“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
— Thomas Edison
Everybody has ideas. They blow in and out of our minds like the periodic winds that bring new seasons. Our task is to harness and utilize the good ones before they’re gone. Once we've counted the costs and determined in our hearts to act, we must do so; and we must be prepared to stamp out procrastination and fear all along the way.
Your idea is waiting on you. But it won’t wait forever.
“Status quo is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’"
— Ronald Reagan
Confusion, disorder, turmoil, these are all good descriptors for what we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives—the mess of a soul. The inner chaos is hard to contain and often breaks out into our physical spaces as well. Disorganization is a symptom of the status quo.
One way to break it is to begin cleaning and ordering the rooms in which you live. If your study, for example, is littered with mail, unread books, and general clutter, spend some meaningful time tidying. Open every letter, throw away every piece of junk; and, out of the unread stacks of books, pick one to start reading and shelve the rest.
Cleaning up a space you live in, and love will begin the process of purging the disorder and mess inside. It’s a first step. It’s a way of getting started. It's a way of shedding a single beam of light into your soul. And it's the easiest way to begin putting distance between you and the status quo.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.”
— Steven Pressfield
Does your "unlived life within" ever haunt you? Does it ever wear on you? Do you ever wish you could make meaningful progress toward “that life” that you know you ought to be living?
We all do.
One trick is to start small. Pick one thing out of your unlived life within and begin implementing it routinely. Maybe you want to cook more meals at home, or start jogging, or write regularly, or perhaps you want to learn a new, complex skill. Whatever it is, begin with a baby step. If it’s cooking more meals at home, for example, don’t start by preparing a four-course meal—every night. Start with one entree, once a week. Do this for a month, and then begin biting off more.
Before long, you’ll find a new rhythm and solidify a habit that’s drawing out that unlived life inside. Bear in mind; you don’t have to get it all out at once. Little by little, let it come to the surface. Take enough baby steps, and, in time, you'll find your living one life—the one you always wished for.
Your will, in large part, determines what you do. It is the impetus to action.
History, of course, bears witness to the adage: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I much prefer to say, There’s a way where there’s a will. It puts the reward right up front. It dangles the carrot before us and causes us to give heed to the words that come next.
Do you ever think about next steps? Are you stuck out in the dark, searching for the path? The way can always be found by a firm, unflinching will. It may not be the way you surmised at the outset, but the way always appears for the resolute.
Those who wait for opportunity to knock, abandon the very thing that humanity was made for—action. Don’t wait. Act.
If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
— John Wooden
This sounds like something my grandmother would’ve said. I’ve always thought about this aphorism in terms of a chore, but it could just as easily be applied to each and every day we live. Think about it, if you don’t live each day as you intend, when will you have time to do it over?
We all know the answer. There are no do-overs. Once the day is done, it’s history. Just thinking about that, impels me to make each day a masterpiece.
Ask yourself: If today was to really turn out well, what would it look like?
“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”
– G.K. Chesterton
If you believe that you’re supposed to do something and that something is noble, then it’s worth doing poorly until you can do it well.
Michael Jordan didn’t start out as a basketball superstar. In fact, he didn’t make his high school team. Jerry Seinfeld says he, “totally bombed” in the first standup performance of his career.
Whatever you do, don’t label yourself based off your first few attempts. Failing right out of the gate is normal. Nobody starts out as a professional, but all professionals start out.
Remember, doing things badly is the first step to doing things well.
If you’re like me, it’s easy to look at where you are in life and wonder how you’ll ever get to where you want to be.
The distance can be so vast that it paralyzes us. I call this the gap trap.
The gap trap says people give up when they fixate on how far they have to go. Instead of focusing on what they can do today to get themselves one step closer to their goal, they let the distance overwhelm them.
My advice to any person who wants to accomplish something big is this: win small every day. Winning small isn't that hard. It's just you taking one step in the right direction. Anyone can do that. The challenge, of course, is every day.
“System in all things is the soul of business.”
— George Washington
The first president’s statement would be just as accurate if we replaced the word “business” with “growth.” Systems, indeed, are the soul of growth. Here’s why:
First, a system demands planning. Next, a system translates that plan into new activities which integrate into your life. From then on, a system habitually supports your efforts to routinely accomplish that plan.
Good intentions may get you going, but they won’t be enough to keep you growing. They’ll never sustain you. That’s why you need good systems in place.
Don’t just say, “I need to do a better job of managing my time.” Build a system to help you better manage your time.
Don’t say, “I’m going to do my best to accomplish my goals.” Develop a system that will support you in the achievement of your goals.
System in all things is the soul of growth. Start making them, then they’ll make you.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
— Marcus Aurelius
This may be the most interesting paradox I’ve ever heard. On its face, it seems that what stands in the way stays in the way. But I realized, as I thought on it more, that this paradox conceals a potent nugget of truth: Sometimes disadvantages prove to be very advantageous in our lives.
Are you facing a difficulty right now? Be sure you don’t throw in the towel too early. Sometimes what stands in the way of where you wish to go is the very thing that will guarantee you get there. After all, another name for stumbling block could quite possible be stepping stone.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
— African Proverb
Going fast & alone, in most cases, is a recipe for mistakes, misunderstandings, and disaster. When it comes to growth, you simply won’t last if you want to go fast. Instead, get in the habit of going slow. Yes. Slow down. What I mean is quit biting off more than you can chew.
If you’re an achiever like me, you want to start that business this weekend. You want to write, shoot, and edit your film next month. And you also want to solve world hunger by the end of this year. “Let’s do this!”
Over the last ten years I’ve learned that going slow is the way to grow.
