when to listen and when to act

WhenToListenAndWhenToActOver the past week and a half, I had what could be considered a “really bad week.” And at the same time the “really bad week” led to a dozen or so a-ha moments that will massively impact my career over the next year.

Starting on Monday and Tuesday of last week, I noticed that I felt exhausted and lacked enthusiasm for a lot of things in my business – which was very unusual. I mentioned this slump on Facebook to see if other people were also feeling this way, and Regina P. pointed out that it could be due to Mercury Retrograde.

Not knowing what Mercury Retrograde was, I looked it up.  It turns out that astrologers believe that Mercury Retrograde wreaks havoc in all sorts of different ways. Though I wasn’t completely convinced that my energy was being zapped by a planet’s orbit, I did think it could have had to do with PMS and the gloomy weather we’ve been having at the very least.

But once other difficult situations popped up on Wednesday and Thursday… I was starting to get suspicious of this Mercury in Retrograde thing.

Then Friday happened. First thing in the morning I lightly bumped my head which would normally not be a big deal at all. But because my neck was bending as it happened, the pressure on my forehead shot down to a disc in my lower neck and knocked it out of alignment. Just an innocent little bump caused immense pain and landed me on the couch for the majority of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (thank God for Tiger Balm).

After such a dismal week, finding myself immobile on the couch was disheartening to say the least.

However, two positives did come out of this couch-bound situation. The first was that I watched hours of You Tube interviews with thought leaders that I admire. I watched Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi, Jonathan Fields, Chase Jarvis, and more.

Because I wasn’t able to act on anything in my business, literally, I was forced to listen

And it turned out to ten times more productive than if I had taken action without listening first.

Rather than operate and make business decisions based on my “in the trenches” perspective, I was able to elevate myself to a higher vantage point by listening to successful people speak from their experience about what is most important, what is essential, what is next.

By simply clicking an interesting link from the recommended videos on the You Tube sidebar again and again, I was able to create my own personalized MBA on the topics I care about with the “professors” and “lectures” that I crave. 

I highly recommend trying this on YouTube. Simply search YouTube for someone you admire and would like to learn from. Then, watch the videos that appear and then let the recommended video sidebar on the right guide you from there. Overall, I found the longer interviews were more powerful than the quick 3-5 minute clips. So if you have a chance to devote a few hours, I would go for the deeper content first.

The other blessing that this whole “Mercury in Retrograde week” presented was the idea that I can be consciously choosing weeks in the year that involve deep listening.

It turns out that MR lasts about three weeks and occurs three times a year. Rather than look at this time as a negative, I would actually like to devote these seasons to listening, learning, and absorbing. I would like to let them be a time for reflection, tying up loose strings, and carefully contemplating the actions I’d like to take going forward – all of which happen to be the positive side of the MR coin.

Historically, I tend to get an idea and try to implement the very next day. But after my experience this week, I now feel a sense of calmness and peace from creating three-week seasons to clarify. In the future, I plan to clear my schedule of regular business activities – as much as possible – during these seasons to make sure I can have that time to read, listen, and think deeply.

At this point, whether Mercury Retrograde is really a “thing” or not is irrelevant to me personally. Either way, I am now convinced that businesses improve when business owners include seasons for deep listening.


May something wonderful happen to you today,



Thinking of doing a Grow with Intention session with me?

I’m so glad I took the leap and invested in a business coaching session with Jess. I walked away with a strong purpose statement, a much better understanding of myself and the direction I want my business to go.

Alexandra Evjen, AVE Style



Reader Spotlight 

Jess Creatives wants to engage the community through outstanding and creative graphic design and photography with a Christ-like perspective. I love being able to help my clients improve their brand with print and digital promotional materials, as well as websites and social media.

Jessica Freeman, Jess Creatives

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  1. Angela S

    Wow, I have never heard of MR…but I have to say I wasn’t necessarily feeling it last week either and would like to think it was MR. I like the idea of listening..I need to install that into my routine, thanks!

