“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” ~Buddha

BookendsMost people are living a formula that looks like this: Have-Do-Be. It works out thusly:

“When I have what I want, then I will be able to do what I want, and finally I will be somebody.

“When I have the right degree, the right job, the right opportunity…

“Then I will do the job the degree prepared me for, work my way up the ladder the job provided me and capitalize on the opportunity to make a name and money for myself…

“And finally I will be happy, rich, respected and successful.”

The first “bookend” that is missing from this is “Know”. You have to learn stuff before you will have anything. The hardworking folks above probably fell into “Knowing” because they read books or took classes or watched videos. The fact that they moved off the couch from there to want to have something enough to take action makes them standouts.

And yet, have you noticed that people working this system rarely get to the “be” part?

Flip It

A few have recognized that most folks get the order wrong. It isn’t Know-Have-Do-Be, it is Know-Be-Do-Have.

When you are the kind of person who is an achiever or is satisfied or is wealthy, it informs what you do which in turn gives you the opportunity to have things, both substantial and nonsubstantial. It’s more than the homes and the clothes and the cars, it is the satisfaction and the accomplishment and the freedom.

There are lots of people who get past the “having” phase and are hooked on “doing”. The problem is they never get the “being” part down. Start with being. Be the kind of person who is smart, successful, grateful, excited, intelligent, creative or whatever else you need to be to do and have what you intend for.

What Do You Mean We Aren’t Done Yet?

And this is where the few often go off the tracks. They hear it as, “Don’t Do, Be.” Please look again because that is not the formula. The formula is Know-Be-Do-Have. You still have to get your hands dirty. You still have to tax your brain. You still have to get in there and do stuff.

If you do not follow being with doing, nothing is created. It’s like the Buddha said, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”

If you are feeling disappointed that I didn’t give you the “easy” way to succeed, allow me to reframe it for you. You went from an incomplete formula that leads the way to guaranteed failure to the only way that works. This is a major step forward and I congratulate you for taking it.

No Backsliding Allowed

If you have been accustomed to doing, doing, doing, it will be easy to mislabel the times you are “just doing” rather than “being followed by doing”. It will take some brutal self-honesty and, at the beginning at least, a regular challenging of why you are doing X right now. If you can’t tie an activity to who you are being, you have fallen off the wagon. Not to despair, just get back on. You will find that your challenges uncover more “beingness” with practice and ultimately that the challenges will rarely be needed.

So back to bookends. Doesn’t that analogy normally require two, one on each end? How astute you are. So here is the complete formula:


This is the path to all creation, the creation of wealth, of opportunity, of achievement, of breakthroughs, of happiness. Creation is the final objective, it is why we bother to “be” anything in the first place.

“Do you know the missing bookends around Be-Do-Have?” click to tweet

Whether you are creating a business or a family or a work of art, there is a syntax that allows it to come to fruition and prosper. Include all the steps, work them in order, and you will find your outcome is more rich, more satisfying and more true to your vision.

What are you creating? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Photo credit: Design Initiative

The Missing Bookends Around Be-Do-Have
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One thought on “The Missing Bookends Around Be-Do-Have

  • Permalink

    I love the idea that being should inform what you do. Lots of people are just “going through the motions”, as if motion was enough.


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