Friday, May 07, 2010

12 Ways to Increase Your Capacity to Execute

You know what you need to do.
You know how you need to do it.
You know when you need to start.

So what’s the problem?

WELL, MAYBE: Increasing your capacity to execute isn’t just about what you do – it’s also about what you avoid, what you stop doing and what you stop thinking.

Consider these ideas for turning ideas into action:

1. You don’t need to respond to every attention magnet. People who dissipate themselves in useless activity or let their agenda collapse too easily are forever doomed to an execution-free life. All because they haven’t trained themselves to be ruthlessly self-protective with their time. Nor have they made the conscious decision to put their own needs at the top of their own list.

And I get it. I’ve been there before. I’m busy too. But overburdening yourself is easy because it makes you feel busy, important and needed.

Too bad that’s all a lie. Too bad checking your inbox forty times an hour doesn’t make you any money. Too bad spending your evenings fiddling around on Facebook, stalking ex-girlfriends from college – who, by the way, look five times better than they did a decade ago – isn’t helping you turn your ideas into action. Does distraction overwhelm and enslave you?

2. Decide who to ignore. Feedback is enormously profitable, but only when it comes from people who matter. Otherwise, it’s nothing but procrastination in disguise. Just another confusing, unnecessarily discouraging, self-doubt-producing, undue-stress causing waste of energy and tears.

My suggestion: Don’t torture yourself over feedback from someone whose opinion doesn’t count. Execution is the byproduct of listening to the right people while ignoring the wrong people. It’s about self-trust and healthy impatience.

Stop exposing yourself to harsh, unsolicited feedback and start trusting your voice. Demanding excessive reassurance is a one-way ticket to entrepreneurial purgatory. Whose advice have you outgrown?

3. Beware of the over commitment trap. It’s like owning a truck: The week you buy it, everyone you know needs help moving. And you don’t want to feel like a bad friend, so you allow yourself become entangled in other people’s pointless wars. No wonder you never execute. You haven’t learned to be respectfully discerning about whom you give permission participate in your life.

Like my mentor taught me, always ask two filtering questions, “Is this person asking me to create a future that I’m going to feel obligated to be a part of?” and, “Is the level of help this person is asking me to offer commensurate with the type of relationship I have with them?”

Remember: If you don’t set healthy boundaries for yourself, other people will set them for you. And then they will violate them. And then they will tell all their little friends that it’s okay to do the same. All because you never set a precedent of time valuation. Are you sacrificing your life by spending too much time being everybody else’s dream machine?

4. Decide for yourself first. The world will attempt to superimpose onto you its prefabricated definition what success should be. Please avert your ears. Don’t become one of those people who give mass consciousness permission to think for them. Otherwise your execution track record will be about as consistent as Shaquille O’Neal’s free throw percentage.

My suggestion: Stop listing all the reasons why you should avoid taking a risk. Waiting squanders momentum. And when you let your desires stay sobbing, awaiting your hand to take action upon them, momentum becomes a statistical improbability.

Instead, don’t wait until you have five years experience. Don’t wait for instructions. Don’t wait for overwhelming evidence before you trust yourself. And don’t wait to be rewarded to do it. Just go. What are you rationalizing your way out of?

5. Refuse to exist in an inhibited condition. If the innovation of others intimidates and inhibits you, you lose. The secret is to use the success of others to fuel your own execution. Two examples come to mind. First: When I sense the warning signs of an approaching storm of creative blockage, I just read Gaping Void or Seth’s blog. Their innovative spirit and cutting edge philosophies never cease to light a fire under my (occasionally) uninspired ass.

Second: When I notice the declining momentum of one of my mentees’ executional patterns, I do what good mentors do – model. Take Carrie, for example. She’s been bragging to me for the last three years about her new book. Which I’ve read. And which I think is tremendous. The problem is, she can’t pull the trigger. She can’t make the book real. She can’t ship.

Instead of getting on her case, hounding her every week or trying to solve her execution problems for her, I just write another book. Then I mail her a copy. Then she wants to kill me. And then I ask her to channel that frustration into her project. And then she does. So much for existing in an inhibited condition. How can you fire inspiration into yourself (or others) today?

6. Capitulation is the enemy of execution. I’m all for delegation. But when you deliberately plant your entire idea in the hands of another person, he owns you. Which makes him the sole shot-caller. Which means execution just made one hell of a pit stop.

From now on, try this: Diversify the baskets you put your eggs in. That way, if one person moves like molasses, you can reach out to someone who moves like Speedy Gonzalez while you’re waiting. For example, my book production team consists of four people: Jeff for layout, Sue for cover art, Jess for edits and Chris for printing.

