We all know that person. The one full of hot air. The one that talks a whole lot but never executes. They can regale you of tales of their ideas and plans. But nothing ever comes of them. You will most likely find them in the same place in a decade. Still talking about their ideas. They probably thought of Uber before Uber, and Amazon before Amazon. But it never went further than a fleeting thought in their mind.
Don’t be that guy.
Don’t be the person who just talks and never takes action. Because, you miss out on a lot. It is important to execute on your ideas. The ones that come to you, the ones that are uniquely yours. The ones that never seem to go away. Sure, you don’t have to execute every single thing. But it is important and massively impactful when you take a concept of yours from idea to reality.
Here is why.
The more action you take on your ideas, the more they will come.
Creativity is an infinite resource. The more you use it, the more you of it you get. Ideas beget more ideas. And clearing out ideas by executing them provides the space for new and more interesting ideas to emerge in your mind. But if you do not act in the first place, those new ones never come. If you are stuck for ideas on what to do and work on, take look back. What ideas did you abandon without executing? Revisit them, dust them off and work on them now, or release and let them go. Create the mental and psychic space for new ones that you will commit yourself to executing on.
Executed ideas open up doors
When you execute on an idea, make it real and release it into the world, it provokes a response. Sure, they might hate it, or they might like it. Either way, it is a response, far better than the deafening silence that is the back of your closet or mind where that idea resides wasted. When you put something out, it allows you to be seen, heard and interacted with. People can find you, talk to you, and open more doors for you. Imagine if JK Rowling never published the first Harry Potter book, or George Lucas never made the first Star Wars movie, the entire massive cultural phenomenon they both became would never have existed. Execute.
They help you learn
Executing on your ideas will teach you more than any amount of theory could. The actual experience of learning, practicing and creating encodes lessons deep into your mind and soul. They teach you about who you are, in the process, in the failures and heartbreaks, and the successes. They give you character, they build grit. You will learn as you execute, and you will learn after the execution. Did the idea work? Did it resonate with people? Did it fail? Why? What can we do better next time?
Executing on your ideas builds your confidence
Confidence is a huge part of the game of success. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should the world? The act of executing is a bold statement of belief, in yourself in your ideas. You move from being a passive consumer, to being an active creator, contributing to the fabric of the world around us. As you execute, you learn to value yourself and your opinions more. You hold a higher respect for yourself as you can point to tangible things you have done and created. The more you execute, the better you get at it, the more confident you become in your skill and in yourself.
Executing on your ideas helps you become more YOU
Our ideas are an extension of ourselves, our programming, our environment, our life and experiences. As we create and execute them, we are forced to come to terms with a lot of things, to examine our biases, to clarify our thoughts, to define ourselves more clearly. The creation processes allow us to become more of who we are. As we create things and execute things, we create ourselves, we affirm what we believe, we engrain the values and traits we believe in.
Honour your ideas and dreams with execution, and watch your life transform.
It is a general principle of life that for all things, there are two sides of the same coin – pleasure and pain. Everything is a delicate dance between these two extremes, good and bad, pleasure and pain, light and dark. And even each extreme contains the seed of its opposite. This is the essence of the tao.
Relax all day and enjoy the pleasure of watching movies or playing video games, and then get hit later with the pain of depression or self loathing, feeling like you wasted the entire day later. Endure the pain of working through the day, and enjoy a leisurely guilt free evening later.
Endure the pain of going for a run every morning and enjoy the pleasure of higher energy levels throughout the day and the feeling of accomplishment. Enjoy the pleasure of sleeping in and living a sedentary lifestyle, feel the pain of bad health and weakness.
Pleasure and pain. Always present.
If these two things are always constant, How do we balance them? We could indulge in pleasure first and tackle the pain later. This is the essence of procrastination. Avoiding the pain of a task to bask in present pleasure or delusion. Until the pain of not getting it done is too much and now we are forced to deal with it. Or we can do the opposite, paying the pain upfront to reap the pleasure later. Sure, this can also backfire, deferring reward so much that you never get it, or you get it when you can’t enjoy it.
Balance as with all things.
