Start Doing Nothing

posted in: Uncategorized | 13

May 20th, 2012



The past few weeks have found me knee deep in full time travel. You know the story: 9-5 job is melting the brain, decides to make a plan, saves money, quits job, travels the world, profits. Okay, maybe without the profit bit.


I originally wanted to avoid being a travel blogger. I still intend to avoid that. I also didn’t want my interest to change, and it hasn’t. So where does that leave me the past few weeks? Well, sort of getting used to this new chapter of my life. So with that said, I’ve been cooking up a few new ideas and projects I want to work on and invest in. Hopefully this time abroad will give me some opportunities to seek clarity. In the meantime, I intend to also focus on nothing.



The importance of doing nothing.


On September 26th 1983, the United States and the Soviet Union almost went to war. Quite accidentally as well. The Soviets had this missile detection software in place to basically let the higher ups know if the USA was about to attack the Soviet Union. Long story short, on that near fateful day, the monitoring equipment starts going off, alerting the man in charge, Stan Petrov (above photo), that war is on. Five missiles show up on the radar and he does nothing.


Im willing to guess your job isn’t that important, or at least you aren’t reporting to your nation’s leaders that missiles are on their way. But with any job, things can get stressful. Shoot, in every day life things fall out of place regularly. Sometimes it feels best to react immediately.


So back to Stan. He decides it must be an error. He doesn’t report it to his senior leaders. He did nothing. And good thing for the rest of us.


Turns out the machines malfunctioned. The US wasn’t starting World War III. Petrov says, “All that happened didn’t matter to me — it was my job. I was simply doing my job, and I was the right person at the right time, that’s all. My late wife for 10 years knew nothing about it. ‘So what did you do?’ she asked me. I did nothing.”


Sometimes you just have to go out and do nothing.


As it sadly turns out, he was considered a failure for not reporting the “missile attack” and was reassigned to a lesser position for disobeying orders. Oh well, so is life sometimes.


If you don’t already subscribe to Now I Know, you really oughtta consider it. In today’s bit he mentions our hero Stan.

13 Responses

  1. Sage advice.

    I was just noticing that “doing nothing” is one of those terms that has a deeper meaning (if you let it). Literally, you can’t “do” nothing. Since doing is an action, that makes it “doing nothing” something.

    *I just reread this and I sound stoned out of my gourd. 🙂

    • Ah yes, the plight in the Rime of an Ancient Mariner. Inaction is action!

      Certainly stoned, I believe it.

  2. I just read How To Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson. It is a fantastic read for someone who is working to hard and pining for a simpler, slower life.

    There are so many benefits to being idle. Though this is not the usual reason given, it is still an extraordinary real life example.

    The popular wisdom we hear so often though is that work is good and doing hard work is exemplary. In actuality, work causes a lot of harm. Being idle never started any wars — indeed this shows how it probably saved many human lives and an unnecessary war.

    • I haven’t heard of that book, but it sounds interesting…

      It’s not exactly American culture to do nothing, or be idle. But maybe it sort of is… We spend a lot of time watching tv, zoning out, not participating in life.

      Then again, blogging is sort of designed for the doers…

  3. THanks for the heads up re: “Now I know” ! Nice one mate.

  4. Well this might pop up twice since I am “commenting too fast”. Get with the times WordPress. It’s a keyboard I’m typing on here. Jeez.

    I can’t believe how much of my life was spent on work and school, since being done with all that I am amazed at the time I have to actually do things I love!! It’s crazy! I am so glad we get to do NOTHING together. I love you!

    Sorry this was not as heart felt as my first comment but now I am annoyed I am retyping it. What a waste of doing nothing!

  5. matthew

    i’m on the fence about this.

    a key aspect of mindfulness is nonreactivity

    mindfulness in decision making clearly has its benefits

    but going out and doing nothing doesn’t seem impressive.

    make your own days!

    • Matt, I’m glad I can depend on you for skepticism. Actually, you’re quite right. I struggle to do nothing, perhaps I’ve implied too much. I guess it’s more like you said, it’s about mindfulness and nonreactivity.

  6. David,
    Doing nothing is the HARDEST thing to do. He must have been besides himself, controlling himself. I can’t even imagine. I guess you just have to know which battles to fight.

    I just subscribed to Now i know. I love that site. Just found out that carrots used to be purple. WHAT???? I know..!!! Now i know.

  7. Thank you.

  8. I see a theme in your posts. To be contrarian. I love to work hard, but I love to lie on a hammock as well. But when I’m in a hammock I read, so I still do something. That’s why meditation can be difficult sometimes. Anyway doing nothing is still doing something. Travel has that effect on you, you slow down your life, enjoy present moment more fully. I know this feeling very well. Enjoy it while it lasts;) And yes, sometime doing nothing is can be the best choice possible. Cheers.

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