If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it

By Donald Broughton

As chief market strategist, managing director and senior transportation analyst for Avondale Partners, Donald is a frequent guest on CNBC and Fox. He has been recognized as a top stock picker by “The Wall Street Journal,” “Fortune,” “Zacks” and “StarMine.”


My paternal grandmother was constantly doing something, passing on her skills, and teaching us her axioms.

It is easy to remember her cooking, gardening, canning, cleaning and sewing, and impossible to forget her teaching all of us how to do the same. Because, “The easiest way to truly, deeply learn something is to teach it to someone else.” But there was so much more, she was constantly reading or talking. “Almost every task in life is made better by adding a companion.”

When my grandfather was driving, she’d talk to him and crochet at the same time. In an era in which very few women had degrees, she had worked as a maid and put herself through nursing school, and became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

My memories of her are mostly populated by her years in retirement, but while raising three kids, she also spent over 40 years as an emergency room nurse. Those years of experience were never more evident than during the holidays. She was busy, steadily doing things, but then in a flurry of activity that was carefully choreographed, and punctuated with orders barked out to all of us with a level of precision that would make a Marine Corp Drill Sergeant proud, a dinner (so massive that the table would groan under the weight) would appear in a matter of minutes. And we all had better have washed our hands before we sat down.

Equipped with an ironic sense of humor, she used to quip, “I’m really very lazy. I like to do a job very well, exactly right the first time, so that I will never have to do it again.”

Everyone who knew her marveled at the things she accomplished and that she was accomplished in a multitude of fields. She had an incredible work ethic and a long list of axioms.  One of her favorite, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Her reasoning was simple. Those who sit around doing nothing are simply wasting their lives and aren’t busy because they don’t do anything. Busy people, on the other hand, are busy because they do things, make things happen. She was onto something.

Steve Russell, the founder of a trucking company called Celadon, put it this way, “You can make more money. You can make more friends. But you can’t make more time.” His sense of urgency allowed him to earn a bachelor’s in mathematics from Cornell University by the age of 20, and an MBA from Cornell a year later.  He became president of Hertz Trucking by the age of 30.  He founded Celadon at the age of 45, and in 30 years, grew it from one truck to more than 5,000, with over 12,000 trailers, employing more than 4,000 people and generating more than $1 billion a year in revenue. When he passed away in April of this year, all of us who knew him said “life well lived.”

We all value leisure time, time to recharge, but in the age of technology and video games and streaming entertainment, it is very easy to slip into the habit of requiring to be entertained, of watching others create, or even just watching others do nothing (i.e., the Kardashians). Want to create something with your life? Put down the phone, turn off the TV, turn off the Xbox, turn off the computer, and do something, create something.

As a good friend of mine, who is also a very busy person, is fond of saying, “I like to be as efficient as possible in everything I do, because life is time-sensitive.”