I am a huge fan of Robert Ringer. Ringer is an author, business strategist and semi self-help guy who's read a LOT of Ayn Rand, and whose basic outlook is a kind of hybrid between objectivism and serious, hard-core conservatism. He doesn't think much of Obama.
He's written several books, and one of them, with the unsubtle title Action: Nothing Happens Until Something Moves, really had an impact on me this week. The basis for this is pretty simple, and, like a lot of simple things, also unexpectedly profound.
The whole premise of the book is that the real magic, the real impact, in business, comes from what you actually do. What it doesn't come from -- and this was the real "Aha" for me -- is what goes on inside your head. It does not matter at all what you think, how you feel, what you remember, want, deserve or fear. None of these things are going to make any difference in the slightest to you or anyone else.
Picking up a phone and calling someone can make a difference, cause something to happen. Thinking about them probably won't. You can write the most brilliant memo in the world, but until you actually send it, it's as if it didn't exist. And so on.
Particularly when it comes to business development, success comes from the consistent, physics-like application of action to the world. You close a deal because you stick with it. You get the deal because you make the phone calls. And so on.
On one hand, this is all ridiculously obvious. Yet, it also directly contradicts a lot of the habits and magical thinking human beings constantly indulge in. This stuff is, in my opinion, the single biggest barrier to successful business development for almost everyone. We think about it. We talk about it. We have various feelings about it. But usually, we would prefer, say, being set upon by fire ants to actually making anything happen. A few of the implications of this:
- A project that's 90% complete might as well have never existed. Unless you actually finish it and stand it up, you might as well have done nothing.
- Doing something reasonably well is almost always much better than waiting around for it to be just exactly perfect. The best really is the enemy of the good.
- Every single action has a consequence, and every single inaction has a consequence, too.
We are all infected by what psychiatrists call "magical thinking" which is really just a substitute for action. Revenge fantasies, dwelling on "fairness" or hoped-for outcomes, all of it. My favorite version of this is the alleged reason Julia Roberts (or any actress) is so successful -- because all the men in the audience, watching the movie, are thinking "You know, if she met me, she'd kind of like me." Uh, she's never going to meet you. And you have absolutely no reason to think she'd like you. And unless you, you know, travel to New Mexico or wherever she lives, and actually find her, this is pure theory. And highly destructive theory, too, because it takes time and effort away from the women you actually could (and do) know.
Descartes was dead wrong. You do not exist because you think -- you exist because you do. If the tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to hear it, then, nope, it didn't actually fall.
All that matters is what you do.