Monday, March 17, 2014

A Bias for Action

Have you ever wondered if there is a secret recipe for how to succeed in Corporate America?  That is, of course, a silly question - of course you have.  You can walk into any bookstore and see whole sections dedicated to books on how to achieve success in business.  Alternatively, you can visit one of any number of conferences or conventions where people will give you methods/recipes/"secrets" on how to be successful.  I haven't researched the numbers nor do I think it's important.  I'll just guess and say that this whole industry makes at least a billion dollars per year.

No matter what advice is out there, whether it is free or not, I know that there is one thing that all successful people have in common.  As the blog title states, that thing is called a bias for action.  In short, the people who are naturally inclined to take action are, by nature, going to be more likely to succeed.  As an experiment, first take a look at your own company and then select a few others in whatever industry you choose.  The only caveat that I'll throw in is that whatever company you pick has to be at least performing, if not excelling.  (No dying companies please!)  Once you have made your picks, take a close look at the leadership of each.  With only a few exceptions, what you'll see are people who have any number of accomplishments under their belts.  It is almost always the people who are "doing" things that enjoy the successes.  Without action there is no chance to succeed.

I have a number of examples to illustrate my point.  The first is not directly related to "Corporate America" yet is oddly relevant. 
  1. As I write, the current prize for the PowerBall Lottery is around $400 Million.  Someone close to me knew I had purchased a ticket and was telling me just how infinitesimal were my chances of winning.  I answered, "Yes, that's true.  But then again, this was the same case for all the other dozens of millionaires created by PowerBall."  I went on to say, "As bad as my odds are, by actually taking the action of buying a ticket, my odds of winning are exponentially greater than yours!"
  2. Jeff Bezos - In case you didn't know about him, Bezos is the founder and current CEO of Amazon.  He also happens to have a paltry net worth of only about $28 billion dollars.  As successful as Amazon is today, many of us Gen X'ers can remember back in the early 2000s when Amazon was never profitable.  In fact, I remember financial pundits at the time who claimed that the company was all "smoke and mirrors" and would never turn a profit.  What makes Bezos's story so interesting is that he was born into poverty.  He had a teenage mother and a father who was a Cuban immigrant.  He got to where he was by constantly striving to move forward the idea that you could actually buy products over the Internet and be a happy customer.
  3. Oprah Winfrey - she was raised by a single mother, who made less than $28,000 per year, in Nashville Tennessee.  Oprah has spent her life in front of a camera, but what people don't see is the business empire ("HARPO") that she built while not on the air.  She is worth between $3-5 billion dollars, created solely through her own efforts to constantly create and succeed.
While I've pointed to several billionaires above, the point is not to equate only money with success.  Each of us has our unique way for describing it.  No, the point is that success is built upon actions.

Given what I've said above, why isn't everyone action oriented?  After all, it seems so simple, right?  Take action = Success
It doesn't quite work like that.

As author Eric Worre states in his book "Go Pro", there are basically two types of workers in Corporate America.  The first group makes up the bulk of employees who have a goal of showing up, carrying out tasks, and getting paid for their services.  The second is comprised of a much smaller group of individuals who are driven to constantly move forward, improving and enhancing at every step.  Both types of employees are important although they do not always gracefully co-exist.  What separates achievers from the rest is always a bias for action.  In other words, all things considered these people will tend to be more successful because they take more chances to get things right.

If you want to be successful - be all that you can be - develop a bias for action.  Even if you fail a few times or encounter opposition, the simple act of "doing" will always serve you well.

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