5 Steps to Achieving Great Things

If you want to achieve really big things. The kinds of things that people believe to be difficult, improbable or even impossible.  It will require passion, purpose, planning and the ability to execute actions. To accomplish them you have to have a plan. That plan has to has to be fueled by passion. The plan has to have an ultimate purpose. Most importantly you have to have the discipline to take the actions necessary to achieve them.

It takes time to map out a plan and be purposed. However, you can’t plan forever, at some point you have to act. When you do, expect people to freak out on you. They will question you. They will tell you it can’t be done. Hell, they will even tell you that you are wrong or stupid. The best innovation comes when the goal you are reaching for is seen to by others as impossible to achieve. You have to have the courage to set a course and stick to it.

The things that are the most worth doing are the ones with the biggest risk. The more impossible or likely to fail the more worth doing something probably is. The only way to ultimately succeed is to take massive risk with the utmost of determination. Performing action while others stand by and mock, laugh or ridicule isn’t fun. It isn’t glamorous. It won’t win you friends.  However, it will allow you to achieve great things.

To achieve great things you need to do the following.

  1. Find what you are passionate about.
  2. Redirect that passion into a purpose. (what to achieve)
  3. Plan what it would take to fulfill that purpose.
  4. Execute the actions in your plan.
  5. Have the courage to stick to it until complete.

When you learn that the world is your oyster, then all have to do is just take it. When you understand that the only thing keeping you from doing the impossible is you, new doors open up. Fear can be replaced by action. Several actions chained together with purpose can do tremendous things.

It is important to remember that the most important achievements were done by someone taking some sort of action. Leonardo da Vinci expresses it well, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

I urge you to stop trying to know everything. Stop just saying you are willing to make change. Instead, get up and start applying what you know and start doing the change you want to see.

If You Play the Numbers Game, You Will Always Lose When Trying to Change the World

Why do we focus so much on attendance numbers when trying to make change?  The truth is that numbers can deceive us and give us a false sense of progress.  Let me give you an example.

Recently and event was held in Phoenix that two or three “popular” community activists got behind to try to institute change on something.  Between these connected people they mustered up roughly 5,400 people to invite.  This includes the reach of their reach within a social graph.  If there are 3.5 million people in Phoenix, their effective reach is 00.15%.  Significantly less than 1%.  In reality, let’s cut it down to their audience, the creative class.  In Phoenix that would be about 500,000 people.  So their reach in the creative class is about 1.06%.  Roughly one percent.

Of the 5,400 people they invited to participate, 175 decided to stand behind them with another 235 saying maybe they would participate and nearly 1,254 flat out said no.  Another 3,700 were apathetic and gave no response.  If we go by numbers the organizers were proud that the day of the event 300 people showed up.  They were effective in getting 00.06% of the creative class to stand behind them.

So on the surface 300 people showing up seems great and inflates the ego, but in reality .06% is a miserable turnout.  The reason you lose when you make it a numbers game is because then the focus is only the numbers and someone who is paying attention can easily see that the numbers suck.

300 people showing up might make an organizer feel accomplished, but to the educated their delight in the numbers only highlights them as the paper tiger that they seemingly are, thus negating most momentum they seem to be gaining.  The real problem is that trying to use the attendance measuring stick is an old economy way to think of things.  It is the epitome of corporate.  Events and organizers looking to see their effectiveness based on their attendance are missing the point.

Stop looking at “how many people we have” and instead start asking “do we have the right people?”, “what impact are we making?”, “what value are we adding”.  The only time attendance should matter is if you are charging ticket fees and attendance relates to your bottom line.  At that point you are changing the world or are you simply providing entertainment (which is totally acceptable).

Random Sidebar
It is interesting that there were only 12 disciples.  Imagine how popular Christianity might have been if there would have been more of a focus on attendance.  In fact, maybe the demise of modern Christianity could be that pastors are more concerned with attendance instead of making an impact?
Summary
Some people might ask that a better number than the time before should count for something as it is an improvement.  They would be right, but they still miss the point.  What do numbers mean?  Even if they are trending up?  The truth is when you are focused on numbers you are focused on your own self and not on changing the world.  Would you rather impact the people close to you or just be surrounded by legions of cheerleaders?  Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson have lots of fans.  Is that what we aspire to be?

Creativity, Kryptonite to Complexity and Key to the Future

IBM recently released a study on rising complexity in organizations and cited that “creativity” is the key leadership trait that was allowing companies to stand out.  It is what CEO’s find most valuable.

Despite this realization we still have an educational system that guts the creative soul right out of every kindergartner that enters it’s doors.  If we think we are not prepared today, wait 12 years when a graduating class is completely unprepared to operate in this economy.  It’s time to take a stand.  Get off your ass.  Fight for creativity.  Fight for our future.

