“Just Hit Somebody!” Developing A Bias Toward Action
October 21, 2010 16 Comments
“Come on, hit somebody!” That’s the sage advice I once received from my high school football coach. Later he elaborated to our entire group. I’m paraphrasing here:
If you don’t know who to block, that’s a mental mistake. You should know who to block. Period. But if you don’t know who you’re suppose to block, don’t just stand there; block somebody, hit anybody! Just standing there looking stupid is your second mistake. It’s better to make one mistake at full speed than making two mistakes by just standing there looking stupid.”
Inaction Is An Action
Much of the advice that I received from my football coaches doesn’t apply well to life off of the grid iron; it was far too sports-specific. However, that one piece of advice, “just hit somebody”, has stuck with me all these years.
Sometimes in business, in personal affairs, or even in spiritual matters, it’s far too easy to not make a decision. We tell ourselves that we need more information. Or perhaps we have enough information, but we need time to consider it all.
I certainly understand that. In fact, that’s my natural tendency. I’ve never taken a DISC assessment, but I probably have high values in the S and C dimensions which lean toward being cautious and deliberate.
But I’ve come to realize that often not making a decision is indeed making a conscious decision to do nothing. Continually asking for more information or trying to further analyze all the information that you already have leads to what’s known as Paralysis of Analysis. The opportunity is lost due to the time it took to reach a decision.
Sometimes it’s better to make a decision, any decision, and move forward.
Don’t Make Rash Decisions
To be clear, I’m not advocating that you should dispense with due diligence, that you should go around making a series of rash decisions. No, that’s short sighted and will lead to suboptimal results.
Each decision should be well researched and carefully analyzed. To a point. Then a decision should be drawn and action taken. Without action, there is no decision. You only have a wish. A decision requires an action.
Developing A Bias Toward Action
So how do we develop a bias toward action? It’s actually far easier than you may think. First you must recognize that no decision can be made with perfect knowledge beforehand. You simply will not be able to fully anticipate every aspect, every contingency, every possibility in a reasonable amount of time. It can’t be done. So there’s no point in allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
Second, you must consider your options based on what you know now and determine the best approach. Notice that this does indeed require that you do your due diligence, that you analyze your situation and options, and that your draw a conclusion (decision) from those options.
And finally, you must consider the opportunity cost of inaction. Will the marginal benefit/cost of delaying action result in a substantial gain? Will gathering additional information produce a significantly better result? Or will it only delay the result? What are the consequences of inaction?
At that point, you have enough information to reach a decision. To act immediately, or to act by intentionally delaying a final decision while you do more research. If it’s the latter, set a timeline to collect the required information and repeat the process.
If all things are equal, consider just acting now.
As Winston Churchill once said “I never worry about action, but only inaction.”