An excerpt from The Way of the Harvest: 15 Lessons on Reaping a Life of Abundance
Paul Martinelli, president of the John Maxwell Team, has said, “You have to be willing to suspend the requirement of knowing how.”[i] Most people want to conduct a certain amount of preliminary work before actually engaging in an undertaking. For example, before writing a book, you might want to research the process, topic and opportunity. Now, those are all sensible purposes. But, the problem with this strategy is that each preliminary step takes time; days stretch into weeks, months and years. Before you know it, no material action has really been taken. We’ve successfully researched our way into accomplishing nothing. This is resistance.
Every worthwhile endeavor has its ups and downs. But there’s a more sinister force at play. Whenever you decide that you’d like to work towards an ambitious goal, there is a force that wants to stop you. Steven Pressfield called it “Resistance.”[ii] Resistance comes in the form of procrastination, excuses, fatigue and any number of other obstacles that prevent you from moving forward. Resistance opposes action. Taking action, by its very nature, is pushing through and conquering resistance.
Taking prompt action also does something to us mentally. It gives us a glimpse of what we’re capable of and shows us that we can do it. I had a science teacher in high school who used to say that “they’re just as biodegradable as me” when referring to someone’s ability to succeed or fail. The lesson was, if person A is capable of great things, then so are you! You have to know that you can do anything and then move forward with aggressiveness and confidence in pursuing your goals.
No great man or woman ever achieved anything without taking that first step. I promise you, they had self-doubt and fear of failure as well. Every U. S. president has felt like he was in over his head at some point. I would be willing to bet that most questioned running for the office on at least one occasion in their campaigning. Every famous actor, musician, politician, or public figure, no matter how infallible they seem, has felt inadequate and afraid. But taking that first bold step forward, and then the second and third, set them on the course for greatness. Remember, they’re just as biodegradable as you and me.
Having an action orientation has had perhaps a bigger impact in my life than any other idea or philosophy. It’s allowed me to experience failure and success in ways that have cultivated growth and prepared me to take on even more. When I left my job to start one of my companies I was scared silly. I felt like Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There was a moment in the film where he took a daring step from solid ground onto an invisible bridge over a seemingly bottomless chasm. Much like the character, I was terrified.
What happened to that business? It failed in a most epic way. But I did it; I know if I hadn’t taken that bold step that I would’ve regretted passing on the opportunity. More importantly than that, however, I gained massive amounts of experience and knowledge that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to gain. Those experiences led in large part to the concept and development of this book.
Yes, I’ve taken other bold steps that have resulted in success, and I’ve also said no to some opportunities. Indeed, intentionally choosing not to take a step is an action in and of itself. Action orientation does not mean jumping at every opportunity presented; some things just aren’t for you. But when there is an idea, opportunity or goal that is on your mind more often than it isn’t, that’s something that you must move toward. Take that step and do it now.
Incidentally, this way of thinking doesn’t just apply to working towards long term goals. Taking time to refresh and relax is critically important to high performers. For example, if you’re the type of person that loves to have something enjoyable to look forward to, a great deal of personal satisfaction can come simply from laying out a plan. If you like to travel, take some time thinking about places you want to go to and things you want to experience.
Taking action in this way might mean putting forth the effort to plan the trip and setting aside a few dollars per week to pay for it. This type of action solidifies the desire as a reality, not simply some distant event that feels out of reach. The point is that you need to create momentum toward the trip so that the gap between never doing it and actually getting off of the plane at your destination is bridged. Take a step right now.
[i] Martinelli, Paul. Spoken at the August 2016 John Maxwell Team International Certification seminar.
[ii] Pressfield. Do the Work.