Before you read this article, ask yourself the following question…
Do I have a bias towards action, or thinking?
After years of thinking about personality and entrepreneurship (you can already tell where my bias is), I’ve discovered that it’s fairly easy to place people on this spectrum between thinking and action.
Some people have a bias towards action and it’s very obvious. They’re fast charging, they get things done, they make mistakes more often than other people. The dark side of this bias is that they’re more likely to make a decision quickly without thinking through it, which results in failure or loss.
Others have a bias towards thinking. It’s less obvious, but can be found through conversations with them. They tend to delay action, make sure they have their chips lined up, want to “get it right”, and are often worried about whether they’re on the right path or not.
And some people are right in the middle, the theoretically perfect position to be in.
This article is for everyone who has a bias towards thinking. So if you’re a Vaynerchuk level Type A—it’s probably not for you.
My goal with this article is to help you, the person who has a bias towards thinking, to leverage that natural thought ability and transform it into action. To move further towards the action bias. To get more done. To stop worrying as much.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
- The hidden force that stops 80% of entrepreneurs from reaching their potential (and in some cases even getting started in the first place)
- The three types of people, and why only one of them makes big moves and forges ahead (+ how you can become this person)
- Why optionality and choice in the world of online business is a double-edged sword. How to sift through opportunities and make decisions with confidence
- 5 excuses that keep you from taking action and winning
- Mastering the inner game of business building: how to permanently improve your mindset so you don’t fall back into the same mental habits
Note: One more thing to mention regarding the bias spectrum: it’s dynamic. There are seasons in your life where think less and take more action, and vice versa. Same goes for different areas of your life (you might be an overthinking entrepreneur, but an action-oriented parent). In general, you should be able to spot patterns and trends that put you on one side of the spectrum.
The internal saboteur and what it means for your business
If you’re in the online business world, you’ve probably thought about the fact that there is more opportunity and choice than ever before.
The ease of access, the low startup costs, the amount of free and paid resources available… it’s a new age.
For the thinking person, however, this optionality and choice provides endless fuel for the internal saboteur to do its work.
Its work? To sabotage definitive plans and prevent action at all costs.
It wants you to stay in homeostasis. It wants you to stay comfortable. It wants you to avoid risk and plod along with normal life so it doesn’t have to experience change.
The internal saboteur achieves this through three mechanisms, or fallacies…
The "perfect path" or "perfect plan" fallacy
You suffer from this if you keep waiting, thinking, reading, researching, hoping that you’ll come across the perfect opportunity.
Of course, there’s no such thing as the perfect opportunity. Everything decent that comes your way is discounted, because you can always find something imperfect about it. The internal saboteur gets to work and convinces you to hold off and wait for something better.
As long as the perfect opportunity doesn’t exist, you aren’t required to make progress. So you sit comfortably and pretend that “thinking” and “brainstorming” through options is real work.
How to fix this
- Lay out all your ideas and opportunities on the table.
- Eliminate the ones that don’t appeal to you
- Eliminate the ones that are probably too complex and complicated for you to see through
- Eliminate the ones that are too easy for you
- Use a simple decision matrix to filter through what’s left. Rate each idea/opportunity out of 10 for how exciting it is, how feasible it is, and what the payoff might be. Pick the one with the highest total.
The "perfect timing" fallacy
Maybe you do muster up the courage and decisiveness to follow a certain path. The internal saboteur has been defeated, but you forgot to double tap. Nice work.
Back he comes, but this time he’s got a new tool: the perfect timing fallacy.
You wait for the right time to pounce.
“I’ll do it when the market changes.”
“I’ll just wait until I finish this project.”
“I need a bit more time, maybe next month.”
On the cycle goes. You never set a deadline, you never take the smallest step towards actually starting. You stay in the “thinking” state because it’s easier.
How to fix this
- Meditate on your mortality.
- Set a deadline for making the decision. Tell someone else about it and ask them to hold you accountable.
- Figure out the next smallest action you can take to build momentum. Most people delay action because they think they need to climb a mountain to get started, when really, all you need to do is put on your shoes.
The "passion prerequisite" fallacy
Another common one. You fall for one of the biggest lies (in my opinion) of modern entrepreneurship: that you need to be extremely passionate about the opportunity. You need to be willing to do it for free.
I’ve seen this fallacy destroy potential in so many people, who had the skills, intelligence and curiosity to follow a certain path, but they rejected it in favour of “pursuing their true passion.”
Nothing wrong with that, but the problem is, most of these people end up 5 years later wishing they had taken advantage of the opportunity presented to them.
You do not need to be super passionate about an idea to make it work. You need to feel excited about it, sure. You need to have a general level of interest. You shouldn’t do something you hate. But do you need to be passionate about it to a point where you’d do it for free? No.
How to fix this
Test opportunities on a small scale.
Say you have an idea to coach writers on overcoming writer’s block. It’s something you’ve overcome yourself, but you’re not sure if you’d really enjoy helping others do it—but it potentially pays well and you’re interested in it.
Well, find one or two clients and offer to do it for a discount (not free). Commit to 30 days, and then decide afterwards whether it’s the right opportunity. If it is, keep going. If not, adjust or find something else.
It’s better to spend 30 days testing an idea and being productive than 30 days just “thinking” and not coming out with any concrete decision.
