Jeffrey Gitomer, professional speaker, and business trainer made the statement that “Failure is not about insecurity. It’s about lack of execution.” Then Stephen Sondheim, American composer and lyricist in a Broadway hit, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1962), gave these words, in one of his other hit Broadway musicals to a character named George to say to Harriet: “Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution.”1 When put together they make a modern parable. It tells us that failure to accomplish your dream is not caused by feeling afraid to try, but because you haven’t tried at all.
From this we learn that lack of execution doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan or strategy, it means you don’t have the will to put it into action. Swedish Founder CEO and Executive Vice President of IDCON, INC, Chris Idhammar, who is a respected and high profiled and world-renowned expert within the Reliability and Maintenance field once met a young and enthusiastic engineer who declared that they were already done with the reliability and maintenance management strategy, and that it was well developed and documented by a team in their company Idhammar told him that that sounded good. That meant that they were done with about 5% of the work. Somewhat disturbed the young man asked him what he meant by that. Idhammar inquired, “Have you spent any time to educate, inform and implement the strategy in your plants?” The answer was negative and the young man wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
In other words, he had a plan but no program to put it into effect. Very often, people believe the job is done because they have developed and documented a plan. But that is just the beginning, and if the plan is not implemented and executed the effort is wasted. This makes for a lot of plans and strategies but very little execution. So what happens? Robert Unyx, Chief Developer, Designer & Visionary at Top Secret Project says they keep doing the same thing because they are afraid of failing since their expectations of success are so high. They’re afraid of taking a less than perfect step. They want guarantees. They don’t want to take the risk of failing. They can’t seem to settle on a good enough starting point. They want the best starting point there is. So they keep planning and planning and planning.
How can a person stop this negative habit? Well, they have to come to the realization that their current strategy is not working and that they must try something else if they want things to get better. They have to take this out of their mind and internalized it into their will. They must stop believing that the way they are doing things is the only way to go. They are afraid that if they stop and try something new they’ll never get to where they want to go. But they must understand that with their current strategy, they’ll never get anywhere at all. It’s like going in a circle. Maybe then, they will truly be ready to change.
A good way to start solving this problem is by going out of their comfort zone and pushing themselves to take a leap of faith. This involves developing new habits, which means putting the old ones away. They will still get strong urges to go back to their old ways. But if they haven’t worked so far, why should they set themselves up for disappointment again? They must put up a really good fight to overcome this way of thinking. They’re trying to hold on to something that doesn’t work while losing something that will work. They have to let go.
Only by being determined to move on can they get around that obstacle. They must make up their minds to at least give it a try. Just start, and see where it takes them. Or how about phasing it into something that is working to make it work better? Making even minor changes is better than making no changes at all. There is really only one way to increase the possibility of making progress. Just do it! Just give it a try! Maybe they’ll fail, but so what? They’ve been failing by doing it the old way. Besides, they can start over and try again. Now at least they know what doesn’t work. Life is going to move on, why not move on with it.
Another thing to consider is that you need not look further down the road than you have to. It’s not the changes you plan to make in the future that count, it’s the changes you plan to make now. So don’t overthink it. It’s your choice now, whether you want to change or not. You may feel like you’re not ready to change, but there will really never be a right time. Eventually, you just have to give it a go. So what do you do?
Pick something you want to do, and just start somewhere, and start small. And keep doing it, and then soon you can start doing more, and eventually a plan will have naturally developed, and this way, in general, you’ll have a much better idea about what you need to do and how to make it realistic. And although this takes planning, make sure most of your time is spent actually doing things. In fact, how about taking 30 minutes each day to plan and then focus on putting it into action the rest of the time?
If you spent some time to plan, then you’ll come up with a pretty good idea about what you want to do and how you want to do it. And don’t second guess yourself. You can always adjust what you do on the go. Get into the habit of adapting and changing, moving fast and even breaking things, instead of moving slowly and carefully to make sure you don’t break anything. Just figure out the first step and start. And stop making excuses. Just do it. It’s your life, your choice. So decide now.
Out of all the Apostles of Christ, James was the one who seems to understand this principle more than most. His message to those who hesitate on acting because of a variety of excuses was this: Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a good listener when you let instructions go in one ear and out the other. Put into action what you’ve heard! Those who hear and then don’t act are like people who glance at themselves in a mirror, walk away, and two minutes later can’t remember what they saw.2
Later on in his letter, James becomes personal in his advice. He tells his dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this world if you learn all the right words but never make any use of them? Does merely talking about having a vision indicate that a person really has one? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup. That doesn’t get anything done. Isn’t it obvious that talking a good talk but not walking a good walk is nothing more than outrageous pretending?3
Then James continues by asking, wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by acting on what he believed to be true” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that having a vision and having a plan are partners, that a vision can only be realized by working on it? That what you are working on is your vision? When it says that Abraham “believe,” that includes his action. It’s that bonding of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Just having a vision and believing in it is not enough. Unless you start doing something to make it happen your dream will never come true.4
Now maybe this new proverb, “Failure is not about insecurity. It’s about a lack of execution. Having just a vision is no solution, everything depends upon execution” can be seen more clearly. God had a plan to save the world, but if He had not put it into action by sending His only Son to complete the work necessary, it would have never happened. Let that be a lesson for all of us. Visions are fine, but victories are even better. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Sunday in the Park With George, music, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Act II
2 James 1:22-24
3 Ibid. 2:14-17
4 Ibid. 2:21-24