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The Magic of Following Through

“I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through – then follow through.”— Eddie Rickenbacker

The more time I spend on this planet, the more I feel the fulfillment of deliberate action. You build momentum in your life when you do what you say you’re going to do with enough people. There’s a tipping point where everyone in your life simply identifies you as someone they can count on. Following through is a beacon of hope and light in a world where so many quietly quit on others, and in doing so, on themselves as well.

It wasn’t always so. I once mastered the art of excuses. Lazy and unfocused as a teenager, I would tell myself that it didn’t matter whether I did what I said I was going to do. It didn’t take long to realize the error of my ways. You hear a enough feedback from people in your life who you let down and you begin to feel the urgency to close the gap between who that person was and the person you aspire to be. Following through is the act of growing up and choosing to be the adult in the room.

Much later in this lifetime, I tend to take on more than I ought to. Saying no becomes the challenge, not saying yes. But no is part of the commitment to yes. To follow through on anything meaningful, we have to subtract something else that might have been a yes. That might be people, or putting in extra time at work instead of being home with the family, or maybe it’s saying no to that donut with our morning coffee. We are what we repeatedly do, and we are also what we repeatedly choose not to do. Over time, many of us learn to choose wisely. Choice is a commitment to that one really essential thing over all other things.

The unspoken rule here is that we must follow through on our promises to ourself as well. We must be the person we want to be. We must ship the work, as Seth Godin would say, when we say we’re going to ship it. Putting a blog post out in the world every day is just one of many small commitments I make to myself. Like those other small commitments, it pays dividends in profound and magical ways. For in following through over and over, you begin to believe in possibilities you might not have believed in otherwise. And others begin to believe in you for the consistency you’ve shown. We live the story we tell ourselves: this is evidence of who I am.

There’s magic in following through on commitments we’ve made. We rise to a place of honor by doing what we said we’d do. This is our uncompromising vow to others, and to ourselves. We are showing respect for those whom we follow through with, and surely for ourselves. This leads directly to a better world for those we interact with, and a better night’s sleep for us. Who said we can’t be magicians? Follow through.

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