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Patterns of Action

“There are cues and subtle aspects you can only pick up through a person-to-person interaction—such as a way of doing things that has evolved through much experience. These patterns of action are hard to put into words, and can only be absorbed through much personal exposure.” – Robert Greene, Mastery

If we were to agree that activity is a key performance indicator, then you might learn a lot about someone’s direction from their level of activity. But as anyone who’s worked in an office for any amount of time knows, you can easily skew the numbers with busywork. We all know people who are masters of the metrics game. But in the end all that matters is results.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are the metrics identified as important indicators towards the progression and eventual completion of an objective. If that sounds pretty dry, well, welcome to the world of corporate metrics. Put another way, it’s reading the tea leaves to see what the patterns are. Patterns of action indicate our direction because they’ve indicated the direction others have taken before us. What works for you should work for me, the thought process goes. Of course, everyone and every situation is different. The art of leadership (or self-leadership) is in seeing what to focus on.

When you want to change something about yourself, what do you do first? We can stay very busy messing about with planning and preparation. There are people who build entire careers around each. I have a workout plan that will have me winning the next Olympics in rowing, should I ever follow through on it. I won’t follow through on it.

And that’s the key point. Life is about execution and following through on what you say you’re going to do. There are clear patterns of action that get you there, one step at a time, if you’ll choose to take them. Measuring activity isn’t the point, the point is to manage patterns of productive activity that are generally agreed upon to take us from where we are to where we want to be and turn them into results. Take action, note the results, and take action again. Repeat.

That feeling of “stuck” we get when we aren’t seeing progress is an indicator that we’re mired in busywork but not meaningful patterns of action. We must either pivot to other goals or face the truth that we aren’t working on the things that really matter. Our patterns of action are all wrong. See the truth for what it is, and then do something about it.

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