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Only Action Satiates

“Nothing comes merely by thinking about it.” — John Wanamaker

When I was just starting out in my career I began collecting books that purported to show the way. We’re all trying to figure out the way, aren’t we? Bold titles like Unlimited Power, Maximum Achievement, The Magic of Thinking Big and Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive all promised the secrets to a bigger life. I still keep these books on a shelf as a reminder to myself that words in a book don’t carry you to your dreams, actually doing the work does.

We live in a world that rewards decisive action. Fortune favors the bold, as the saying goes. But what we boldly act upon matters a great deal. Choose wisely. Plan the work and then work the plan… so much advice thrown at us in this lifetime.

We know that purpose and productivity go hand-in-hand. Figuring out the former is essential to being effectively engaged in the latter. But all this thinking about it is detrimental to getting things done at all. We must begin. We must produce something and ship it, learn from that experience and begin again. Rinse and repeat. Having a bias towards action isn’t a call to run around in circles, it’s a call to stop planning to have a great life and get to it already. For there is no tomorrow.

All this italicized word soup points to the script that runs in one’s head when you spend a career reading about how to be successful. There’s nothing wrong with a clever sound bite if it runs in your head as you do the work that leads to where you want to be. Most self-help books are formulaic, written by people trying to capture financial success for themselves by showing you the secrets only they seem to know. If you’ve read one you’ve read them all.

Stop searching for the formula for success and develop and reinforce positive habits. Read great literature instead of formula books. Find a fitness routine that you can use for a lifetime. Be the person who brings people together instead of the person climbing over the dreams of others in a reach for the big prize. Write things down and track your progress, and learn to pivot when you see the course is wrong. And yes, take action every day towards the attainment of meaningful objectives at the expense of the trivial pursuits life dangles in front of you.

Success isn’t a formula, it’s a meandering path of figuring things out one day at a time. We aren’t here to merely think about where we ought to go, we’re here to do something with our time. Success word soup isn’t very filling at all—only action satiates.

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