How to become a doer (and not just a thinker)
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… thinking things through is a good thing! It’s a great thing!
I’m glad the engineers at Volvo thought through their plans when designing my childhood car. I’m appreciate of all the detail in my Nike Air Force Ones. I’m a big fan of all the thought that went into designing my Samsung SmartTV. I love the attention to detail that went into Quill deciding to put Star Wars characters on the box of printing paper at my office.
OK, now let me totally contradict myself and tell you this… stop thinking things through!
While the brands I just mentioned have spent some serious time and energy thinking and planning their products, they have spent equally as much time DOING. They have found a balance between doing and thinking and recently I have found this to be a seriously lacking trait in many of my gen-y friends, peers and colleagues.
Do you ever find yourself overthinking things and never acting?
You might be the most driven, smart and creative person in the room, but if you never act, your talent is a waste.
This past year I have built a media company, 2 e-commerce companies, a podcast, a clothing line, and was promoted twice at my day job. It taught me a lot about DOING.
Here are the 5 things that have helped me stop overthinking and start doing.
1. Realize that your ideas are actually holding you back.
Buckle up because this might sting a bit…
Your ideas mean nothing! Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
An idea is just an idea.
Once you recognize this and come to terms with the fact that ideas themselves can actually act as limitations in your life, you’re on your way to a totally new perspective on life.
Coming up with ideas over drinks with your buddies is fun! Sitting on your couch and writing down notes on a big Europe trip you dream of taking is exhilarating! Strategizing about that app of yours that is “totally going to change the world” feels great!
Do you know why ideas are problems in disguise? They offer you a small sense of accomplishment and exhilaration that ends up replaces doing. Sitting down and ideating (as I call it) releases dopamine and it feels good! You feel accomplished and that you’re on your way to accomplishing big things.
But, for the majority of us, the process ends there. That feeling is satisfying enough for most us, and unless you realize what’s happening, you’re likely to be content with planning and planning and planning and planning and…
For me, this realization has had the biggest impact in my life. When I realized that if I acted on an idea within a small time-frame (say 48 hours), that I was much more likely to accomplish it… completely changed the way I live.
Thinking of planning a big Europe trip? Instead of writing down all the places you want to visit, start looking at hotels and travel… start getting real.
Want to launch that app that will change the world? Start by looking at what it would cost to develop it. Start acting.
In a board meeting and have a great idea? Shout it out! Do you think whoever suggested the idea of covering copy paper boxes with Star Wars themed imagery thought it would be an idea that everyone unanimously supported? Doubt it. Yet Quill.com, an online office products company, had a unique idea to leverage the release and hype around the newest Star Wars film, and apply it to one of their key products. Well, Quill made the idea a reality. The Star Wars wrapped copy paper is wrapped in a fun graphic design that features iconic Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope characters, and is packaged in a reusable themed box that bring relevant pop culture to the office – perfect for any fan’s workplace or home office.
By Quill suggesting the concept – the thought was taken out of the idea phase and into the potential phase. And guess what?! Voila… it is now a reality (and pretty cool I might add).
You get the idea.
2. Realize if you don’t act, you’re making the decision to stay where you are.
This realization also changed my life. It’s so simple but when you seriously and consciously consider the effect of not doing something, it can bring things into an all new perspective.
Consider your current situation where I’m sure there’s something you want to change. Now consider the thing you’ve been thinking about doing or creating. Now reflect on the ways that carrying out that task or idea can impact your life.
If you don’t act, nothing will change. Let that settle in.
It’s a simple mindset observation but for me, it was life altering. My biggest frustration is lack of growth so, for me, this realization was a significant catalyst for change. It struck a chord deep down inside of me because I equate lack of self-growth with the potential for future regret… and I am terrified of regret. So, whatever it is in your life that motivates you to improve, think of that when considering doing or not doing something and reflect on the way it affects you.
Perhaps it can do the same for you?
3. Realize that you’ll never execute anything perfect.
Now that you’ve stopped romanticizing ideas and you’ve turned your back on the small glimpse of accomplishment that coming up with them offers, it’s time to execute.
But this stage is a problem for a lot of us who are a certain way – perfectionists.
We’re all perfectionists in certain areas of our lives. Whether it be in writing your emails, ironing your shirt, cleaning your apartment, doing your hair, etc. I’m willing to be that there are certain areas and practices in your life where you refuse to accept anything less than perfect (by your own standards).
Accept that what you do will not be perfect right away! Challenge your perfectionism.
Instead of planning each step of your journey, plan macro goals and then execute on a micro level. Establish long term goals, short term goals and then weekly goals.
4. Act FAST!
I have interviewed close to 100 entrepreneurs on our podcast The Hustle Sold Separately and I have met hundreds of successful entrepreneurs in person over the past two years. The most common attribute they all share is one of acting FAST… sometimes to the point where you might think they are acting too impatiently. But, the reality is the these entrepreneurs act fast so as to ensure action and then they anticipate the need to change and be dynamic once they have launched.
Think about what happens after the Superbowl or after a nationally-televised tentpole event. Businesses pup up out of nowhere – whether they be a new T-Shirt company that has a quote from that even on it, or a new product, these folks acted fast.
In the realm of entrepreneurship, acting fast and taking advantage of pop culture trends is a great example of taking your life out of the planning phase and propelling it to that of action.
Take the good folks at Quill, for example. They are innovating by using pop culture to create an office product that energizes and excites fans. They released this “idea” at the perfect time when Star Wars: Rogue One just opened in theaters, so you can see why thousands of Star Wars fans bought their product (and at an introductory sale price of $39.99). They acted fast and capitalized on something that might have sat on the drawing board as just an idea.
5. Stop giving up!
Wow, Case, that is profound!
Stop giving up is the call of our generation – the call and response of the millennial hustlers and entrepreneurs. But it’s true.
You need to be tenacious.
For me, patience is no longer the most heralded attribute. Be patient on your long-term journey but tenacious and hungry in your execution.
Being tenacious means embracing a cycle of planning, acting, understanding, learning, adjusting and repeating. Again and again and again.
6. Baby steps! Get the ball rolling in whatever way you can.
The largest structures in the world were assembled piece by piece. The most complex electronics and microchips were assembled piece by piece.
I have found the same to be true for anything you want to accomplish.
Thinking of the end product of what you want to create can be daunting and downright intimidating. Instead of thinking of the grand scheme of your vision, take baby steps to get the ball rolling.
Elon Musk wants to revolutionize space travel and energy consumption – that’s some daunting stuff! But, he approaches it piece by piece and product by product.
Figure out your vision and act on it FAST. Get the ball rolling in the smallest way you can.