I’m sure we’ve all been there. We have 100 things to do and we pick 90 things to get done and avoid those last few items that we just don’t want to do.
They are on our ‘to-do’ list for a reason. We put them there…or more likely…someone put them there for us. But, they’re there and they should probably get done.
Why do we avoid those tasks? I know there are some things that I just consistently ‘put off’ to another day (e.g., writing on this blog) and I can’t tell you ‘why’ I put them off.
Recently, I ran across this quote that really resonated with me:
People romanticize their plans but dread the execution. The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.
Using this blog as an example — it is quite romantic in that ‘hey…I can be famous if I write a blog’ type of way, but it means nothing if I don’t actually write regularly. An idea is worthless without execution. It’s the execution of ideas that deliver value. You (and I) can talk all day long about what we are going to do, but until you do it, you’re just talking.
But think about what happens when you get those things done that really mean something to you? Those things that you’ve “romanticized.” Getting those things to a ‘done’ state is so much more meaningful and magical than just having them sit there on paper or in your head.
As a consultant, its my job to help my clients understand their options. Its also my job to help them understand which of those options are best and which should be their focus over the near term (or long term).
Sometimes, I’m paid to provide strategic options and then my client decides to implement those options themselves. Other times, I provide the options and help execute those options.
I prefer those clients that hire me to develop and implement over those that just want a report on what their options are.
Because – for the most part – those clients that want me to implement the recommended strategic options are the clients that do the things that they need to do when they need to do them.
We’ve all seen organizations who hire consultants, pay a good bit of money for ‘strategy’ and then do nothing after the strategic plan is created. What’s worse, we’ve all seen organizations pay for that strategic plan and then wait until they ‘have’ to implement their strategic plan.
When you (or an organization) wait till you haveto do something rather than doing something when you can or should, you’ve put yourself in a bad spot.
Waiting till you haveto do something forces you to work from a position of weakness rather than one of strength. Doing something when you haveto do it causes corners to be cut and shortcuts to be created.
Doing something when you should…or at least when you can…is a much better proposition. Doing something when you should gives you the ability to think things through, build a good plan and execute without pressure. Doing things when you should also allows you to get a couple of false starts under your belt and even fail once or twice…but you should have time to recover.
When i get a call from a client asking if I’m interested in working on a project that has a 3 month deadline and is ‘uber-urgent’, I always ask for background. I want to know why its ‘so urgent’. Is it because they’ve waited to long to initiate the project and are doing it because they ‘have’ to or is it because they want to get a jump on their strategy and do things when they should?
The answer to that always guides my thinking in whether to take the work or not. I’d rather work with the clients that do things when they should.
What about you? Are you doing the important things when you should or only when you have to?
So…when people ask me “what do you do?”, I have a bit of a hard time answering that question.
Some people have snappy comebacks to the ‘what do you do?’ question. Things like “I type” or “I sell” or something short and sweet.
Personally, if someone tells me ‘I type’ if I were to ask them what they did, I’d think they were sitting in a secretarial pool somewhere. I actually ran across a software developer who said ‘I type’ when I asked what he did….I didn’t hire him for the project after I heard that. I want a developer who can think…not just type.
But I digress….
So…what do I do?
A little bit of everything these days.
I’m juggling being a full-time employee, part-time doctorate student, full-time entrepreneur and must less than part-time amateur wildlife/landscape photographer.
When people ask what I do, I never lead with the doctorate work and for the majority of interactions, I lead with my work in my current full-time gig since that’s what my main focus is. Sometimes, depending on the circumstance, I’ll bring up my entrepreneurial activities and at other times I’ll dive into photography if I know the other person is interested in the subject.
But the bigger question, for me, is this: What do I want to do?
Let’s use that big ‘what if’ to think this through.
What if I didn’t have to pay the bills, would I have my full-time gig? Probably not.
That’s not to say that I don’t like my job…I do. But I’d prefer to be out traveling around with Tracie looking for some outstanding photographic opportunities.