    1. Jess Lively

      Yeah, I think a lot of people – MR or no MR – didn’t have the greatest week last week. I hope you have a chance to decide how you’d like to work that listening into your routine. : )

  2. Sage Grayson

    I’ve heard of Mercury Retrograde, but I’ve never really thought about what it’s doing to my life. I love that you say it doesn’t matter whether it’s a thing or not, and that we can choose to have listening times and to slow down purposefully. I already block out vacation weeks, but now I want to think about listening/education weeks.

    1. Jess Lively

      Exactly! It doesn’t have to be an MR related thing. Like Kyidkim mentions above, Bill Gates does something similar yearly, too.

      And yes, I’m pretty good about the vacation/rest part, also. This new habit of deep listening/education could really be helpful for us as biz owners in a whole set of new ways.

  3. Stacey Beth

    Loving this reminder to listen and think and reflect.

    1. Jess Lively

      It is so funny that you mention the Bill Gates story! I have heard that he goes away to read yearly, too. I thought about mentioning it in this but left it out but I’m so happy you brought it up. It definitely doesn’t have to just be a MR thing. : )

      Thank you for sharing.

  4. This is an incredible post. The MR thing may or may not be a “thing” (mine started with an infestation of pantry moths…shudder…) but taking the time to listen and let the world come to you rather than you to it is brilliant, and SO difficult to actually make good on. Scheduling it with MR seems like a great plan – enlightening and protecting yourself from harm! 🙂

    1. Jess Lively

      Pantry moths? I’ve never heard of them, but they don’t sound fun. I hope that situation has resolved for you now.

      And yes, it is kinda nice to know that the MR timing is an opportunity to take advantage of the positive attributes that come with it.

  5. Maureen Shaughnessy

    Jess, I like your idea of creating times for deep listening rather than waiting until we have to react to an incident (like your unfortunate neck pain. Hope you’re feeling all better now ) Create has the same characters in the word as React. It’s just a more positive way to live our lives 😉

    I also like that you call them “seasons.” I do that pretty well, but I liked being reminded of the “why” of it. I tie these times of reflection, growth and listening to the seasonal rhythms of my year so I do something like that about four times a year. Thanks for the lovely post today. — Maureen

    1. Jess Lively

      Very nice! I love that you have found a similar rhythm, and as you mentioned, didn’t need to hurt your neck in order to surrender to the idea. ; )

      I hope you have a great day, Maureen!

  6. Guest

    Your post came at the right time, Jess (as always 🙂 I am also having awfully bad weeks effecting my business. My “method” is kind of same: I talk to lot of people, and I take notes of everything that sound helpful. At some pont I will have to summarize and decide of course 🙂

    1. Jess Lively

      I was just thinking about the same thing! I think that right around 11/10, when the MR goes away, I am going to spend a day or so combing through my findings and creating an action plan. I’m also reading Getting Things Done right now, so I’m hoping that I’ll gain some good insights on how to go about that part of the process as I get out of the deep listening part.

  7. Jess Lively

    I totally know what you mean! Before Friday and my immobility, I was totally plugging along saying that I needed to just keep going and work harder… so I can say I am right there with you on that front.

    I hope you have a chance now to regroup and absorb in your business, too. : )

  8. TIffany Squared

    great timing. If i didn’t believe in mercury retrograde I do after the week I’ve had. Your advice is a beautiful alternative to the violent emotional outbursts I have been toying with 🙂

    1. Jess Lively

      I know, right? I was on the fence about it at first… but after all that has happened, I’m happy to take these seasons as times to reflect and learn, rather than “do” a whole bunch.

  9. Lust Creative

    Oh Jess you poor thing! I hope you are fully recovered now.
    But what great post; I’m going to looking into this ‘Mercury in Retrograde’ and regardless of whether I think it’s ‘real’ or not, you’re right – making time to stop, listen and learn is essential to moving forward and growing.
    Ashleigh xxoo

    1. Jess Lively

      Thank you so much, Ashleigh. I am doing better, still a bit sore in the mornings, but it loosens up as the day goes on.

