Execution isn’t a hobby.
It’s an effort.
It’s an attitude.
It’s an approach.
It’s an imperative.
And I know I write about it a lot.
In fact, you might even be sick of hearing about execution.
Inertia is a pervasive, expensive, urgent and real problem – in business and in life.
Here’s a list of eight (more) practices for converting your inertia into demonstrable forward momentum:
1. Accept inertia as an inevitable feature of the entrepreneurial landscape. Meet yourself where you are. Instead of making war with inaction, befriend it. Greet it with a welcoming heart. Put your arm around its shoulder and find out what it’s trying to teach you.
By partnering with inertia and respecting it as a natural part of the entrepreneurial experience, you’re able to move forward from an expanded (not contracted) mindspace. Are you ignoring, discounting or defriending the obvious?
2. Know that success (alone) is not enough to anchor you. Prosperity is the leading perpetrator of inertia. That’s the problem with winning: It often breeds complacency and dampens interest in innovative renewal. Lesson learned: Beware of the arrogance of success. Otherwise you’ll end up a victim of your victories, blinded by the bright light of your achievements, sitting on your butt in a blaze of self-satisfied glory.
My suggestion to build forward momentum mirrors Josh Waitzkin’s philosophy in The Art of Learning, “Make losing part of your regular experience.” That way you’re grounded in reality. Unlike our current educational system, which deludes kids into believing that there are no losers and winners.
Bullshit. Losing is part of life, and it needs to be part of your life too. Otherwise you’re in for a rude awakening the day you graduate. The cool part is, the moment you learn from your experience is the moment it ceases to be a mistake. So, failure actually is an option – but not growing from it, isn’t. When was the last time you were the loser?
3. Get the hay in the barn. My 12th book hits the shelves in the fall of 2010. But I know that if I don’t stop adding new material to it by July 1, it will never be done. Ever. I know me. And while it’s a painful part of the entrepreneurial process, you’ve got to put a creative stake in the ground.
Otherwise you’re consigned to career as a stock boy in the warehouse of inertia. In a recent blog post, Seth Godin riffed on this very topic, “People don't like deadlines because they force us to decide. But they also create forward motion. And they give you the opportunity to beat the rush. They just have a lousy name. Call them live-lines instead. That's what they are.”
Similarly, I teach this same idea to the people in my mentoring program. In fact, you might try writing the following reminder on a sticky note: Prepare to declare it done. Otherwise you’ll keep adding and changing and editing and improving until the day you die. Ugh. Why haven’t you put it on your calendar yet?
4. Breathe help in. Success never comes unassisted. You need to admit that it’s okay to ask for help. It doesn’t make you needy, incompetent or in the debt of the helper. Learn to ask for it proactively, accept it gracefully, act upon it swiftly and appreciate it regularly.
It could be as simple as, “David, would you be willing to email me once a week as a gentle probe to keep me on point?” or as complex as, “Wendy, can you offer some advice on how to drag my sorry ass out of bed every morning instead of lying like a piece of broccoli listening to Howard Stern for three hours?”
Accountability works. Ask for it. Are you willing to let it be okay that you need other people?
5. Decide how much discomfort you can absorb. Moving forward, establishing momentum and executing are uncomfortable and inconvenient actions. But you can’t expect to thrive only when things are safely within your comfortable grasp. All motion carries (some) risk of injury.
As Marshall McLuhan wrote in The Global Village, “Pain is the natural accompaniment to innovation.” So, overcoming inertia is a function of how uncomfortable you’re willing to make yourself. Not to the point of hurting your body, obviously. But knowing yourself well enough to recognize your pain threshold.
That’s why I love yoga: You stretch yourself (literally) to the point where pain is a possibility, but not a reality. And that awareness prepares you to handle future discomfort. What are you pretending not to be uncomfortable about?
6. Believe you have everything you need to begin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Failure to move forward stems less from poor planning and more from the timidity to proceed. It’s a question of self-belief. And a practice I’ve found helpful over the years (from Eric Maisel’s Ten Zen Seconds) is to recite the following incantations each day:
“I am richly supported … I trust my resources … I am equal to this challenge … I am ready to proceed.”
Just accept the fact that you’re never ready, you’re never going to be ready, and that waiting until you are ready is like waiting on a train that doesn’t come through your town. May as well get on your bike and just start peddling. Remember: Who you already are is enough to get what you want. Have you ever asked yourself why you procrastinate?
7. Maintain alignment or risk wasting your energy. My friend Jim writes about this in Personal Brilliance: “Pursuing a goal that's in conflict with your value system is kind of like trying to squeeze your feet into shoes that are a size too small.”
To prevent this from happening to you, I suggest creating a governing document for daily decision-making. This exercise changed my life – and my business – forever. And the secret behind it is, when you convey a thorough understanding of yourself, create a good working model of your own identity and maintain consistency of your actions, moving forward becomes substantially easier.
After all, it’s a hell of a lot easy to persist when you know who you are. Have you considered how you decide?
REMEMBER: Moving forward might be hard – but standing still is just plain stupid.
Fight the overwhelming influence of inertia.
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Why haven't you moved forward yet?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Execution isn’t a hobby.