How to Worry Less — While Waiting for Something You Want
The waiting is killing you. But it doesn't have to.
Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to level up — and build a career or company you love.
Today’s one thing: Trying to make something happen.
That one thing, better: Letting something happen.
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You’re waiting for something.
And the waiting is excruciating.
What are you waiting for? Could be anything — a project in limbo, a thing you pitched, a decision from someone, a response to your email.
Whatever it is, you cannot let it go. You think about it. You obsess over it. It distracts you from other work. It absorbs your happiness.
Today, I’m going to give you a way to separate yourself. To claw back some mental energy. To just give yourself a break.
And I’ll start by sharing how it helped a producer I know, who kept asking...
“When will these damn people reply!?”
I was recently talking with a producer who is pitching a big project.
She’s spent years working on this thing. It is impressive. And now she’s in touch with some big-deal people at big-deal companies, who might spend big-deal money on her.
But also, they might say no — which would crush her.
Three weeks ago, her agent had a call with The Guy in Charge. Now everyone’s just waiting. And waiting.
And this producer is obsessing. Waking up in the morning full of anxiety. Unable to focus on other tasks. Thinking, thinking — is there something she can do, something she can say, someone she can call…
She asked me what to do. I told her:
Send it all into the ocean.
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Stay with me. It’s a metaphor!
Here’s a thing you probably know: Ocean waves can be huge. Literally 100 feet huge. You’ve seen them in movies — the big, deadly wave.
Consider that. Literally right now, as you read this newsletter, 10 insanely huge waves move across the ocean — rising 100 feet tall, murderous monsters, fierce and angry and loud.
And nobody will ever see or know they existed.
There is no record of them. Their only witnesses are fish. They are incredible events that happen without our knowledge — just as we are not aware of epic shark battles, thunderous lightening storms, and any number of other ferocious oceanic things.
What’s the point of this?
It’s this: We often think that things need our attention.
But the truth is, they often don’t.
Something big is happening in your life. You’re thinking about it a lot. Why? Your brain is searching for an action to take. You want to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
But sometimes there is nothing to do. Thinking about it does nothing.
A wave, right now, is rising 100 feet over the ocean. It’ll happen with or without you. It does not need your thoughts.
What if you took this thing you’re worried about — this thing you cannot do anything about — and you just tossed it on top of that wave?
And how do you do that?
You let it slowly float there itself.
Look, I get it — I can’t just tell you to stop thinking about something. Doesn’t work like that.
“If I could just stop thinking about it,” the producer told me, “I would do that.”
In fact, I bet it feels counterproductive — because your brain wants to DO SOMETHING, and you’re trying to instruct it to NOT DO SOMETHING.
You’re trapped in a terrible cycle that goes like this:
So what if that’s not the goal?
What if, instead, you ask this question:
What else requires my attention?
Now you’re acknowledging: This thing is in your head. It won’t go away easily. But there are other things you need to do — so what are they?
Make a list. What needs you right now? What’s the best spend of your time?
Now work on that. And tell yourself: That other thing belongs in the ocean.
The next time you feel distracted by the thing you’re waiting on — and this could happen one minute later! — just go back to it.
What can you do right now? And what belongs in the ocean?
I’m not saying this’ll be easy. But I am saying that you’re a person of action. You want to do things. You want to take control. So let’s embrace that — but recognize its downside.
The thing is, you can’t do everything all the time. Some things are on pause. Some things are out of reach.
So the more you focus on what you CAN DO, the more you let go of what you CAN’T DO — and let it slide into the ocean, where life goes on without us.
Out there, in the ocean, waves rise and fall and rise again — existing, churning, being, big and important. Just because you’re focused elsewhere, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. But it doesn’t need you yet.
And one day, hopefully soon, a wave will come towards you. It’ll be time. Time to take action. Time to DO SOMETHING. And so you will put down the other things you’re doing, and you will stand up.
And you will say: Finally. Let’s do this.
That’s how to do one thing better.
P.S. Miss last week’s newsletter? It was about how to get what you want — faster! Read it here.
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