I believe you’ve got to get up every day, keep moving and tackle what’s in front of you.
Life turns on the smallest of decisions, and you never know which ones will prove the most significant.
The shaping events in your life, those moments that in hindsight prove to be crucial turning points, are often events that just seem to happen, out of the blue, the chance confluence of unpredictable circumstances. But the truth is that they don’t “just happen.” You may not be able to plan the results, but that’s okay. If you keep moving forward, focusing on incremental improvement, you’ll put yourself in their path.
This is one of the most deceptively simple leadership principles there is: keep moving forward. People won’t follow you if you’re sitting in the corner sucking your thumb and talking about how bad things are. They’ll only follow you if you’re going somewhere.
“This is one of the most deceptively simple leadership principles there is: keep moving forward.”
If you’re sitting around waiting for something to happen, you’re a stationary target for the bad things in life. A moving target is harder to hit. If you’re in motion, then you’re going somewhere, even if you’re not sure exactly where that is. And as long as you’re in motion, you can always shift your course. It’s an awful lot easier to steer a car that’s moving than one that’s sitting still.
Wrestle the Alligator in Front of You
There is a great saying in the military that applies just as well to life as it does to the battlefield: Every plan is great—until the first shot is fired. No one knew this better than Winston Churchill, who took office as prime minister of England in 1940 during a time of extreme crisis. Not only was the first shot already fired, but Europe had already been plunged into a world war. Churchill’s story is an epic tutorial in principled response to chaos and adversity.
“Plans are of little importance,” Churchill once said, though he also added, “but planning is essential.” (George Patton put it a little more bluntly: “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”)
One of Churchill’s great strengths—one among many—was his ability to hang tough and stay the course. Another was his fearlessness in taking immediate action when immediate action was warranted by the circumstances.
I’ve been to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, the underground complex where Churchill ran the war effort. His desk is still there, preserved in his office, and on it there sits a box he put there with a label that says, “Action This Day.” Not an IN box. A TODAY box. Whether it was five in the afternoon or 2:30 in the morning, the prime minister was not leaving his desk until the last thing in that box got handled. I can’t say I’ve always succeeded, but in my career, I have sought every day to follow that example.
Be in Motion
I may not be big on detailed long-term planning, but I’m very big on being in motion, in action, right now. I drive people crazy when they travel with me because I never check a suitcase. I’ll do a 10-day tour through Europe with nothing but a duffel bag. When we get off our plane, I’m not in the mood to wait around. For me, it’s off the plane and go. When I go through that airport, I’m moving. Even if I’m not sure where I’m going, I’m going to get there fast.
A lot of people seem as if they’re trying to avoid the present. Maybe they do this in the hope that if they just keep their eyes on a better future, then whatever’s going on right now will sort itself out.
“Here’s my approach to problems:
I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to form a committee to study it for the next 18 months. Whatever the problem or challenge is, I want to get it dealt with today.”
It won’t. Whatever challenges or problems you’re dealing with today, they are not going to get better with age. The only thing they’re going to do with age is get worse. Here’s my approach to problems: I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to form a committee to study it for the next 18 months. Whatever the problem or challenge is, I want to get it dealt with today. I believe you’ve got to get up every day and wrestle the alligator that’s in front of you. And then move on to the next one.
There is a difference between a dream and a pipe dream. The difference is that a pipe dream isn’t real. What makes a dream real is that the person dreaming it knows how to take action and deal with the immediate problems, instead of sitting around waiting for someone else to deal with the problems or hoping they’ll change on their own.
Go get it done. Quit talking about what you’re going to do. Quit writing down what you’re going to do, and go do it. Get after it. Go make it happen now.