“A little more action please”

Welcome readers from Lifehacker and Rockstar Finance!


I belong to an organization that recently hired a Director of Getting Shit Done.  That’s her official job title.   It’s genius when you think about it.  Take 40 planners and put them in a room, what happens?

I think Elvis had some wise words for us on that matter, “A little less conversation, a little more action please!”

Planning is great.  We can plan till the cows come home, but if someone doesn’t get off their butt and take some action, nothing gets done.  Too often, many people find themselves stuck in this planning phase.  We dream of a better tomorrow, and then go back to watching TV while chugging a beer.

Planning is Procrastination

The Art of Manliness has addressed this idea.  Talk about flipping the world on it’s head.  Surely, we need a plan of attack before getting after it?  Nope!

You don’t need to do some complex retirement income calculation to take intelligent action today.  Get your employer match, if you’re so lucky to have one, and save in a Roth IRA.  Action!   You’ll have a larger nest egg at the end of your career than someone who spent hours pouring over Money Magazine articles and watching CNBC while doing nothing.

This reminds me of a book, Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to 100 Million in No Time Flat, by Michael Masterson.

Note the sequence in the title.  It’s not Ready, Aim, Fire.  It’s Ready, Fire, Aim. Doing is more important.  The planning and improvements can come from the lessons learned by doing.

Most people go Ready, Aim – Aim – Aim – Aim and never seem to pull the trigger.  That’s actually the normal way of thinking, and normal doesn’t often lead to success.

This is primarily a business book, for entrepreneurs or other decision makers in the workforce, not a personal finance book – so don’t bother with it unless you’re in that mode.  But if you are, there’s a link.

Fear of Failure

So what’s the real reason we act like this?  Most of us are trained to see the world as “Doors.”  We imagine a wall with thousands, or even millions, of doors.  These doors represent the choices we make, and any misstep closes a number of doors forever!  (Dramatic music here.)

I’ve noticed this most recently with what appears to be a growing trend of college admission coaches.  They’ll help Jr. pick just the right school and program because you know… a wrong choice will close so many doors.  We wouldn’t want that.  I’d link to one as an example, but they’re so slimy I don’t want to even hint that I’m endorsing one.

College is a place to explore your interests.  Your dumbass 17 or 18-year-old self does not know what you want to be when you grow up, and worse, they can’t know till they get out there and try a few things.  There we are right back at Ready, Fire, Aim.  Pull the trigger – try something.  If it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world.

If you couldn’t decide what major course of study to mark on the application, and never applied – you wouldn’t get anywhere.  We all know that, but when we translate that idea to the larger world we seem to forget.

This linear thinking is ridiculous.  Successful people know that their big idea is found on the other side of many failures.  Failures provide an opportunity to learn – so don’t get stuck being afraid of failure.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Thomas A. Edison

This is the same guy that found 10,000 ways NOT to make a lightbulb!  If he didn’t take ACTION, he never would have accomplished anything.  Don’t let fear of failure hold you back.

The 80/20 Rule

80% of your success in any endeavor will come from 20% of your efforts.  Maybe there’s time for TV and Beer after all!  We just have to identify the 20% of our time that we use most effectively and leverage those activities.

This is directly correlated to the law of diminishing returns.  You can get 80% of the way to your goal with very little activity, but getting further takes increasingly more effort.  The ideal is to isolate the things we do to produce the biggest result – get the most bang for our buck, our time, and the inherent sacrifices we make to get ahead.

Once we realize how little action it takes to be effective, it’s not so scary.  We can put down all those finance magazines, and flip the TV to a channel we like instead of watching talking heads go on and on about “The Market” bouncing up and down.  Sock some money away in your workplace retirement account, some more in a Roth IRA and forget about it.

The same principle applies to everything.  Little action = BIG results.  Running just 5 minutes a day can increase your life expectancy by 3 years.   Who doesn’t want to live an extra 3 years?   That’s even more impressive than the The 4-Hour Body!

Take a small action.  Get out there and make it happen.

Money, Mouth, Me

What am I doing to put this idea in place?  Am I putting my money where my mouth is?

There are 2 concepts at play here –

  • Just Do It
  • Do Something Small

That’s it.  I am a planner.  I like to daydream about the future, sitting in a leather chair at my (currently fictional) mountain view, lake house, writing or napping.  Either way, living the dream there, right?  But if all I do is dream, I’m never going to make it.

That’s why I’ve become part of the #5AMClub.  I was exposed to this concept through business and motivation podcasts.  This is the old military saying, “I get more done by 9AM than most people do all day.”

I’m doing something, and it is in fact rather small.  I get up early and write.  That’s it.   Just get up early and write.

I’m also doing other things as well, like getting after my Master’s Degree. (FINALLY!).  I’m connecting with like-minded people.  I’m producing content for this site again.  But I’m not planning too far in the future anymore.  I’m going to see which of these avenues produces results, and I’ll shift my energy in that direction as I go along.  There’s no way to find out unless I FIRE first.

We become our routines, so the more we implement this idea of being a DOER the more we will get done.

“A little more bite and a little less bark,
a little less fight and a little more spark


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  • http://www.freetopursue.com Free To Pursue

    Nice post. I love it. Every time I apply these principles, I am rarely disappointed. This is a good kick in the rump to start applying it more often. Thanks for the reminder.

    • http://jamesdelles.com James Delles

      Thanks! I mostly write for myself, so this is a kick in the pants for me too. :)

  • Pingback: Too Much Planning is Indistinguishable From Procrastination | The New Peoples Almanac

  • http://www.frugalwoods.com Mrs. Frugalwoods

    Love this! I apply the 80/20 rule to as many things as possible in life. Cleaning, home improvement, etc–it works for almost everything. And I totally agree, just getting started and doing something is the most important step. My husband and I always say to each other “If you don’t like how something is going, change it now. Don’t wait!”

    • http://jamesdelles.com James Delles

      I was a B student throughout school and college, I’m a walking, talking manifestation of the 80/20 rule. :) It really does apply to everything.