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Busyness: The New “Worm in the Bottle”

When I was a teenager, I didn’t know what tequila was, nor did I know anything about mezcal. I was a sheltered teen... so I only knew about vodka and whiskey. The myth/ legend surrounding eating that worm in the bottom of the bottle of Mezcal is that it will somehow bring you luck or special powers. I thought the story was cool, and mystifying.


I didn’t learn until years later that eating the worm was the dumbest idea ever. Some call it a rite of passage. I call it stupid. Who eats a worm? People who want to come to your party and say “Guess what I did? I ate the worm,” that’s who. Anyone who can get to the worm in one sitting could classify that as a "special power", others might classify that as a problem. These are people who brag about being stupid.

I find myself reacting to people who say to me “Do you have any idea how many emails I get? Do you know how busy I am?” in a very similar way.


You’re the dummy who "ate the worm", aren’t you? It’s as though you want credit for making bad decisions, or a cheer, or a pat on the back. I don’t give out awards for being infuriating.

I'm sorry you can't organize your affairs. I hear you when you say you can't seem to wrangle all of your commitments. I hate that you feel overwhelmed and burnt out. Your "busyness" is not a superpower. It is not a rite of passage. It does not make you a work martyr. You are just the guy at the party who made it to the bottom of the bottle.


Let’s clear the air on what I think of your state of busyness:

  1. I don’t care how busy you are. You shouldn’t care how busy I am. Sounds to me like you need a new way to manage your calendar. When was the last time you told someone “No” when they asked you to do something that you really didn’t have time to do, or shouldn’t have been doing? 
  2. I also don’t care about how many emails you get. I can probably match you message for message, and I might win. Now, I have taken the time to figure out how to set email rules so that only important stuff gets to my in-box, and junk goes away sometimes before I even have to delete it. If you haven’t taken the time to do that, shame on you.
  3. Lastly, I feel that emergencies are personal. My emergencies are mine, and no one else’s. Your emergencies are NOT necessarily my emergencies. So, please don’t take offense when I don’t jump up to push everyone else’s work aside to read your IRS notice or latest email question. I have the power to set my own priorities.

Busyness is such a terrible state in which to exist. It takes your valuable time and just blows it up on nothing-work. It wastes valuable resources on junk. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. You know what? If you’ve only been busy, you haven’t really accomplished anything.


Entrepreneurs, you’re especially susceptible to the busyness disease. You keep chasing shallow work and you call yourself busy. But nothing deep is ever accomplished. No one pays you to do easy busy-work. You get paid to do the big work, the deep work, the work in which you specialize. I don’t know of anyone who specializes in busy-work (at least not on purpose).


So, please be mindful of your time and how you use it. And don’t ever ask anyone again if they “know how busy you are” or if they “know how many emails you get.”

If you say that to the wrong person, you could find yourself with a day timer shoved up your nose.

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