Now, after twelve books, I’ve learned that each person has their own individual pace. Which is fine. I respect that. So, in order to get the books done in a timely manner, I shotgun the assignments. Like a golf scramble. Everyone starts at a different time. That way, my books finish at (roughly) the same place in the process.

Your challenge is to figure out the time sensitivity of the people you’re working with. Otherwise the sole basket in which all your eggs lie might get chopped down by deforestation. Not exactly the kind of execution you had in mind. When was the last time you over delegated?

7. Complacency is the BFF of inaction. Declaring victory too soon is an exercise in entrepreneurial foot shooting. The best policy is to wait till the check clears. Or to hold off until the product is delivered. Or to stand by before you start telling the world about your new website. Otherwise you look like a putz trying to explain yourself to people when that error 404 page comes up.

Julia Cameron addresses this issue in her Artist’s Way series: “The first rule of magic is self-containment. You must hold your intention within yourself, stoking it with power. Only then will you be able to manifest what you desire.”

I made this mistake several times early in my career. From interviews on major media networks to new book projects, it seemed like the more people I told, the less likely the idea was to come to fruition. Woops. Looks like I shot myself in both feet. Lesson learned: Think long and hard before waving your “Mission Accomplished” banner on the poop deck of your career. What is the cost of inaction?

8. Celebrate quickly and quietly. Preserving yesterday is fun for about a week. But eventually, it’s time to get back to work. Otherwise you become so addicted to your victory dance that your sore knees atrophy your ability to execute again in the future.

Truth is: When you overvalue prior successes, the arrogance of the past comes back to bite you in the ass. As John Mayer explained during a 2009 interview with Esquire, “To evolve, you have to dismantle. And that means accepting the idea that nothing you created in the past matters anymore other than it brought you here. You pick up your new marching orders and get to work.”

Remember: If you’re too removed from action, you’ll never be able to see what’s wrong. Are you sabotaging your own ability to repeat past performance?

9. Lower your expectations. Never execute as if you’re going to get it right on the first try. You won’t. Nobody does. What’s important is that you reflect on your experience, document your reflections and then internalize those lessons so you don’t screw up as badly next time.

Otherwise you’ll continue to let yourself down. Which murders your confidence. Which prevents you from taking positive action in the future. Remember: When you expect nothing, failure is impossible. Is your addiction to perfection adding undue pressure that nobody is going to notice anyway?

10. Don’t mistake knowledge for wisdom. Although I hesitate to draw another simplistic, narrow-minded chalk line that divides the entire human race into two convenient categories, what the hell. Here goes nothing. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who take the tour, and those who get a guest pass. Which one are you?

Look: Reading a thousand books might make you an expert, but that doesn’t change the fact that you (still) haven’t executed anything. Learning (reading books) builds knowledge, but doing (taking action) builds wisdom. Ultimately, filling yourself up with irrelevant knowledge is akin to eating an entire can of Texas BBQ Pringles: They taste great, they fill you up, but their nutritional output isn’t the worth the time investment or the orange stains on your fingers. What percentage of your brilliant mental effort is invested in the immaterial?

11. Don’t share your execution goals with negative people. All they’re going to is deflate your enthusiasm, piss you off royally and inspire you to throw in the towel. Invest your energy elsewhere. Life’s too short to surround yourself with mediocre people. They rarely challenge and inspire you, plus they tend to smell like hot trash.

You need to play wit people who are better than you. You need to hang with people who, by virtue of their presence in your life, make executing your goals a natural byproduct. How much time are you wasting on relationships you’ve outgrown?

12. Comfort is rarely part of the equation. To increase your capacity to execute, it’s possible you’re going to have to choose an inconvenient lifestyle. Sorry. It’s part of the deal. Waking up at 5am might be a pain in the ass, but it’s also a pleasure for your bank account.

That’s the crucial moment: When discipline trumps desire. When you refuse to let your stamina become stifled by your endless excuse barrage. As my friend Sam Silverstein explains in his new book, “An excuse a story you tell to yourself about yourself. And you always convince yourself to buy that excuse before you try to sell it elsewhere.”

Lesson learned: When you ignore the inconvenient, you allow the lust for what is familiar block the beauty of what is possible. How, specifically, did you make yourself uncomfortable yesterday?

FINAL WORDS: Vision without execution is hallucination.

Edison said that.

Which brings me to my updated version of the same maxim:

Talking smack without doing jack is whack.

Ginsberg said that.


You know what you need to do.
You know how you need to do it.
You know when you need to start.

The world is standing by.

Life is curious to see what you will do.

How are you increasing your capacity to execute?

For the list called, "27 Ways to OUT the Competition," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!