not make that mistake. They “set up a sustainable spiral of success by neatly side-stepping unhelpful emotional distress” and other incompatible distractions.
Here are Max McKeown’s concluding observations: “Every situation is unique, naturally, yet there is a danger of viewing busy as automatically abnormal and unhealthy. We like it feel effective. We can like to be active. We are often better off embracing action rather than resenting being made to move or change. The only way to stop is to die. Movement is life. And, as my grandfather would say, life is generally the better of the two alternatives.”
For many who read #NOW, it may well be the most important book they ever read.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Robert Morris. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.