I’ve always appreciated Merlin Mann’s careful use of language. I think he was the first person I ever heard explain the difference between “busy” and “time constrained.” Another one of his favorites is the difference between “expensive” and “costly.” I admire precision in language. In this same vein (and following yesterday’s article) I’ve discovered my own pet peeve when it comes to one verb in particular — find.
“Yeah I’d love to meet! Let me find some time in my schedule and I’ll get back to you.”
“10 Ways to Find More Meaning in Your Work!”
The word find is pervasive. Everyone is constantly searching for and sometimes finding the time to do things. Finding the time to go to a meeting. Finding time to setup a call. Finding time to work on that report. Looking for and often failing to find a time to work on that important but not urgent project. Busy, busy, busy. Finding, finding, finding.
Find insinuates that what you’re looking for is hiding from you and it’s simply a matter of discovering its location. At the same time, there’s a tinge of uncertainty. Something that must be found may end up being too well hidden. The excuse of not doing it is baked right into the verb — the time simply couldn’t be found! You tried! Who has ever heard of blaming someone for looking but failing to find? It’s not your fault!
The other context in which I see find inappropriately thrown around is when it comes to having a sense of meaning at work. Lifehack/personal development bloggers love to give advice about finding meaning at work. In their eyes, tips and tricks are what’s standing between you and the last rock you need to turn over to find the professional/personal meaning that has been hiding from you. Somehow meaning is some kind of discrete entity that is waiting for you to come get it if you just look hard enough.
I’m trying to ban the word find from my vocabulary. When I say find what I should probably be saying is make. To find is passive. Finding has an excuse built into it. Finding absolves you from needing to make choices. Finding goes hand-in-hand with being too busy. Finding isn’t hard work.
Making, on the other hand, is active. It connotes making a choice. It’s deciding that something is important and doing what you need to do to make space for it. It’s being in charge of how you spend your time and attention and taking the vigorous action to do what needs to be done. It’s often difficult.
It even feels different when people use it in conversation with you. Which of these feels better as the recipient? “I’d love to hop on a call — let me make some time and get back to you,” vs. “I’d love to hop on a call — let me find some time and get back to you.” It’s subtle but the former feels like someone who is prioritizing our time together and not looking to slot it into an otherwise open part of their schedule.
Ultimately, I think the difference between find and make is the difference between feeling like you’re being buffeted about by the demands on your time and attention and feeling like you’re in control of where you direct your time and attention.
Active creators of their own reality make. Harried responders find.