It’s been some time since I last wrote anything here, due to various reasons from different areas of life. I noticed, however, that as time went on, it became more and more difficult to open this blog, open a new post and write. When I had time to do it, I couldn’t think of anything to write, and if an idea came into my head to write something, I was usually in the shower, or driving, or in a meeting, and couldn’t write the idea down until later, by which time I usually forgot about the idea!
This morning, I decided to take the advice offered up for decades by Nike: “Just Do It!”
To be honest, I’m not really sure what I’m going to end up with here. I do know that, when in doubt, there are worse things than taking action. US President Theodore Roosevelt said “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”, and many business leaders will no doubt testify that one of the biggest enemies of progress is inertia -itself a factor in lack of progress!
It is difficult to think of any scenario in which doing nothing is the best choice. Obviously, I don’t include situations where everything is going fine, and we are on course to achieve a 100% success rate on our targets (even then, doing nothing also excludes monitoring progress to ensure the goals are achieved, but this might become too philosophical!) But when faced with a choice to make, from the service counter at McDonalds to an invitation to join the board of a rival company, doing nothing will always end up as the third-best choice, after doing the right thing (e.g. taking the chance, and joining the board to start a new chapter in your life) and doing the wrong thing (e.g. ordering the extra-large Big Mac meal)!
So if the decision is to do something, then the next question is whether you can get the timing right. In this world of random experiences and human nature, it is rare that the time will ever be right. Years ago, a colleague of mine who’s wife had given birth two months previous was telling the rest of us (all single, or newlywed and happily childless) what it was like to have a child. What he told me was a helpful piece of advice which I remembered when we decided to buy a house, when we decided to go out on our own in business, and also when we ourselves decided to have children. “It is never a good time to have children!”
While this might seem to be a typical chauvinist comment a man might make to his male friends as a joke, it is actually very easy to find events and periods in life where a child might hinder our progress, or shift our focus away from other things. We get a new job, then we get married, then we get a promotion, then we buy a new house, then we want to enjoy married life in a new house, then we change jobs. A child does shift priorities, and can seem to get in the way of these other events.
Similarly, for those considering leaving the safety of steady employment to go into business for themselves, there never seems to be a perfect time to do it. We have new responsibilities at work, or renovations at home. It’s almost time to replace the family car, and an employment contract looks awfully good on a car lease agreement. When uncertainty threatens, we cling to the certainties; as the saying goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t!”
As well as learning something from Nike, I feel I need to mention a lesson I took from another global name -Apple. Steve Jobs believed in the power of the deadline. It doesn’t matter whether the product is perfect or not, just get it out on time. This explains -partially- why there are five kinds of iPhone, four kinds of iPad and an indeterminate number of iPods in the world. However, while it is true that the difference between the first iPhone and the iPhone 2 is not so great (to my untrained eye), the additional or enhanced features are enough so that, if they were to be included in the original iPhone, the deadline would have to be moved back. By the time the new deadline arrived, new features and possibilities would mean that the deadline would have to be put back again (where Apple simply announced that they would make a new iPhone soon).
Of course, the ability to increase market-driven sales is an undeniable bonus, but in effect, what Steve Jobs did that I agree with, was that he settled for now rather than perfect. If you put yourself on the other side of this equation (and if you own an Apple product, you already are), you realise that other people are often not even looking for a solution that’s perfect. They’re looking for a solution that works. So in deciding to do something, we must also decide to do something now.
…which I suppose is as good a point to make as any. Don’t be afraid of making decisions -as long as the decisions relate to you or your job, you will usually be in the best position to make those decisions. Instead of doing nothing, just do it, and do it now.