Another thing to understand is that the more you let something accumulate, the greater force or impact it has when you do release it. So if you avoid paying the pain now, it accumulates over time and becomes an even bigger pain. If you pay it early, it is still painful sure, but it is relatively smaller.
The reverse is also true. the longer you delay gratification, the bigger the payoff. Think of saving or investing or studying. It is the same premise. The more you save or invest without tapping into the account, the more money you accumulate to use down the line. Endure pain today, endure it long enough, and maximise your pleasure down the line.
Of course, the alternative is tempting. Why wait. You could die tomorrow. Or who is to say, that tomorrow will be better than today. As with all things, there is always the risk. The trick is managing it.
This principle of pleasure and pain is important because everything we do as humans is predicated by deep instinctual reactions to those extreme poles. We are constantly trying to maximise our pleasure and minimise our pain.
But life itself is a mix of both, we cannot hope to have all pleasure and no pain. It is impossible because life by its nature is full of challenges. And those challenges are the gift.
In a video interview with Tom Bilyeu, Mark Manson speaks about talks about this fact, expressing that we should not seek to have no problems at all, that is impossible, what we should strive after is gaining better problems.
Problems exist at every level of life, and for good reason. It is these problems that inspire us to act, that move life forward. Without challenges, we would wither away. The rich have problems, just as the poor do, just different ones. With every choice, and at every level there are challenges. You just have to choose what problems you are willing to deal with.
Because getting what you want is about tackling the challenges and problems surrounding that which you want. If you want to excel at your career, you have to tackle the problem of developing yourself, of improving your skills, of networking and being more seen and heard.
If you want to make more money, you have to tackle the problem of creating or proving something useful, of learning to sell it, of getting paid for it. Problems everywhere. If you want to gain better health, you have to tackle the problem of working out and eating correctly, and there are many problems to be tackled around that.
If life is full of challenges no matter our station and circumstance, then it is better in general to live with a predisposition to the pain, with a bias to taking action, responsibility and tackling problems. And the longer we lived this way, the easier it would get.
If you woke up everyday looking for the price to pay, looking for the pain to endure, you would get better at tackling and managing the pain . Over time, you would begin to even derive a perverse joy from the strain of pain. Pulling out the seed of pleasure from your pain.
All things have pleasure and pain, even pain, even pleasure.
It is in this way that we become skilled in the art of living. We learn to pay in pain, we learn to do it upfront, to maximise our gains and pleasure down the line.
Or what the Holy Trinity and The E-myth can teach us about being successful
A few weeks ago while giving a personal update on my content and blog, I briefly alluded to Michael E Gerber’s book ‘The E-myth‘, and how it closely mirrors elements of the personal development journey. Here, I break it down further.
Now if you have never read The E-myth, I encourage you to do so. It is one of the top books to read on the topic of entrepreneurship and small business. Consider it an indispensable part of your journey. In the book, Michael highlights the fact that just because you know how to execute the product or service of the business, does not mean you know how to run and grow the actual business. Those are really two separate skills.
Sounds very common sense, but it is often a glaring blindspot for excited and new entrepreneurs. They go into business super eager and passionate. They feel because they are passionate about cakes and can bake a terrific cake, they are qualified to own and run a bakery. Sure, passion is a good ingredient to have. It will drive and move you forward when little else can. Being able to deliver on the promise of your business is important, but, the big picture of making it work requires a broader set of skills than just baking.
Most new entrepreneurs are good enough at this one thing – executing the actual job of the company, but they suck at the other two legs of the tripod needed to make a business work. To successfully start and run a business according to Michael, you need to wear 3 main hats – the Visionary, the Manager and the Technician.
The Visionary is the entrepreneurial energy. It is the spark of inspiration that says, ‘What if this solution existed? What if we solved this problem? What if we took advantage of this opportunity?’ It is the drive to begin, to start, to set things into motion. It is the prime instigator, casting the vision, showing us where we can be, and where we need to go. Without a solid dose of this hat, we remain stagnant at a survival level, never thriving or breaking through to new heights. Too much of it, and we won’t ever get anything done.
The Technician is the worker bee part of the equation. This is the actual job, the value proposition, the point of the company. This is what you sell, or deliver. Like I mentioned earlier, we are usually heavy on here. We know how to organise the event, or design the logo, or build the model. We know how to bake the cake. Without the technician, nothing moves, but with too much focus on this function, you end up working all the time and never building an actual business.
