Action vs Achievement

One of the great rhetoricians of Ancient Greece was a chap named Isocrates.  He was a contemporary rival of Plato and was a student of Socrates.  While not as famous as many others Greek philosophers, he built a very financially successful school and even Pliny the Elder commented on his financial prowess.

One of my favourite quotes from Isocrates is:  “It is more important to know where you’re going than to get there quickly.  Do not mistake activity for achievement.”

I’m a big fan of telling people to knuckle down and do the work.  Often the biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful people that I come across is that the successful person does stuff.

With people who are building a side hustle business, you see this crippling lack of activity grip them on a regular basis.

The biggest excuse you see if that they don’t have a lot of time.

So during their limited time, they choose to do nothing rather than actually DOING something!

But let’s step back from that.

Taking action is often just confused with manic levels of random activity.

There’s no plan, just mindless jumping around from one disconnected set of activities to another without any real understanding of how that progresses you on your journey.

Which brings us straight back to our old mate Isocrates.

These people are mistaking activity for achievement.  Doing something is not the goal, getting to the desired outcome is the goal and undertaking the right activities are what get you there the fastest.

Let’s ignore the “do nothings” for a minute.

There’s a delicate balance between over-thinking and executing that needs to be established for most people.  Our desire to get things perfect is often a form of self-sabotaged rooted in a lack of confidence.

You need to get past that – fear of not being good enough is a limiting belief that only you can overcome.  I can’t “will” you into a state of confidence.

Confidence is earned, not given – you become more confident by taking action.

Once we get past that, we arrive back at the need for balance between planning and action.

I’m a big believer in the idea that you need to know where you’re going if you ever intend on getting there.  Just hopping in your car and starting to drive without knowing the destination is not effective.

Let me personalize it and make it more practical.

I know that my Casual Marketer site needs to change in terms of the type of content that I deliver and how I focus in on my desired audience.

I have come up with a new content strategy, I’m researching it now and the plan is to start executing on that content in the next couple weeks.  Once I do one or two of those pieces, then I’ll probably get some feedback from the market and I’ll iterate a bit on future versions.

I could sit down today and start smashing out the new content, but that would be confusing activity with achievement.  I wouldn’t know where I’m going and instead, I’d be focused on getting there quickly.

That’s a recipe for disaster and failure.

Isocrates nailed it.

2 thoughts on “Action vs Achievement”

    • Thanks for the comment, Bill – this fits a lot of people to a T. They focus on “doing” rather than “achieving” and lose sight of their outcomes amidst senseless activity.


Leave a Comment