Self-Evident Truths

By Chuck Violand

July 4, 2016

Those of you who live outside the borders of the United States, or who live within them but have been hiding in a closet, might be missing the circus currently playing out in the U.S. that we affectionately refer to as our primary election process. No matter which side of the political fence you’re on, or even if you prefer to straddle that fence, it’s sometimes hard to keep in mind that it is this very free-for-all of opinions that Tommy and the boys (Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Livingston, and Sherman) wrote so passionately about two hundred and forty years ago in the Declaration of Independence.

They wrote about freedom, liberty, and self-evident truths. And while it may not have been specifically stated, these principles apply to running businesses as well as they do to governing people. Take the freedom to be busy as an example.

When you own a business, you frequently wear busyness like a badge of honor. When people ask, “Are you keeping busy?” heaven help the poor soul who doesn’t answer in the affirmative! “Can’t keep up” we say, or, “We’re crazy busy” we shout back. Answering any other way risks having that person wonder if we know what we’re doing.
To make matters worse, we now have handheld devices to make us look busy and important even if we’re not. You can test yourself on this by considering what you thought the last time you saw someone in a public place who wasn’t frantically tapping away on their mobile device. It was probably along the lines of, “They must not be very important or have anything important to do.”

Most of us learn the value of feeling busy at an early age. Our parents and teachers were constantly telling us to “find something to do!” As a result, sometimes we were so busy trying to look busy that it’s a miracle we got anything meaningful done!

As adults in the workforce, the same message was reinforced when employers would tell us, “Find something to do. I don’t want to see you standing around.” I even recall one of my early employers telling me to grab a broom if I ever found myself with nothing to do. I sometimes feel like I’m still holding it.
But, is the freedom to be busy one of the self-evident truths the Declaration of Independence was referring to? Or is it having the freedom to find meaning in the things that keep us busy?

It’s easy to confuse being busy with being productive or successful. Too often we’re so busy trying to feel busy that we don’t stop to find meaning and fulfillment in the things we’re busy doing. And isn’t that the whole reason for being busy in the first place—to find meaning and fulfillment in the work we do? Isn’t that the purpose of the freedom and liberty for which so many gave their lives? Perhaps it’s time to step back and ask ourselves what we’re sacrificing in the pursuit of feeling busy, and what impact it’s having on the important people in our lives.

Maybe one of the greatest freedoms we have, and one of the not-so-self-evident truths written about so many years ago, is that we have the freedom to choose to feel busy…or not.