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As much as I love the anonymous quote — “Everything is hard until it’s easy” — there’s a powerful way to move forward toward an accomplishment.
Make it so easy you can’t avoid doing it.
There’s lots of ancient wisdom about tackling a task by breaking it down into smaller tasks. Hence the idea expressed as a question.
Do you know how you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
As simple as it sounds, I started wondering why we don’t do this as well as we could. You’d think such a tactic would prevent feeling overwhelmed. Then why are so many people overwhelmed as they march toward some goal?
There are likely many reasons. Having a cluttered mind. Over-thinking.
Then, there’s not thinking it through enough to break it down into smaller achievements.
It’s easy for us to do one or the other. Or both.
Fixating On The Big Goal, Is That The Way To Go?
People love talking about Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). We’re shamed if we don’t have one. Or a bunch of them.
People want to do something great. Something BIG.
Question: What was the last BIG thing you accomplished?
I would hope that daily you’re able to accomplish some meaningful things. But it’s very likely none of those things fit the bill for being something really BIG.
Except for heroic acts during a crisis, most BIG things aren’t accomplished in a short period of time. Even feats of championship athletics contain thousands of hours or days before the accomplishment. In business (or school or a career) the big accomplishments of our time mostly don’t have some moment that defines the outcome. That is, rarely are we able to point to a specific moment and point to it as THE MOMENT when we accomplished our big, hairy audacious goal. More likely we crept toward it a little bit at a time, even if we didn’t plan it that way. It’s just how things go.
Taking More Time Than Necessary Because We Get In Our Own Way
Pogo was right. We have met the enemy and he is us.
Martin looks back now and realizes it took him years longer than necessary. With the history behind him, he’s able to see things more clearly.
“I could have easily shaved off half the time it took. Probably a lot more. All because I found it daunting. And I hated every minute of it.”
Martin was trying desperately to get a new enterprise off the ground. It was a period of career transition, but it wasn’t like he was going from one area to a completely different area. If you were to examine his resume you’d think, “Yeah, this makes complete sense. No problem.” But it was a problem. A big problem. Martin struggled to get traction. Not because he lacked expertise. Not because he wasn’t smart enough. Not because he wasn’t hard-working. Truth is, Martin didn’t have any really good excuses. In his mind, they were REASONS. Not excuses!
“Every day I woke up dreading the work. I hated every minute of it. No wonder I didn’t succeed,” says Martin.
At some point, Martin got so sick and tired of being sick and tired that he decided to take a close look in the mirror. “I had to figure out why I was struggling,” Martin said.
Martin had heard me – and others – talk about being who you really are. Martin said, “I heard you say, “If you’re not a fish, stop trying to climb trees.” That’s not original.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” That quote isn’t really a quote from anybody even though it’s attributed to Albert Einstein, who never did say or write it. You can go back to the 1800s and find references of animals born with specific skills, but unable to do other things beyond their innate abilities.
Martin put in the work to figure out who and what he was. Turns out he was doing what I regularly admonish people to stop doing – pushing water up a hill. That is, he was doing everything the hard way. In a way that wasn’t congruent with who he was. In short, he wasn’t leveraging his skills and resources. He was trying to climb a tree because he had convinced himself that climbing a tree was necessary to achieve his goals. The problem is, he was a fish. And fish can’t climb trees. It doesn’t matter how much time you give them.
Martin got up every day trying as hard as he could to climb trees. The failure nearly crippled him. He spent more hours than he can calculate berating himself. Talking to himself about how stupid he was. And how his plan would never happen.
“Then something clicked,” confesses Martin. “I realized it was time to stop doing what I’d been doing…because it wasn’t working. It was apparent to me that it would never work. Not my idea, but my methods. So I completely stopped doing what I’d been doing.”
Martin put in the hard work of figuring how what’s easy for him. Not that it’s easy as in it requires no effort, but easy in the sense that he could wake up each morning knowing he’d be doing work that he was ideally suited to do. He discovered the power of forming daily habits were so easy and comfortable – he couldn’t avoid doing them. They fit him so well he could easily perform the tasks that would eventually move him forward.
Martin reflects back on it all. “People talk about getting out of your comfort zone and I know there’s value in that in a certain context. But in another context, it’s dangerous and destructive. I was uncomfortable every day and working hard to push through it. I just never could.”
Stop Doing The Things That Don’t Work
Business is about leverage resources. It’s about deciding where we’re going to put our resources so we can maximize the return. Why then are you working feverishly in ways that aren’t bringing about the results you want? Talking yourself into it daily won’t work. Congrats for putting in the work, but you’re wasting your resources. Most of all, you’re wasting time!
Step 1 – Stop!
Stopping isn’t the same as quitting. Martin didn’t quit, but he did stop. He stopped doing the things he wasn’t good at – things he hated. Things that prevented him from gaining traction. Figure out what isn’t working and stop doing it. Don’t abandon your goal. You just need to figure out a better way. A way more congruent with who and what you are.
Step 2 – Accurately Identify Yourself
Are you a fish? A bird? What kind of creature are you? Figure out your natural identity.
I’m naturally introverted, but I can look like an extrovert. I’m not socially awkward, but going to events and putting myself out there in person isn’t easy. I can do it, but it’s exhausting. More so when it comes to marketing and sales. Performing the work is all about helping people. I can be with people all day long serving them and it charges my batteries. But I can be around people or engaged on the phone with people in marketing or sales efforts and it’s exhausting. Providing value is easy for me. Creating content and telling stories that might inspire and help people…that’s easy. So that’s what I do.
My son is just the opposite. When he started his business I didn’t encourage him to do what I do. Rather, I encouraged him to do just the opposite because it’s congruent with who and what he is.
Identify yourself. There’s no point in trying to rush forward until you answer this because this will determine the best actions you can take.
Step 3 – Figure Out The Actions That Are Easy For You
Creating and sharing content is easy for me. I love it. I’d do it no matter what. I don’t do it expecting to sell you anything. I do it in hopes it helps you. Along the way, I’m providing people the opportunity to better understand who I am and what I do. Sure, I hope I bring enough value that some – a very small percentage of my audience – will consider hiring me to serve to them. Some do. Some don’t. But the point is that I’m able to do this because it’s so easy for me – that doesn’t mean I don’t have to work hard – that I can’t avoid doing it. I don’t look for excuses to avoid doing it because I love doing it. That’s very different than getting up dreading to do something you THINK will move you forward.
Step 4 – Start Doing What You’re Good At (and what comes more easily to you)
Take those natural talents and start using them. Lean hard into the things you love doing. Do them with greater vigor and enthusiasm. When you remove as much of that dread as possible you’ll find higher excitement. That’s contagious. Lean into it and be even more excited. Do what’s natural for YOU.
Step 5 – Keep Doing It (it’ll work)
Be patient. Don’t expect overnight success. But expect to succeed. Keep doing the work because it’s what you do best. And it’s what you love.
That doesn’t mean you can’t adjust. I’ve adjusted things around here a lot. But the overall work has remained the same. I’m still working hard to provide real-world leadership stories and lessons to help you in your business and life. The basic foundation of what I do here has never changed. It’s still about creating the most meaningful content I can to encourage you to push forward. Growing great isn’t just some catchphrase. It’s an honest objective I have for everybody. It’s what I expect for YOU.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!