Don’t “Just Do It!”

Since 1988 Nike’s Just Do It slogan has been adding zeros to Nike’s bottom line. No one can argue that old shoesit’s a great tagline for them. Well known, easy to remember, and inspiring to athletes and coach potatoes alike.

Even though it’s served Nike well, I don’t think it’s a great tagline for how to “do life.” Honestly, I only take issue with three parts of it: just, do, and it.

Wait a Minute

Who am I to argue with the genius of a large ad agency that represents clients like Facebook and Coke Cola? Who am I to argue with a slogan that has been inspiring the masses to buy shoes (and socks and sunglasses and water bottles…) for 27 years?

The phrase sells shoes. I’m not interested in selling shoes. I’m interested in connecting people to their most inspired (and inspiring) life. I don’t recommend “Just Do It” as the best way to get there.

Being “Just”

Just, among its definitions, means “actually or really.” In other words “really” do it.

As opposed to dreaming, thinking about doing it, talking about why you can’t do it, having a snack, calling a friend, filing your nails, browsing Facebook, having another snack…

Sometimes we need that kick in the butt to get off our butts and make our “it” happen. Sometimes action IS what’s required. But when we jump to the assumption that “just” doing is the answer when we haven’t even figured out the question, we’re premature in our process. I see people pushing, busy, busy, busy, doing stuff day after day, yet not feel successful.

“Just” marginalizes what needs to happen, as if doing or not doing was the only problem. As in, if you just did “it” life would be wonderful. If you just got out and ran (wearing Nike’s, of course) you would be healthier, heck maybe even an Olympian.

But if this is something worth doing, if this is the thing you feel called to do, then your “it” deserves more focus and intention than a dismissive “just.”

Do, Be, Do, Be, Do?

So what about the “do” part? Taking action is at some point essential. But it must be preceded with some “being,” that place where divine inspiration comes in, where ideas gestate. Maybe some taking stock, some listening and sometimes even some waiting.

It’s okay, even necessary to take some time before doing. There’s your timing. And there’s divine timing. Sometimes we need to make ready. Sometimes the universe needs to line things up. If you’ve ever pushed, worked, and plodded to make something happen only to feel frustrated as the project ground to a halt, then you may not have laid your groundwork. It also might not be the “right” time. No amount of “just doing” will unblock the logjam.

The “just do it” attitude implies that it’s all up to you. That there isn’t a greater power at work here. But there is.

That “Just Do It” stuff can keep you busy all day. What about right action? To have right action you must first have inner awareness. You must listen. You must wait for a puff of divine inspiration to blow your way.

Sometimes the most fearless thing you can do is wait. Don’t confuse making excuses, distraction or your delay tactics with waiting for right timing.

When is the time for doing? Good question. It goes back to the awareness piece. You’ll feel clear. You’ll feel excited about your next step.

Here’s the really cool thing. When you’re not pushing yourself to “just do it,” when you’ve waited for that inspiration, for knowing, then you don’t have to push. You want to move. And move you do.

Your “It”

Before you do “it,” you have to figure out what your “it” is. Tricky territory. Sometimes we go after an “it” that belongs to our parents, a boss, or our culture. To live an inspired life you must have a taste of what your “it” is. Doesn’t work if you’re driving to someone else’s it.

Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to go on an inner expedition to find your “it.” It takes space. It takes quiet. It takes commitment.

Your brain is a valuable resource. It usually remembers your address, your route home, your favorite brand of tennis shoes, be they Nike or other. But your brain isn’t always the best place to source your “it.”

Better Places to Check for Your “It.”

Try your heart, a repository of wisdom of what moves and motivates you. Gosh, maybe you’ll be so moved that you won’t need a catchy slogan to inspire you to action.

Trust your gut. Those twitchy, slippery ever-present feelings sandwiched between yesterday’s pizza and your morning corn flakes can inform you about what matters to YOU.

You may have to build your awareness muscles. If you haven’t been listening you have to relearn/learn those skills. But do 15 awareness crunches a day and pretty soon you’ll find yourself with flat awareness muscles. And looking proud, balancing right on top, you might just find your “it.”

Be patient. You’ll know it’s yours because you’ll feel a sense of excitement coupled with a feeling of “this is it.”

Your “it” calls you for a reason. It helps you to heal, to grow. It helps you to offer your gifts to the world, to have more joy. And in order to be up to speed with your “it” you probably need to do some inner work. You might need to shift some beliefs.

I know “Just Do It” is much simpler than my process. My tagline would suck. Something like “Know what you want. Get aligned with it. Wait for inspiration and then act.” I won’t be selling many shoes with that baby. It probably won’t turn you into a world-class athlete either. But you might just have more success and be happier in the process too.

Do you know what your “it” is? I’d love for you to share it here.

  • Great blog! I love the do-be-do-be example. Some people (especially creatives, I’ve noticed) get stuck in their heads and in a place of inaction…in which case action is super important! However if you are go, go, go, sometimes the best thing is to SLOW DOWN, listen to yourself, and get more into BEING to be more effective. Brave to break down the popular “Just Do It” slogan, but it makes so much sense, and I love it!

    • Thanks Danielle. You bring up an excellent point. Self evaluation and awareness are key. Sometimes the sticking place is indecision. And then other times it’s too much doing or moving into action too early in the process. No black & white.