      I hope you find a nice way to look at the MR thing, who knows if it’s real. But so far, I’m finding that it seems to really be holding true for a lot of people in their experience lately.

      1. Lust Creative

        Glad to hear you are doing better, and hopefully it heals over time.
        I actually told my friend about MR! As the more I started to think about it the more it become relevant to things that have been happening. And to think I’d never heard of it….! Thanks for sharing =)

        1. Jess Lively

          You are most welcome. I know what you mean, once you are aware of it, it’s hard to not see it in things.

  10. Lamisha Serf

    Holy cow Jess, this is a lot of what I have been going through too. Lots of mis-communication, things slowing down, breaking down, etc. and I totally believe it has to do with MR. You think I would have learned by now to not be so busy “doing” during this time. I do love how you turned this time into a very intentional time of listening, learning, and reflecting. That’s a powerful step and a great way of using the time. Thanks for always inspiring your readers!

  11. Change of Art

    So sorry to hear you were in pain, but relieved to hear that you’re feeling better. (No surprise that you’re a quick healer.)

    Thanks for another helpful – and timely – post. I’m sure we all need a reminder to take some intentional (sorry) time away from the daily rush.

    1. Jess Lively

      Hey lady!

      I hope things are going well for you! It looks like a bunch of people are sharing your wonderful product on their blogs lately. : )

  12. Stefanie Boucher

    Wow, I really couldn’t have discovered this post at a better time, right down to the very minute! What a week it has been for me too. I’ve had a long-standing love/hate relationship with MR for quite a while now, and this go-around has been a duzy–probably because I’ve been trying to hard to push forward instead of doing the reflecting, internalizing, and planning that it’s meant for. Thanks for reminding us that it’s okay to slow down and take stock of things–especially when the energy around us supports that. Just recently found your blog and have been catching up–I’m glad I did! One more silver lining–MR is meant to get us better aligned with ourselves so that we can take action more easily and effectively when the time comes a few weeks from now. So there’s that to look forward to!

    1. Jess Lively

      That is so cool to hear, Stefanie. I’m glad you found the blog, too!

      It sounds like you are much more familiar with MR than a lot of us. It’s great to hear that once it clears up we should be feeling that urge to act.

      Right now, I am totally in the absorb mode, and it feels nice to know that I’ll leave this feeling and move ahead once this season passes without feeling stuck in listening mode. : ) Thank you!

  13. Love this idea! I am terrible at slowing down and also always try to start right away when I get a new idea. This helped me see the benefits of slowing down!

    1. Jess Lively

      I am the same exact way. Until this week. Now, I feel so great getting to slow down – whether MR is real, I am totally loving the chance to relax and take my time with things right now. I hope you try your own season of listening to see how it works for you, too!

  14. There’s such power in taking a pause, and it’s in the pause where thoughtful listening can often flourish. Whether it’s Mercury Retrograde or not, planning out listening sessions for deep growth is an effective business practice! Tangentially, I have some “swamp draining” sessions scheduled every Thursday that serve as the catch-all for finishing tasks from the week. That way I can start Friday with more meaningful, growth-oriented time for professional development and strategic planning.

    1. Jess Lively

      That is so cool, Alicia! I like that you call it swamp draining, too. Where did the name come from?

  15. chantelle

    I think your “make your own MBA” program via youtube lectures is brilliant. I think I’m going to do that with videos on med school tips/success/experiences, in order to prepare me for the next few years. Thank you!

  16. Kelly Daily

    I really like this idea! I think it can apply to so many areas of interest and action in life besides business, too.

  17. giginyc

    Your insight through honesty is what I love about your blog. And not just bc you mentioned me 😉 xo Regina P.

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