Back here in the real world, I know I’ve got to pay the bills so I continue doing what I have to do…but I’ve started looking at ways to replace my full-time income as an entrepreneur. This isn’t something that will happen in the next few months or even the next year but I’ve got a plan.
That plan will allow me to build a base of revenue over a few different entrepreneurial activities over the next few years to allow more freedoms in the coming years. The plan will also see me finish my doctorate by 2012 (woot!).
Let me say this…I’ve wanted to do something different for a long time. I’ve wanted to…but never really set any goals or made any plans to force the change that I wanted to see.
I look back over the last 15 years and see a lot of mistakes I’ve made. Lots of ideas but little execution on my part. Some blame placed on other folks because ‘they’ didn’t do something.
But I’ve come to realize that ideas without execution are worthless. Common sense stuff…but something I somehow forgot.
Earlier this year, I realized that I don’t want to look back in another 10 or 15 years and feel the way I do now…so I’ve made some changes and have a path towards change.
I’m walking that path now….walking the line towards a bit of a different future my previous approach to life was allowing.
So…what do you do?
Are you doing what you want to do? If not…are you looking for ways to do what you want?
There are a lot of motivational speakers out there that will tell people that they can do anything they want to do…and for the most part, I agree. You can do whatever you want to…you’ve just got to figure out a way to do that without destroying your career, your finances or your life.
Are you creating your future and walking the path towards that future? Or…are you just walking a line drawn by others?
Maybe you’re more comfortable letting others draw the line for you…nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you want to go where that path leads.
In 5 or 10 years when you’re asked “What do you do?”…will you be able to answer with a smile and know you are doing what you want to do? I’ll be able to….hope you will too.
Innovation is essential to your work. Yet delivery of the innovation is the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace that you provide to your work.
As Scot says, Innovation is essential. In fact, its critical….but execution is as critical (and dare I say more critical) because without the ability to deliver your innovations to a market, the innovation has been nothing more than an exercise to see what cool stuff can be developed.
Need an example of Innovation needing execution?
Easy…one word: Xerox.
Many innovative ideas that have shaped our world today came out of Xerox PARC….but none of these ideas were turned into marketable products that made money for Xerox. Think about the following list of innovations…and think about how poorly Xerox executed the delivery of these products to market
The Graphical User Interface (GUI)
IPv6 (arguably a standard and not commercialized by anyone)
and many more
The GUI was commercialized by Apple and has become the standard for interacting with computers…as has the mouse.
Xerox PARC was (are they still?) the research and development arm of Xerox but very little of the innovative ideas that were developed there became mainstream because of Xerox. They lacked the ability to excute on delivering these ideas to market.
NOTE: I’m sure that there are those readers that disagree with me about Xerox PARC and Xerox’ inability to execute to deliver marketable products….and you may be right. My knowledge of the situation is from reading many articles, books and speaking with people who were around at the time, but I’m not an expert in this field by any means.
The moral of this story is this: Before you innovate (or at least while you innovate), make sure you think about how to execute and deliver the new ideas you are cooking up.
Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a technology consultant, investor and entrepreneur with an interest in using technology and data to solve real-world business problems. He currently runs his own consulting practice focused on helping organizations use their data more efficiently. Additionally, he is the Chief Information Officer of Sundial Capital Research, publisher of sentimenTrader
Eric received his Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) in Information Systems in 2014 with a dissertation titled “Analysis of Twitter Messages for Sentiment and Insight for use in Stock Market Decision Making”. His research interests are currently in the areas of decision support, data science, big data, natural language processing, sentiment analysis and social media analysis.In recent years, he has combined sentiment analysis, natural language processing and big data approaches to build innovative systems and strategies to solve interesting problems. You can read some of his research here: Eric D. Brown on ResearchGate
In addition, he is an entrepreneur that has launched a few companies with the most recent being a company focused on proving data analytics and visualization services to the financial markets.