No, it really isn’t. It only sounds boring. Growing slow allows you to establish habits. These habits go on to create the lasting value that gets you where you want to go. Growing slow also helps you stay balanced. Neglecting other important parts of your life, like your faith and friendships, is too steep a price for some semblance of professional or personal success.
Still don’t believe me. Think about this:
If you wanted to supercharge the growth of a tree, you couldn’t just drown it in water and fertilizer to quickly boost its size. No. You've got to get on a reasonable schedule that includes consistent watering and fertilizing over the right amount of time. Do that and you're sure to grow.
When it comes to the development of self, cut out from your mind this idea of “going fast.” Instead, graft in a slow grow mentality. Relax. Don’t worry; you ’ll get there.
Upon setting new goals & resolutions, it's easy to get overwhelmed after the honeymoon wears off. Doesn’t it seem that the exuberance begins fizzling just weeks in? It’s at this time we begin looking back and forward.
We look back into our past and recall how passionate we were at the start. Now, all that remains is obligation. We also look forward. We begin piling up the new responsibilities, the new tasks, the new disciplines; we survey it all stacked together in one great pile, and begin to question our resolve.
I’ve been there. It’s an uncomfortable spot. If that’s you, here’s my advice: Dwell less on the past. And also quit brooding over the future. Instead, focus on what’s right in front of you. Ask yourself, “From where I stand, what small step can I take right now that will draw me closer to my goal?”
The past has passed. Accept it. The future isn’t guaranteed. Acknowledge it. The present is here. Live it.
"There are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and liars."
– Mark Twain
Every month I get up and speak to my company. The setting is intimate. The group is small. And the pressure is always on. Even though I've been speaking for two years now, I still get uneasy and anxious as the day looms near.
Like most, I rarely feel comfortable getting up in front of people and speaking publicly. At work, no one is forcing me to do it. So why do I put myself through the torture? Because speaking in public is one of the fastest ways to grow.
Here’s what speaking in public does for you:
• It makes you commit
• It makes you think
• It makes you write
• It makes you rewrite
• It makes you repeat
• It makes you learn
• It makes you uncomfortable
And if the talk is not a complete disaster…
• It makes you happy
One way to level up fast is to incorporate teaching or public speaking into your schedule. It's one of the rare fertilizers for growth.
Courage builds fortitude: Fortitude is the key ingredient to a life of accomplishment. Fortitude means the strength of mind to endure adversity. Another word for adversity is called life.
Courage is in the doing: A decision isn’t considered courageous until it leaves the mind and manifests itself through our body. That's when courage is counted.
There is courage in restraint: A decision to not act when one's impulses begin bubbling can also be viewed as an act of courage. In fact, sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is nothing, i.e. not a thing.
There is no courage without fear: If you’re not afraid, then you’re probably not acting courageously. John Wayne put it best: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
“Life change is the proper measure of whether information makes a difference.”
— John C. Maxwell
Growth is a two-step process. It starts with something entering in, and ends with something breaking forth. In short, a true growth experience should contain both a new input and output.
Perhaps new input without the accompanying output can be a kind of growth, but it isn’t the kind that actually matters. Life change (output) should be the measuring stick for whether or not the activities you're engaged in (input) truly make a difference in your life.
Are you putting what you’re learning into practice? Are you applying it to your life? That’s how you make the most of what you’re learning—by putting it into motion.
The roots of opportunity lie in the soil of responsibility. That’s why if you want to reach your potential, you must run to responsibility.
At work, ask if you can take on something new or help out in a struggling area. Pick something that goes beyond your job description and take responsibility for its success.
At my company, I have an employee who does this. From day one he has always taken the initiative to start new things or finish old things. He’s taken on odd jobs, creative jobs, crummy jobs and mundane jobs, all the while exhibiting a great attitude. All of this “taking responsibility” has added up to new and exciting opportunities for him within our company and meaningful bumps in pay.
Many today are afraid of taking responsibility or just choose to avoid it. They instead bide their time, waiting for opportunity to knock. They wait. And wait. And wait. No one ever told them responsibility is the price of opportunity.
Having a lot to do can be paralyzing. So much so that it can prevent us from doing anything. It's as if all of the overload flips a switch and powers us down.
When this happens, the best thing I know to do is write out a list of everything you're needing to accomplish. Then—and this is key—don’t rank, prioritize, analyze, or sort the list at all. Forget about figuring out which task is most important, and just start somewhere. Starting somewhere has the benefit of getting you started.
It also begins building momentum and makes tackling whatever-comes-next easier. Repeat this enough times, and you may not need to choose randomly anymore. More momentum means more light, more clarity, more understanding. Ironically, you may now know exactly what you should do because you initially started somewhere.
Do you have a bunch of little things that need to get done? Write them all down, pick randomly, and get started.
"You have to make stuff."
– David Carr
The quote above was the nugget of practical wisdom given by journalist David Carr when asked if he had any advice for students. Carr is right. If you’re graduating college soon (and you’re not trying to become a doctor, lawyer, or accountant), you need to heed his advice and begin making something now. A degree isn't what it used to be. An employer, today, wants to see more than a BA in Marketing.
When I’m looking for hires, I too want a candidate that has taken the initiative and built something, started something, created something. I want to see that he has taken an idea and made it happen, regardless of whether it was successful or not.
Yes, a degree is something, but it’s no longer enough. You have to make stuff.
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now… This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
This powerhouse-of-a-quote is fitting for the beginning of a new year. It’s hard to believe we're days away from a fresh start. We're, once again, staring at another chunk of 365 days. These days will provide us with new opportunities to grow, love, dream, forgive, develop.
In the final days of the year, ask yourself, “What have I been avoiding or putting off that cannot wait any longer? What do I need to start doing in the new year?"
Make this the year you tear down apathy and complacency. Make this the year vigorous and positive action flourish. Tomorrow is today. Urgency is the word.