Never do nothing

The Motto

The other day I remembered that I’d once had a postcard sized framed text hanging just above the light switch in the bathroom of my old bachelor pad in Göteborg. It had a single statement that read,

“Never do nothing.”.

I can’t remember whether I coined that phrase – or just stole it. In any case, the three words worked well for me then – and I still try to live by them today.

The objective of hanging the motto was to remind me to stop avoiding challenges. It gave me a well-needed shout-out to take a driver’s seat approach to life and steer forcefully towards my goals – however lofty or banal they were.

The motto also inspired me to start making mental to-do lists and then consciously rank them in accordance with what I thought could be reasonably accomplished each day.

As a consequence, I started competing with myself. A habit I’ve continued with ever since.

Admittedly, at that stage of my life, in the mid 1980s, I certainly needed something to get me to stop procrastinating. Back then, I was dividing my days between painting canvases in my kitchen studio, working part-time as a substitute teacher in (Philosophy, English and Art) and spending weekends either working for or patronizing several of Göteborg’s most popular bars and restaurants.

It was both a creative period (in which I produced some 200 paintings), but also an undeniably self-destructive era where I indulged in way too much of pretty much everything.

I remember often feeling guilty for not working harder at my burgeoning career as a painter of abstract art and eventually taking the plunge to work full-time as an artist. And to make matters worse, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle I led back then really took its toll on my ability to focus. There were just too many distractions and diversions. And because I’ve periodically had a hard time making decisions, I’d often end up doing absolutely nothing. Nothing meaningful, anyway.

I won’t go as far as to say that thanks to the framed motto, everything turned around for me. But it certainly helped remind me to never do nothing.

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