Be a Verb and Change

I have a few sayings in my life that I really like. They inspire me to do the things I want to do (or should do). I was reading a book yesterday by one of my favorite authors (David Mitchell) and came upon a likeness of one of these wonderful quotes: “The soul is a verb. . .. Not a noun.”

My version of that sentiment: I want to be a verb and not a noun.

A verb is an action word (either physical action or mental action) that tells what is happening. “Runs” is a verb. “Thinks” is a verb. “Studies” is a verb.

A noun is a person, place, or thing. “Dog” is a noun. “Teacher” is a noun. “Apple” is a noun.

I have always wanted to think of myself as a verb. I like the idea that I am heading some place. I like the idea that I am getting better. I like the idea that every day, every hour, every minute can be a step forward. I try to live my life with that improvement in mind.

I am not really interested in being defined as a noun. There’s nothing wrong with nouns. I just feel like they put me in a box and restrict what I can become. I do not want to be limited and the best way I can avoid that is to think of myself as a verb. I am always moving beyond my present state to become better.

It amazes me that, when I talk with students or with candidates taking the CPA Exam, they will often start to define themselves and they frequently do so in very negative ways. They put themselves into a box.

--I am a weak student.

--I am not a very organized person.

--I am a slow worker.

--I am a poor test-taker.

To me, it just seems like they are climbing into a big personal box that restricts their advancement. That noun is a limitation on what they can become. That box holds them back from the success they want.

How does a person become a verb? How do you push yourself to get better?

William Faulkner once famously wrote: “Try to be better than yourself.” To me, that is the essence of being a verb. You are not locked in a box. You are moving toward your goals.

Okay, how can you get better? Well, you can pay a consultant $500per hour to tell you this or I can just tell you for free. Let’s go with free. I like free.

Step One – Have goals—both short term and long term. What do you want to accomplish in the next 24-hours (be specific)? What do you want to accomplish over the next two weeks (be specific)? What do you want to accomplish over the next one to five years (be specific)?

In fact, I have my 24-hour list sitting right here beside of me on this desk as I type.

I often tell my students that if they don’t have goals any action is okay. You cannot get lost if you are not going anywhere.

Step Two – Make good use of your time. We all have 168hours each week. If you eat and sleep for 70 hours per week, that still leaves you with 98 hours to accomplish stuff. How well you use those 98 hours is probably the key difference between success and mediocrity. Too many people just let those hours wash away without benefit. Don’t do that. Be aware of what you are accomplishing. As you move through your day, think about what you are doing at the current moment and whether it is moving you toward your goal. Awareness is a great attribute to possess.

Step Three – Keep a record of what you do. At the end of each evening, take 3 minutes and write down 5 things you accomplished that day. People’s lives are often unfocused because they don’t stop and reflect on what they have done. Or, they spend too much time worrying about their mistakes. Have a few moments before you go to bed where you focus on what you really did accomplish. Stress the good things. It will make you a more positive (and, therefore, more successful) person.

Step Four – Take care of yourself. No one wants to be pushing themselves forward if they feel bad. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Do some amount of exercise on a regular basis. Keep your weight reasonable. Find relaxing distractions like reading or movies. People often get busy and stop paying attention to their own well being. That is a bad idea. They start getting tired and complain of a loss of energy. Your body and mind are not indestructible. They need to be cared for. If you want to be successful for a long time, your equipment (your body and mind) have to be kept in good condition.

Step Five – Be more efficient and be willing to make changes. Look for new and different ways to do things. You will never stand out from the crowd if you don’t do things differently. That just stands to reason. So, as you look at the things you are trying to do in life, consider how you could approach them differently. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) will tell you that certain things must be done in a particular way. If you consider the truly famous people in the world (Picasso, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther, the Wright Brothers) the people who really stand out looked at a piece of the world and saw a better way things could be done. Okay, you are probably not going to invent something like the airplane but as always remember: You will never be above average unless you take risks that are different from everyone else.

Five steps toward becoming a verb. To me, that is a worthy goal. Forget being a noun. Forget putting yourself into a box. Think about where you want to become and get moving!



Back to Articles