Ponder First, Act Later


From the original edition of my book:    


After opening (or reopening) our minds to wonder, the next thing we have to do is ponder. That is, we need to think before we speak, before we act, and — most important — before we conclude. Our lives move so fast that we’ve become hooked on urgency. We always want to “Go, go, go!” As an entrepreneur, I’ve spent most of my life in that mode. But there is also a time to stop and think, to contemplate, to ponder.
In a century that began with the Wright Flyer, we’ve grown blasé about traveling 500 miles per hour six miles in the air. But maybe you’ve wondered what it’s like to spend every day piloting one of those big 747s. If so, read Stanley Stewart’s book Flying the Big Jets. In one of its most interesting passages, Stewart talks about what you do when the emergency lights are flashing, recorded voices are blaring with instructions, and it looks like your world is coming to an end. What does the good pilot do? She stops and thinks. She knows she may have to act quickly, but she also knows she should take time to consider all the possibilities and options so that she can act with confidence.
Cultivate the skills of contemplation. The next time you go to a museum, don’t just rush through it. Stop and think about each exhibit. Think about the people who were involved: what led them to create this art, explore this place, invent this thing? Why is the museum featuring this story? How does it all relate to what you are doing with your life? Your enterprise? Sit down at a table in the snack bar, linger over a cup of coffee, and make notes about what you’ve seen, heard, and thought.
Don’t confuse pondering with indecision — becoming so paralyzed with thought and internal debate that you never act. There is a time to think and a time to act. If I picture passionate action as an exclamation point that follows the questioning mark, a life of searching, thinking, and planning followed by action might read like this:
?! ???! !!! ?! ?! ??? ?!!!
If we skip the period of exploration, of study and uncertainty, if we don’t take the time to piece it all together in our heads, if we don’t knit our knowledge into whole cloth, then our exclamations will only bring disappointment and failure.