There are two basic kinds of actions. One is proaction, which puts you on the offensive and, all other things being equal, gives you a great deal of control over events. The other is reaction, which puts you on the defensive and relegates you to an inherent position of weakness.
An interesting way of looking at inaction is that it’s really just a negative form of action — a sort of black hole of action that sucks energy away from you much the same as the black holes of the universe pull matter into the deep recesses of their cosmic bowels. This is why inaction often yields consequences by default. If you wait for something, or someone, to act on you, you likely will be unable to control the consequences.
Homeostasis, a trait that all human beings possess to one extent or another, is (in psychological terms) the tendency to live with existing conditions and avoid change. Which is ironic, because resistance to change defies both the laws of nature and the laws of the universe.
The earth, the universe, and life itself are in a perpetual state of change, and so, too, is secular life. Weather changes, laws change, the economy changes, the reins of power change, technology changes, and, perhaps most significant of all, your age changes every second of your life. In addition, with the generation and dying of cells in our bodies, each of us is in a constant state of change physiologically, from birth to death.
Homeostasis is the ultimate defense against taking action, which is why most people stubbornly resist change, particularly major change. Outwardly, of course, we fabricate excuses that attempt to justify why we aren’t able to take action just yet, the most common one being that “the time is not quite right.”
Through the years, my own experience has convinced me that the time is never “right.” There’s always something that’s in the way of taking action. If you’re looking for excuses not to take action, you don’t have to go very far, because life is fraught with so-called problems — and they follow us wherever we go.
The truth is that, with few exceptions, the best day to take action is today. You can make a sales call today. You can start working on that important project today. You can start preparing to move to the city of your choice today. You can begin to pick up the pieces and start a new life today.
The issue isn’t about today being the first day of the rest of your life; the real issue is that today could be the last day of the rest of your life. And, as Mark Twain put it, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, put an exclamation point on Twain’s thought when he said (with regard to taking the plunge to start Amazon), “I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”
When people cling to the excuse that the time isn’t quite right to move forward with a plan or change of one kind or another — particularly starting a business — it’s often because they get caught up in the “how” of the situation. No one is omniscient. No one can foresee every problem and know, in advance, how to solve it.
The reality is that all start-ups are dysfunctional. What makes a person an entrepreneur is that he has the determination, perseverance, and resourcefulness to overcome the dysfunction of a new enterprise. Paul McCartney put it well when asked in an interview about how the Beatles got started. McCartney answered, “Nobody knows how to do it. You just start a band.”
I should also point out that people often fail to take action because they tend to confuse the word hard with impossible. It’s not impossible to change occupations right now; just hard. It’s not impossible to move to another city right now; just hard. It’s not impossible to start a new business right now; just hard.
Hard is the very thing that gives value to an objective. Everything worth accomplishing is hard. If you’re waiting for everything to be just right before taking action, you’re in possession of a foolproof excuse for failure.
Never allow change to make you fearful. Instead, embrace it as one of the most exciting aspects of life. Think of action as an opportunity to make mistakes, mistakes that give you a front-row seat in the Theater of Learning.
Carlos Castaneda explained it perfectly succinctly when he said, “A warrior lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.” Thinking is a good thing to do — but not nearly as good as action.
The idea is to be bold and take more swings at pitches that aren’t perfect, which will result in your getting your share of singles and doubles. Which is important, because singles and doubles make it possible for you to still be at bat when that perfect pitch finally arrives. Then, if you’re prepared, you’ll be in a position to hit one out of the park. The more action you take, the more results you get. It’s that simple.
Not surprisingly, Albert Einstein said it best: “Nothing happens until something moves.”