A couple of weeks ago, a friend was talking about where he works.  Long story short, there is a massive collection of people generating lots of reports.  Day in and day out.

Some of these reports are beautiful. They are not mere simple efforts to get the job done to the least possibly acceptable level.  No, these reports are prepared by people who take a great deal of pride in their work.  They spend days (or weeks) building these reports before they are deemed ready.  Then, they show these reports to their team, managers, direct reports, anyone who will listen.  They go over the finer points and then, nothing changes.  They move on to the next set of data and build a new report.

Unfortunately, these well-intentioned individuals spend way too much time building something that yields such a remarkably low return on investment.  Why?

It’s safe.

There is a certain illusion in staying busy.  If we are busy, we are important, right?  If we are busy, we are making progress, right?  If we are busy and producing quality work, we are valuable to the team, right?

Not necessarily.

I can leave Washington DC and drive north on I-95 ALL DAY…but that won’t help me get to Florida.  Sure, I spend just as much effort (maybe even more dealing with New York traffic) and just as much gas, but I get no closer to my goal.

So many of us are so afraid to receive disapproval, we will do great work on unimportant things.  It’s scary sticking your neck out.  It’s scary being the messenger.  People shoot the messenger!

Others of us don’t take the time to understand our goals. We need to break away from our busyness to think about what we want to accomplish.  And, as this study shows, people seem to have some significant aversion to thinking.

It all comes back to fear.  Fear of being wrong.  Fear of not being accepted.  Fear of failure.  Fear of the unknown.

Seth Godin has a great quote: The tiny cost of failure…is dwarfed by the huge cost of not trying.

It’s okay.  Go out there and try something important.  It might fail.  Remember, everything is an experiment.  So what!?  Learn and try again.