The question is not intended to imply that you can accomplish great things without putting in the effort. And yet by focussing on doing we can miss the big picture and the opportunities that present themselves to jump ten steps ahead rather than slogging through the mud. It is about viewing everything through the lens of how do I achieve maximum output for minimum input?

I have found these two questions really helpful in this regard:

  • Can I accomplish something without doing anything?
  • Can I do something without accomplishing anything?

To me they really distinguish between the ideas of doing and accomplishing. My upbringing and much of my life experience has been around doing, so this is somewhere I have come from. In truth, there has always been a strong reflective component and a sense of bigger pictures and yet my first reflex used to be: What can we do about this?

Now it is more akin to Einstein’s proper question:

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask…

Einstein is essentially inviting us to start thinking first about accomplishing and only later, much later perhaps, about doing.

If you would like to explore this theme in more depth, Episode 12 of my Time Academy Podcast might be a starting point.

Questions in the Image:

  • Can I accomplish something without doing anything?
  • Can I do something without accomplishing anything?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (link to This insightful book emphasises the value of focusing on essential activities and eliminating the non-essential, aligning with the above discussion of achieving maximum output with minimum input. It may serve as a humble guide for those looking to incorporate this principle into their daily practice.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – a sense of frustration about not accomplishing what you want might offer these questions: What were you expecting? How is this helpful? What other emotion might replace frustration? How else might you accomplish what you want?

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.