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Look by not looking

Have you ever misplaced your keys and not been able to find them? Does it always seem like it always happens when you can least afford the time and inconvenience? Of course you have, and of course it does.

I’m guessing your first reaction is the same as mine: drop everything and start searching frantically. You find your keys eventually but you’re off-balance, feel rushed, and probably still have 5 things to do before actually leaving. You’re still behind, and just as off-center.

That reaction, the search, the sub-optimal results extends well past keys. Good things often happen when you stop “caring” or reacting as much. Need to solve a difficult problem? Let it go. Want to find a new job or a new partner? Stop looking.

In the key scenario instead of dropping everything to find them, what if you kept taking care of business?

You still need to brush your teeth, tie your shoes, put your wallet in your pocket, whatever. And while you do all of those things, you’re aware of needing to find your keys. I’d bet that over half the time you’ll literally see them as you walk around getting ready. More than that, you might mentally retrace your steps and know exactly where they are without ever interrupting your flow.

Look by not looking. Do by not doing.

Is this literal advice? In the case of the keys, yes, in some respects I guess it is.

But it’s more subtle (and by the way the philosophy doesn’t come from me).

In the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu says “Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.” He continues “Act without doing; work without effort.”

Later he says:

In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

So sit back and have a beer. If you don’t go anywhere, you don’t even really need keys in the first place right?

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