In 1934, Upton Sinclair, the famous author, ran for governor of California. He sought to leverage his greatest strength, writing, to communicate with the public in a way other candidates could not. So, before the election, he wrote a book entitled I, Governor of California and How I Ended Poverty.
Sinclair’s friend Carey McWilliams wrote about the effect of the book on Sinclair – and not on the voters – “Upton not only realized that he would be defeated but seemed somehow to have lost interest in the campaign. In that vivid imagination of his, he had already acted out the part of ‘I, Governor of California.’…so why bother to enact it in real life?”
Long story short, although the book sold well, Upton Sinclair lost the election by a huge margin.
Commenting on this story, Ryan Holiday writes,
It’s a temptation that exists for everyone – for talk and hype to replace action.
The empty text box: “What’s on your mind?” Facebook asks. “Compose a new tweet,” Twitter beckons. Tumblr. LinkedIn. Our inbox, our iPhones, the comments section on the bottom of the article you just read.
Blank spaces, begging to be filled in with thoughts, with photos, with stories. With what we’re going to do, with what things should or could be like … Almost universally, the kind of performance we give on social media is positive. It’s more “Let me tell you how well things are going. Look how great I am.” It’s rarely the truth: “I’m scared. I’m struggling. I don’t know.” –Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy
Social media, in other words, becomes the ultimate trap of creative avoidance. We’d rather talk about what we’re going to do rather than doing it. We fill our time with things we think are important, but in the long run really don’t matter.
It’s like saying you’re starting a business. And then you let everyone know you are starting one. You post on social media about it, you share inspirational entrepreneurship quotes, you get a logo developed, make business cards, set up a website, set up new social media accounts using your business name, post more stuff on those social accounts – all the while not yet actually having a single paying client.
Imagine if someone said their dream was to become a doctor and then they: ordered a stethoscope online, posted pictures wearing it, started telling people about which med schools they were looking at, joined Facebook groups for aspiring medical students to get their advice, had their parents tell all potential spouses they were going to be a doctor – but then never actually took the MCAT and applied to medical school?
It doesn’t have to be as complex as starting a business or going to medical school. It might be something as benign as posting, “can’t wait to take my kids to the park today,” and then not going.
What happens to us is the same thing that happened to Sinclair. By posting about it online, we’ve already acted the part. We’ve somehow talked about it and done it, and thus we lose the motivation to finish executing on the task at hand. The more we talk about something, or think about doing it, the more we deplete ourselves cognitively and think we’re actually accomplishing something.
The Prophet (s) said, “Speak good or remain silent.” One way of looking at this in light of the above is to spend more time doing the work rather than thinking or talking about it.
- 3 Leadership Lessons from Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (from my other website)
- Inspirational Posts on Instagram Are Ruining Your Life Without You Realizing It
- 40 Hadith on Social Media