By Frank J. Rich
There once was a boy named Blue
Who sat around waiting his cue.
When the signal came,
He was stuck in his place.
Finding others to blame,
Or another to do it, thank Grace.
I recently walked around the workplace of a client. The invitation came after my question about the culture of the organization. I approached people in conversation to catch a piece of what they were saying. Not surprisingly, I walked in on a lot of “Little Boy Blue”s, that fabled boy who put his toys away, then outgrew the use of them.
I was struck by how many people want to know why they put off doing what they know they ought to do and are more than capable of doing. Despite this, they can’t seem to “find the time” to do them. It’s the disease of middle managers, though not unique to them. In fact, studies show that although 95% of managers say the right things, only 5% of them do them. The excuses are a kind of fancy footwork that deflects the MBO (management by objective) popular in the workplace. Indeed, putting things off is one of the two major reasons 70% of all organizations are in failure mode.
This model of achievement brings me to the general election and the question over what candidates either have accomplished or plan to achieve. When asked why after thirty plus years in public service and promises to accomplish the same things on her current platform, Hillary Clinton answered that a Republican Congress was the reason. Clearly, Donald Trump carries his own baggage to the race, but he responded thoughtfully in asking why that should matter for a person so gifted and determined as she.
The typical candidate makes promises, enters office and things happen. Just how much influence over those things is the office holder? Getting things done, while President of the United States, requires skills — decision making that first considers other’s views, encouraging open debate over issues, data management, advisory personnel management, and the self-esteem to act independent of the need to prove the last guy was wrong. As such, the President does not do the things s/he promises. S/he manages a multitude of issues for the decision making that aids initiatives and progress on them.
Much like the boy in the poem, most of us know what to do, maybe even how to do it. It’s what we were trained in, the functional, the tactical, and the strategy provided in formal schooling or OJT (on-the-job training). And, it’s simple enough, especially after doing it awhile.
I mean — if you want to lose those excess inches, you generally know how to do it. Eat less; move more. Throw out the boxed foods and start sweating. Right?
To have more money you must either earn more, invest more wisely, or spend more conservatively. Do all three, and you will be in good financial shape.
There is really no magic in it. Success in every area of life is this way. Just do it. As Albert Einstein is noted for saying, “Nothing happens until something moves.”
So, why don’t we just get to it? Move it? Get off our posteriors and make things happen? Step away from that apple fritter, chocolate miniatures at the office, ice cream at the end of the day? It’s just commons sense. Right?
Perhaps it’s because we are divided between the “do”s and the”do-not”s. There are those who get it done and those who, like the boy in the poem, wait for others to do the doing. But the sad reality is that those who get what they want do what they must do to get it. They don’t just have. They do, and then they have.
You’ll have to admit, the words have decisiveness in them. Perhaps, this is what achievers have in common with good politicians; they have perspective on the matters they face and openly share them in building consensus decisions.
We all know what to do; it’s slightly more than common sense. But knowledge isn’t enough. It must be used to have real value. It takes courage to take action, to express one’s view in public, to risk making a mistake, to get up off the floor having gained a better understanding of how to succeed and the confidence to execute on it, to conquer fear.
A famous tennis player once quipped when asked why seemingly talented people fail, that “losers are afraid to win, and winners can’t stand to lose.” I hold no stock in the cultural bias that “winning is everything.” It is not the vehicle to lasting success. However, just because you have been a certain way for a long time, don’t believe that you can’t change. You can. You must, if you hope to realize your dreams, at any level of accomplishment.
When you change the images in your mind, your actions will change. When you define yourself differently than you do in this moment, you will be different. When you understand how truly easy it is to do the things necessary to reach your goals, you will be able to do them.
Small steps, one at a time — the Kaizen way. Do it now, not later when things calm down, when spring arrives, when the weather is warmer. NOW!
Yesterday is gone; you can’t get it back. Redefine your life by what you know you can do, not by what you were afraid to do or by what others say you could do.
If you’re dulled by TV for hours a day, or eating to fill the time, or a big fan, but rarely put yourself in a position to win or lose, you’re only practicing the fancy footwork of the effete. It’s the winnowing of the spirit that empowers us to seek the opportunity in achievement. We must start here, with the inner mind. We must take advantage of the fact that the unconscious mind knows no difference between an actual experience and an imagined one. To succeed, we must begin to substitute the unproductive with the fruitful in our lives.
Begin now. More powerful than the will to win is the courage to begin.