The three types of people
This concept is directly pulled from the Straight Line Leadership, I highly recommend reading that book to understand it deeply.
There are three types of people:
- Circle people
- Zig-zag people
- Straight-line people
Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
Circle People (avoid these characteristics at all costs)
Circle people generally don’t do so well in business (or life).
They confuse activity with accomplishment. They may seem productive from the outside, but they rarely fail to see projects through to completion.
They never get anything important done.
They go around in circles.
Usually, as a result of all this, they burn out and quit.
In the world of business, this is the wantrepreneur (or previously successful entrepreneur) who talks a lot, tries a bunch of different projects, and years later still hasn’t produced anything.
If you’re a circle person, there is a lot of work to do.
Zig-Zag People (this is where the majority live)
Zig-zag people have a higher rate of achievement and project completion than circle people, but it’s inconsistent.
They waste a lot of time in the ditches. They’re not sure exactly where they’re going. And they spend too much time worrying and thinking rather than taking action.
If you suffer from one of the three fallacies I laid out above, but you’ve still had a reasonable level of success in life, then you’re probably a zig-zag person.
Straight-Line People (where you want to be)
Straight-line people get things done.
They are effective.
They’re more efficient with gathering information and then using that information.
They’re intentional, all the time.
How to transform yourself into a straight-line person
Obviously you want to become a straight-line person. The question is, how?
First, understand that this is a transformation that happens over a period of months and potentially years, not just weeks. It involves changing your core mental habits. It involves shifting and in some cases reversing the way you think.
It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Act before you think, and make it a habit
Overthinking is the enemy of a straight-line person, and if you’re still reading this article then my assumption is that you’re the overthinking type.
So am I.
And guess what my first step was for reducing my level of overthinking?
I tried to THINK my way through the problem of overthinking.
You can’t do this. Overthinking is a bad habit that will take more than it gives. And so the only way to break this is to ACT before you THINK.
You need to do this consistently, every day, until it becomes a habit.
I’m not saying be careless or ruthless. Just start small with something.
- You wake up in the morning and you’re not sure whether to focus on task A or B. Just pick one, forget about the implications, and GO.
- You’re not sure which products to sell to your customer base next. Get a piece of paper, write out a list, and then pick one to run a pre-development survey for. ACT.
- You keep worrying and thinking about who to hire next. You have 10 candidates who you haven’t even interviewed yet, and you’re trying to judge how good a fit they are. Stop thinking, interview them. Take action.
Once you start making this more of a habit, here’s what happens:
- You act more on highly refined intuition (also knowing as “gut feeling”) as opposed to trying to rationalize everything into a perfect system. You act more in accordance with your desires and intrinsic motivation.
- You worry less because you don’t have time to worry. You’re getting shit done.
- Success starts coming your way because you’re actually finishing work and making things happen.
Reflect on a scheduled basis, not sporadically
A straight-line person doesn’t avoid thinking, he just does it in a healthy way. He doesn’t procrastinate for 3 hours from 11am-2pm thinking about something that could be completed in that timeframe.
The best way to utilize your natural thinking ability while still taking action is to schedule it. Make a “thinking” schedule.
- Daily: 30 mins at the end of each day. Review day, review decisions, double-check goals, etc.
- Weekly: 60 mins at the end of each week. Review the week, update tasks, plan out next week, etc.
- Monthly/Quarterly: review period, update projects and goals, etc.
- Yearly: take a 2-3 day retreat to just think, plan, read, and reflect.
This is a much better approach than letting your overthinking zig-zag mind take over during the middle of the day when you already know what you should be doing.
Internalize the fact that people get ahead by DOING
Thinking is one piece of the puzzle. When done properly, it helps you filter through good and bad options so you can choose the most optimal path to act on.
But without the action part, it’s useless. We all know people who have million-dollar ideas, and they’ll “get to them someday.”
The best leaders and entrepreneurs are those who take time to think, and then EXECUTE with intensity.
5 excuses that keep you from taking action and winning
We covered the three fallacies earlier. Here are 5 more common excuses that you might be using to keep yourself in circle or zig-zag mode.
"I need to make the right decision before I take action."
You’re not wrong, but there’s a difference between trying to make the perfect decision and trying to make the right decision.
Ask yourself: how long have you been thinking about this decision?
Often, taking action will aid your decision making and thinking process. It will uncover truths that you wouldn’t come across had you not taken action.
E.g., “I don’t know if I’ll enjoy pursuing this kind of project.”
Zig-zag approach: “Let me think about this.”
Action approach: “Let me create a smaller scale test project that enables me to experience this type of work without committing to it long term.”
"I might fail if I take action."
But you’ll also fail if you don’t take action.
Once approach gives you education. Something to learn from.
The other doesn’t.
"I'm just getting everything ready."
How’s that going for you?
How long is it going to take?
What specifically do you need to get ready?
What is the deadline?
Create a plan, get to work.
"I need to learn more."
99% of the time you don’t. You need to start and learn as you go.
True learning comes from DOING.
"I'm just waiting for the right time."
When is that going to be?
Wrapping it up
Thinking is an important and necessary part of leading a good life and building a solid business.
But if you’ve read through this article and feel like you’re a circle or zig-zag person, then you’re probably the type of person who does too much thinking and reflecting.
Make sure you balance it with a healthy dose of action.