Between the technician and the visionary is a gulf. One personality is usually too busy in the clouds, dreaming of the next big fluffy idea. The other is usually too stuck in the dirt, busy with the nitty gritty of getting things done. The one who bridges the gap, the one who makes sure the wide eyed directives from the top are effectively translated to day-to-day action is the Manager. The manager is the one who designs and sets up the systems, processes, checks and balances to ensure that the big plans are executed every step of the way.
Incidentally, this idea maps out to the process of achieving personal success, and just achieving goals in general.
There is the clear need for vision. We know we have to have meaning, purpose, a reason for being, a grand vision to achieve or contribute to in our lifetime. There is also a clear need to be able to get things done, to take action, to book the meetings, to do the work, to make things. It is our inner manager that helps us connect the two.
When we begin our journey of growth, we start off by being visionary about it. We think deep and try to figure out what we want to get done, what we want to build. And then we come down from our high perch and get down to the ground, and start building. We oscillate between the Visionary and the Technician.
Half the time all we have is a hunch. We don’t even know what exactly to build. we are building and learning at the same time. But after a while, after a lot of trial and error, and learning, we figure out enough of what we need to build and develop enough skill to actually build it.
At some point, we cross a threshold. It is not just enough to take some action sometimes. Now, we understand that it will take a bunch of different actions all working in concert towards our defined goal. We move from just being able to do a set of push-ups, to an entire system of workouts to maximise strength and gains. We start to operate more in the Manager role. It is this energy that establishes order.
We need all 3 hats, all 3 personalities working together to create a well oiled harmonious ecosystem, where we are able to set large scale intent and see it come to fruition. We are able to set the goal of getting fit, learn to do the exercises, and then create the systems and routines that propel us forward.
That is a big chunk of the work. The actual building phase – the manager portion. Making the plans. Creating the processes, documenting them. Building and instilling habits. It is the system that holds all the bits together. Here we experience the lag. We are busy setting up, but there are no major rewards yet. Here we must patiently build. Once we have sturdy systems in place, we are able to rise back up more into the visionary aspect, riding and driving these systems where they need to go.
And if you think about it, this is really just an archetypal pattern. It is the pattern of the trinity. The father, the mother, the child.
The father, the spirit, the son.
The instigating force, the conductive force, the active force.
Our intentions crystallise from the rarified world of ideas into the plans and patterns of actions which give key results.
If you are busy, and frustrated by not getting results, perhaps do a diagnosis on these 3 states of being. Is your intention and focus right? Do you have a vision? Are you taking right action? Are you doing what needs to be done? And are they organised and directed enough? Are they repeatable? Are they sustainable? Will they take you where you need to go?
Are you wearing and operating in all 3 hats?
In my previous post, I wrote about failure, and having the most unproductive week ever. I had an embarrassing fall off my high horse and my routine and suffered for it. But I bounced back. Because the art of success is really about how you respond to failure.
There is something else I discovered in my week from hell. I wasn’t that stressed. And that is because I am presently pretty organised.
At any point in time, I can take a glance across 3 A4 sheets and a few post-it squares and I know exactly what’s on my plate, what needs to be done, who needs to be followed up with, what is urgent, what can wait, what’s important and so on.
When you are that organized, a bad week is manageable. Because even though you can’t go all out and crush the way you really want to, at least, you can handle the bare minimum. You can do what you need to do to keep everything humming along.
In each of the days where I was either running around, being too tired and sick, or having to devote a chunk of the day to meal prep, I was able to sneak in an hour to four of work. But because I am organized, I was effective, I knew what to focus on, and what could wait.
I also knew what to aim at. Everything I was doing was so that I could get back to routine and tackle a specific set of tasks on my list.
This is not just an idea that works well in managing your to-do list and general productivity. This is an underpinning idea behind successful businesses and organizations. Being organized is a superpower, and it has many other benefits other than capping the downside of a failure.
It gives you clarity
If you are organised in your business, you have clarity. You know who you are, what you do, what you should focus on, what your metrics are, what you need to be doing to get there. You simply just press play and follow the plan. A lot of stress in life and business comes from chaos and not knowing what to do. Being organised reduces all of that.
