The tyranny of how

Critical thinking followed by action. This was the Dalai Lama’s answer in response to the question ... "What’s the most important meditation we can do now?”

Every so often in life a moment of inspiration, a flash of insight, occurs and when it passes we’re left with the seed of an idea. At this early stage, we don’t necessarily understand its true potential or what it might blossom into, but that’s OK. For the briefest of moments we allow ourselves to bask in the newness and excitement of our idea, before one dreaded word pops into our heads … How?
  1. How can I bring this idea to life and turn it into something real?
  2. How could I possibly quit my safe, secure job and start my own business?
  3. How will I be able to learn everything I need to know about marketing and social media to make my brand stand out in this crowded market place, when I’ve got no budget?
  4. How could little old me compete with all those big, established, household names already out there doing what I want to do?

And then the doubt begins to creep in? You begin to question your idea, to scrutinise it from all angles, to pull at the thread of the idea, in the hopes it will unravel in front of you and save you all the time, trouble and heartache of bringing it into the world and helping it grow.

In his fascinating book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell catalogues the stories of ordinary people who've confronted powerful opponents in life and dared to believe they could not only survive, but thrive in the face of adversity.

They don’t begin by asking themselves ‘how’, instead they develop a different set of questions:

  • “Shall I play by the rules or follow my own instincts”
  • “Shall I persevere or simply give up”

Gladwell presents two compelling ideas, which explode many of the myths of strong versus weak and explains why so often the underdog can conquer seemingly insurmountable odds.

He explains that often the "act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty”. It brings out the very best in us, tests our metal and forces us to be clever, innovative and creative in how we use our scarce resources.

Gladwell’s second insight is that too often in life we misinterpret who the giants are. We perceive them as invincible, but what we don’t realise is that “the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness”.

Matthew Michalewicz in his inspiring and confronting book Life in Half a Second explores the value of goal pyramids as a mechanism to overcome the tyranny of how and turn seemingly impossible goals into achievable tasks and activities.

He explains ... “The vast majority of goals get abandoned. It’s not just about having a goal, it’s about having a goal you're passionate about and committed to”.

He goes on to say that those who write down their goals and share them with others have a much greater chance of achieving them. And that those people who then break down their goals into a series of specific tasks and activities (a goal pyramid) have the best chance of all of success.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to forget about the dreaded How, at least in the beginning and concentrate on the more important question of Why? The answer to this question is what will inspire and sustain you to see your idea to fruition. It will also help you stay on the right track when those nasty How questions rear their head and try to derail you from your goals.

And finally, don't forget Edison's advice when you're wrestling with your own personal How ... "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration".

Authors note: A special thank you to David Dugan for inspiring this article and for the many other insights he's provided along the way.

 

Photo credit: Oberazzi 

 

Picture of Cian McLoughlin

Cian McLoughlin is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of Rebirth of the Salesman, a regular keynote speaker at sales kick-off’s around the world and one of the Top 50 Sales bloggers in the world for the past 4 years. He is a passionate proponent of an ethical, honest and authentic approach to sales. His company, Trinity Perspectives, is committed to helping sales organisations unlock the latent potential of their customers’ insights with their Win Loss Analysis and Sales Transformation services.

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