Part of the creative process is constantly inspecting and adapting to the information unearthed and the forces at work around you.  You better be okay with ambiguity and be prepared to experiment and FAIL regularly.  Ultimately serendipity can be creative rocket fuel and access to it requires deep, meaningful and broad connections with real people and data.  It requires constant iterative scanning based on what you know.  It expects you to be relentless in your pursuits.

Pansies need not apply.  The truly creative are disturbingly disruptive.  They don’t look to be on the top of a market, they look to create entirely new markets even if it means obliterating existing norms.  If you aren’t disrespectful of the status quo on some level, you probably aren’t innovating.

Command and control is out.  Self-Organization is the new standard.  Diversity of ideas and backgrounds is critical.  Open spaces let ideas spread.

IBM asks the following questions…

1. How will you develop the critical capabilities to enhance creativity among your leadership team?

Everyone was born creative.  It’s a matter of unlocking that which has been suppressed.  It starts with a radical change of culture and sense of place.

2. In what ways can you explore, reward and globally integrate diverse and unconventional points of view?

Let people choose their own work and how best solve the problems.  Get the fuck out of their way and let them impress the hell out of you.  You might just be amazed at who steps up.

3. What is your approach to challenge every element of your business model to get the most from currently untapped opportunities?

Connect with your customers and employees.  Ask them what is missing.  Live your product/service and pour your soul into it.  Experiment with wild ideas.

4. How will you leverage new communication styles, technologies and tools, both to lead a new generation of talent and encourage breakthrough thinking?

Stop restricting your employees from communicating digitally.  Get out of lock down mode and get into sharing mode.  Until you can do that, you are already on the death march to being obsolete.

What is the Motivation of Making Gangplank Free?

A common question is “How does Gangplank work?  Why is everything free?”.  The common theory is that if you don’t charge people something they won’t see any value in it.  Maybe if they are working on an assembly line, but for creatives this just isn’t true.  Our value lies in three things..

1. Gangplank is nearly completely self-autonomous.  If something is missing someone steps up and does it or organizes with others to get it done.

2. Gangplank believes it’s okay to fail as long as you keep trying.  The goal is a journey of excellence.  Seek mastery in what you do.

3. Gangplank has purpose.  It believes that you should be making a positive impact in the community you live in.  Not just for today but in the long run.

None of this should be surprising or new.  Economists, Psychologists and Sociologists have been saying it for years.  I found this great talk from Dan Pink that is animated in real time that explains it well.

I hope this helps answer the question.

SBR: Linchpin by Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Seth is back. He really gets it right on this one. This is an excellent book to pair with Richard Florida’s Reset. The world and they way we work in it is radically changing.

This is a good book to help people get ahead during this great changing of industry. One of the better books I read this year. It is easy reading. If you put yourself to it you should be able to finish it in one sitting.

View all my reviews >>

Get Deliberate

@tdhurst posted on “It never gets easier“.  A good post that had one of those triggers: Work Smarter, Not Harder.   Oddly, @evo_terra had posted something similar the other day on twitter.  I hear this all the time at work as well.  Frankly, the phrase just pisses me off lately.

Assuming that the goal is excellence (in whatever it is you are doing relationships, work, running, etc) and that excellence is a journey not a destination.  It is important to remember that NO ONE moves down the path towards excellence without hard work. However, work alone is not enough. It has to be deliberate work or as researchers would say “deliberate practice“. That is where the smarter part comes in.

My new mantra is work harder and smarter. Get deliberate in what you want to be better at. Always easier said than done, but you can’t fail if you don’t try.

Sunday Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I have decided to do a dead simple book review every Sunday. Some of this is to just share what I’m reading. Rather than go with some complex rating system a book will either be a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands. I will then do a one or two sentence at most comment on the book.
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Take Away: Again, Gladwell does a great job making a point, but does so in about one chapter.  Then the remainder of the book is just supporting stories.

Sunday Review: Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck

I have decided to do a dead simple book review every Sunday. Some of this is to just share what I’m reading. Rather than go with some complex rating system a book will either be a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands. I will then do a one or two sentence at most comment on the book.
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Take Away: This is the current bible of good software development practices. Kent unchains the disciplined programmer by introducing him to the team.

Sunday Review: Practices of an Agile Develoeper by Andy Hunt

I have decided to do a dead simple book review every Sunday. Some of this is to just share what I’m reading. Rather than go with some complex rating system a book will either be a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands. I will then do a one or two sentence at most comment on the book.
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Take Away: This is a great look at the spirit of Agile from a developer’s perspective.  The angel/devil reminders are a great re-enforcers of good/bad habits.