All the Things You Can’t Do -- Instead of All the Things You Can

Peter Drucker, in his seminal book The Effective Executive, makes an arresting point about focusing on what you can do rather than what you can't:

"Most executives I know in government, in the hospital, in a business, know all the things they cannot do. They are only too conscious of what the boss won't let them do, of what company policy won't let them do, of what the government won't let them do. As a result, they waste their time and their strengths complaining about the things they cannot do anything about.

Effective executives are of course also concerned with limitations. But it is amazing how many things they find that can be done and are worth while doing. While the others complain about their inability to do anything, the effective executives go ahead and do."

We see this same dynamic in many of the life domains we discuss here at Casual Kitchen--of how far too many people give away their power, complaining about things totally outside their circle of control, rather than taking specific action inside their circle of control.

Some examples:

1) Complaining about greedy food companies trying to make us all fat--instead of thinking about what specific actions you can take to help your family eat healthier.

2) Raging about the political environment, or holding generalized negative feelings about those idiots in that other party who are all total idiots. Usually this is a direct function of consuming too much media. Remember! The media's function is not to inform you, it's to capture your attention by inducing rage or fear.

2a) Related: Letting a certain orange-colored President derange you, letting him live rent-free in your head, letting him make you mad from thousands of miles away. Instead of impotently shaking your fist at him on Twitter, you could be directly and positively impacting the people right around you, right now.

3) Complaining that the investing game is rigged (because of "high frequency trading" or "rich insiders" or whatever reason), rather than taking action yourself by improving your own investing game and getting better at it. As with politics, the investing realm is cruel to those who overreact to the media. Also, an innocent question about your personal circle of control: What's the last personal finance book you read? What is the most recent concrete step you've taken to improve your family's financial footing?

4) One of the more pernicious traps of modernity: fooling ourselves into thinking we're taking action by reading and talking about things, rather than actually doing them. We get the illusion of taking action with none of the results. I wrote about one painful example of this on my writing blog, about an acquaintance who talked about a novel he would someday write. Unfortunately, his novel never existed in reality--it only existed in an idealized state in his imagination.

"The assertion that 'somebody else will not let me do anything' should always be suspected as a cover-up for inertia. But even where the situation does set limitations--and everyone lives and works within rather stringent limitations--there are usually important, meaningful, pertinent things that can be done. The effective executive looks for them. If he starts out with the question: 'What can I do?' he is almost certain to find that he can actually do much more than he has time and resources for."

And he (or she!) can do much, much more than all the people sitting around complaining. Put together.

READ NEXT: Money Sundays: Is Looking For Tax-Efficient Investments Icky? Or Intelligent?

AND: The Official YMOYL Reading List

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