It helps you bounce back
Failure is inevitable. Even the best-laid plans go awry. But as long as it is not a catastrophic failure, when you get knocked off, and everything falls apart, to get back, all you have to do is consult the plan, adjust and continue where you left off.
It super charges your chase for success.
I’ve always been organized or at least fairly so. I can be quite OCD and I need everything to be just so. But it is one thing to be organized just because you like it, and then to be organized towards a goal.
If you have done the internal work of figuring out what you want, getting your mindset right and then building a plan to get it, setting up routines and being organized are the support structure and systems that put your efforts on automatic. All you have to do at that point is just ride the wave. Being organized is a huge leverage point that regularly gives exponential results.
It reduces cognitive load
Being organized allows you to build a second brain around you. You are able to outsource things to this second brain and free up mental bandwidth for what truly matters. You don’t have to spend energy remembering things when your calendar pings you at the right time. It is easier to work and remain in flow if all your tools are well placed within reach to facilitate the work. You don’t have to juggle things if they are well mapped out.
Like I said, I have always been somewhat organized and you probably have been too, but taking the time to fine-tune and improve those processes and tools can really be like strapping a rocket to your back and jetting off while providing a safety net for you to land on if anything goes wrong. Let it be a core tool in your journey to your success.
It was honestly quite embarrassing. I had just written a piece about the importance of routines and how they have helped me be consistent with blogging and a better creative as a whole, and then the very next week, I go on to blow that routine to smithereens and have an absolutely terrible week. Okay, I’m wildly exaggerating. It wasn’t that bad a week, I just felt very untethered for most of it.
I had failed. I failed my routine and I failed to post.
It is not ideal. But it’s okay. It is bound to happen from time to time.
On the road to success, failure is guaranteed. Your getting to the place you want to be, depends on how you react and deal with failure. Do you spiral down even further, or do you bounce back?
I had failed. What next?
A good strategist and executioner always plans contingencies. What happens when things don’t go your way? How do you recover? What do you do next? The answer for me was simple. And the answer was a question, a paraphrase of the focusing question from The One Thing.
What is the ONE most important thing for me to do right now that would make the most impact?
And in the stupor of my week, floating disconnected from my routine and usual momentum, I asked the question. On the day I was sick and tired, the most important thing to do was to get groceries done, it was simply all I had any energy for and what needed to be done. The next day, the most important thing to do was to do meal prep. And all of that was simply foundation, so I could wake up on the third day and get right to work and spend all day being productive like I wanted to.
It would have been easy to spiral, to feel anxious and guilty, to try to over compensate for the failure of routine by doubling down and pouring yourself back into the grind. But failure is a feature that can be used to improve routine because it is an invitation to pause and reflect, to recover and then improve.
If we design routines and rituals to control and direct the chaos of life, then we must also be aware of and prepare for the points of failure. So when you fail, you have the response mechanism to get you back on track.
But it is not just enough to bounce back. How far can you bounce back? Can you bounce back from failure better and more anti-fragile?
Failure is inevitable, but what matters more than the failure, is your response to it. The quicker you can bounce back, and the more you can milk that failure for all its worth, the faster you get back on to the road to success.
Failure is an opportunity to pause, reflect and recover. It is also an opportunity to learn. To figure out what went wrong, and to anticipate it the next time.
I fail at running my daily routine, so I execute this other small sub-routine (the focusing question) to get myself on track. I don’t just get back on track, I learn what went wrong, what to avoid the next time and how to improve my routines. I learn to regulate my energy and pay closer attention to my diet. I learn to manage expectations and protect sacred creation spaces. I learn how to increase my creative output. I return even better.
So, when you fall off the wagon, as we are all bound to, don’t beat yourself up. Take a breath, reset, learn, and do what you need to do to get back on track stronger than ever.
When you think about successful creatives or artists, you would probably conjure the image of weird people prone to flights of fancy, brilliant sure, but often capricious, unstable, or unreliable. You would imagine that they value large swatches of unstructured time and need complete freedom to be creative and do their work. You would probably think they wake up every day at different times to do different things. You would be very wrong.
