Archives for posts with tag: Active

I subscribe to lots of different publications and newsletters, some of which are focused on lifestyle. One of them is the succinct, informative and weekly email called 5-Bullet Friday from the very well known Tim Ferriss. You can find him and it via or else on Twitter via @tferriss and #5BulletFriday.

I was reading one of these the other day – a Friday obviously, but I can’t remember which one – and in the ‘Quote I’m Pondering’ feature were the following words by a Thomas Merton, whom wikipedia describes as ‘an American Catholic writer, theologian and mystic. The words resonated with me and I repeat them here:

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence ….
(and that is) activism and overwork. The rush and pressure
of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form,
of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of
conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands,
to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone
in everything, is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace.
It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the
fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of
inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

What I like about the quote is that as a commentary on modern life it could have been written yesterday, when in fact it dates to at least half a century ago, since Mr Merton died in 1968.

In our headlong rush to get stuff done – and I’m as guilty as the next person, not just because I prefer to have lots of small things on the go rather than one massive thing – we become one of these people who ‘try to do too much’ and we diminish the good we do, not increase it. Was true, still is true, probably will be too.



Short term memory. Lots of people complain that they have short term memory, fear that they’re losing their marbles.

Nothing of the sort. I forget things I heard in the recent past, but it’s not because I have short term memory issues. It’s because I haven’t engaged my brain properly.

There are plenty of self-help books to improve people’s recollection of names, people, events. The key thing to do is to listen – actively. There is of course a difference between hearing someone and listening to them, between seeing someone and looking at them, watching them. When you actively listen, when you put something small on the line that makes you establish a connection and fire a few more synapses than normal, you remember something, for a long time.

I can remember the names of attractive women I might have met only briefly at a party three decades ago. I can do the same with telephone numbers and car registration plates. Why? Because I had an interest in making the connection, so it elevated the information to a different part of my mental filing system.

So, if you want to get better at retaining information, concentrate more. Concentrate on actively listening and watching and making the right connection.

You could argue that the subject of this post could be a motto for life, not just for business writing. After all, it’s better to effect things than be affected by them. It gives you more control over your destiny, more flexibility in your choices.

In business writing, it’s also better to be active than passive, especially if you are writing ‘persuasive’ documents like business cases or sales proposals. As an example, look at the previous paragraph. The active ‘voice’ is more powerful at effecting something, whereas the passive voice governs being affected by something.

Try and avoid phrases like ‘the ROI calculation can be found below.’ It sounds stuffy and conservative, but also weak and, well, passive. You’re writing this document, you’re in charge of it, so take control. Better to say ‘The ROI calculation below shows the value of our service to your business.’

The active voice is to do with action, and when it comes to your business writing, it’s action you want your reader to take, otherwise why take the time to write at all?