Man oh, man… I had one of those horror show meetings today that absolutely wants to make you pull your hair out. I was sitting in a room listening to three people banter back and forth trying to find new and inventive ways of justifying their complete and utter inactivity.
Their department within the company they worked at was literally achieving nothing and everyone had lost confidence and respect for the people I was meeting with. It was so easy to see why because they spent a good forty-five minutes making excuses or coming up with new reasons why things couldn’t happen.
I started reading Facebook on my phone about thirty minutes in. I wrote an email to a real estate agent accepting a new lease on a house we’re moving into in a few weeks. I checked to see who won Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals.
And the whole time, these three people just continued to dig themselves into a deeper and deeper hole.
I finally looked at the time on my phone and decided I’d had enough. Talking over the top of them I just said, “Why don’t you actually just try doing something?”
You could have heard a pin drop. The account manager I went into this client with closed his Moleskine notebook because he knew what was coming, leant back in his chair and waited for it.
“Why don’t you stop explaining why you can’t do things and just come up with ways to actually move this project forward? We’ve been asked to come in here, not to listen to why something can’t happen, but to actually make something move forward. At this point, I don’t think anyone cares what, just something needs to move forward.”
Then one of the three peeps spoke up and basically articulated their problem, “How do we know what to do? What if we do the wrong thing? What if we make things worse?”
In the heart of every person who is suffering from absolutely debilitating inertia is an even greater sense of crippling fear.
I’m entirely 100% certain that there are dozens of people reading this email right this very second who are paralysed with fear. They’re not progressing their business and they’re making dozens of excuses as to why they can’t do something because ultimately they’re afraid of something.
The overly simplistic comment would be to say that they’re afraid of failing. The truth is, complete and utter inactivity guarantees your failure, so if that’s holding you back then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Personally, I don’t think that tells the whole story. The fear is deeper and has something to do with shame – people don’t want to fail because they’re afraid of what other people will think of them. They don’t want to be ashamed of themselves, so avoiding doing anything seems like a better outcome.
You can’t run your business like that and you have to stop kidding yourself that you’re just one new skill or one piece of knowledge away from some magical breakthrough that will get you moving forward.
You need to move forward right now, starting today.
Business is pretty simple at its core. You need to have something to sell, you need to have someone to sell it to and you need to work out a deal with that person to make the transaction happen.
That’s it – stop making it unnecessarily complex.
When we’re trying to find reasons not to do something our subconscious loads up on complexity. We add in all sorts of intricate layers to everything to “protect ourselves” but what’s really happening is we’re subconsciously setting ourselves up to not move forward – our subconscious brain is rigging the whole situation to help us avoid failure at any cost.
Ironically, that’s the single biggest point of failure that I see – people who just overcomplicate everything and can’t get out of their own way.
I once described my “superpower” as being able to look at something complex and break it down into simple, easy to understand pieces. With my coaching students, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to get them thinking in bite-size pieces of work.
Why? Because I want them to build momentum and get moving forward. I take the time to understand their aspirations, we outline their goals, we talk about the strategy they need to achieve the goal and then we think about tactically how to execute that strategy.
Except that’s all a big giant waste of time unless they actually do stuff.
Just this past Sunday, I had a bunch of things I had to get done for Casual Marketer and talking to my wife over breakfast it became a little frustrating because there seemed to be so much to do. I was on the precipice of doing nothing because I had too much on my agenda.
I went up to my desk, created a list of 14 small tasks of everything that came to my mind and then I got stuck in. I started on the easiest one or two to get some momentum and begin crossing stuff off the list. Then I started working on the most complex and highest value tasks. After about three hours, I had completed 12 of the tasks and the remaining two were pretty low value – not doing them at all didn’t hurt me and allowed me to leave them on the list to rethink if I should be even doing them at all.
Now, you could be sitting there thinking, “Big deal, you checked off some tasks, way to go, Sean!” But you’d be wrong. I sent out emails, made offers, fixed some landing pages where people buy stuff and by the end of the day, I’d already made some sales from my efforts.
Remember what I said, keep things simple – find something to sell, find people that need it, make them offers. That’s what I did on Sunday.
You might not be there yet and I totally get that, but you’ll never get there if you don’t actually start moving forward. Baby steps, it doesn’t matter, just get moving and doing something. I’m not a huge fan of doing things for the sake of doing something, but I know for a fact that doing nothing means you’re getting left behind because the world is moving forward without you!