About 2 years ago, I came across the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. He compiled and highlighted the diverse rituals and routines of famous accomplished artists, scientists and philosophers. From Salvador Dali to Chris Ofili, they all had something in common apart from their great minds and accomplishments. They had their specific routines and rituals.
See, to be productive and successful, especially over a long period of time and consistently, you cannot just rely on inspiration or on the ‘feeling’. The creative muse is notoriously fickle. You have to embrace structure. It is that structure that ultimately frees you to be creative, to explore vast ideas and birth something new.
Like all things in the universe, it’s a delicate dance of opposites.
The creative muse is be balanced and even enhanced by routine. As individuals, doubly so as creatives, we are faced with chaos on a daily basis. There is the noise within – the voices in our head, our anxieties and hopes and fears. And there is the noise without – society, traffic, bosses, clients, the needs and requests from family. There is a lot that can derail your work and path. Routines and rituals become the guards that protect it.
Routines and rituals do two main things. They provide and defend the time needed to do the work, and they provide the right conditions to do good work. They direct the chaos of the day, the chaos of the mind and set them across well-defined paths every day. It is the only way to get any real work consistently done over time and move towards accomplishing your goals and maximizing your potential.
I have been telling people lately, that if you want to embark on a creative project, like doing podcasts, writing a book, or working on a business – you have to bake in the process into your daily life. You have to create a routine for it. Otherwise, it will never get done. What is not scheduled, does not happen.
For instance, I generally write my blog posts on Sunday. It is part of my ritual to prep for the week. It usually follows a set pattern. I sit down at my desk, I meditate for 15 mins, then I journal, mind dumping whatever is going on upstairs, and only then am I clear enough to write something. Afterwards, I plan my week and get into some work.
Of course, many times, for whatever reason, that does not happen. Some Sundays, I’m out with friends or doing something else. But I still have to execute the ritual when I can, on a Monday or Tuesday morning, whenever I do get the chance to get it done. The point is, the ritual facilitates production. It gives me a set time to work and provides the conditions necessary for good creative work.
The idea of ritual shows up everywhere, even in doing the work itself. To be effective at designing and solving problems, I have to use certain patterns. I follow processes, either documented or subconsciously. I dig into the issue at hand first, letting it fill my mind. Then I have to explore ideas and look at incredible work by others to prime my mind. Then I sketch and design and test till I get something. And I need to have the phone off for hours sometimes just to really get that focus and enter the right zone to produce good work. If I disrespect any of these conditions, the work suffers.
Routines and rituals go a long way.
It is how we trust the process.
It is how we get what we want, how we maximize our potential. It is where living intentionally really becomes tangible in your life. By designing your life in line with your goals. Putting in the conditions and systems to make it work. You focus on winning the day-to-day. Because if you win at executing the most important thing on a daily basis, over time the actions compound to deliver you great wins.
Your routine would look very different from mine. We all have what works for us. In Mason’s book, the routines of artists varied wildly. Some woke up nice and early starting work at 9am like Chris Ofili, others like Pablo Picasso could not be bothered before 2pm. The point is, they found a rhythm that worked for them and maximized their creative output.
However you do it, start right and end right.
We all have the same 24 hours, beginning our days at some point, and ending them at another. In the time between waking and sleeping, we have things to do, obligations to fulfil and projects to execute. If we want to crush it. We have to pay attention to how we start and how we end. A good morning routine sets the pace for the day. A good wind-down routine at the end of the day helps us get a good night sleep and start the next day on the right note. With those two things created and applied consistently, we supercharge our lives, our creativity and productivity. A good routine takes care of the important little things – a noisy mind, unclear focus, eating, etc and allows us to focus on actually doing the work.
A week and a half ago, I was in a deep funk, like I mentioned to my email list. For whatever reason, I entered a dark place, feeling unbalanced, feeling doubtful. Until I came across this video, and had two epiphanies – one, I am not my mind, which is a topic for another day, and two, I should get back to some kind of routine. So, the next day, I woke up, I exercised, I meditated, I visualized, I journaled, and went on to have a very productive day. Like magic, the darkness lifted.
Turns out, all I needed was to get back into rhythm. That’s the power of a good routine.