Woody Allen is famous for saying, “Eighty percent of life is showing up.”
I adamantly disagree.
In my experience, eighty percent of life is following through.
That’s what people notice.
That’s what people remember.
That’s what people are counting on.
And since so much of the world sucks at it, today we’re going explore a collection of strategies to help you do so beautifully.
This isn’t about goal setting.
This isn’t about time management.
This isn’t about keeping your promises.
This is about execution. Taking final action on what matters. And positioning yourself as someone that can be counted on – even if only by yourself.
1. Remove the threat of success. There’s nothing more terrifying than getting exactly what you want. Because if you do, consider the result:
You might lose it.
You might realize it’s not enough.
You might discover it’s not actually what you (thought) you wanted.
You might succeed and then miss your emotional goal of expected failure.
You might be afraid of the changes that success would bring into your life.
To avoid these inevitable anxieties, remember these words of The Tao De Ching: “Possess nothing, expect nothing.” Whatever you follow through with; don’t label it as failure as success. It’s neither one. It just is. Nothing but the consequences of your experiments.
Doing so makes the process less threatening, which makes the result more educational. Are you accepting life as it comes or trying to squeeze it into a convenient little box called success?
2. Ensure your capacity to deliver. All of your customers, employees, members – or whomever you server – are silently asking the same question: Will these guys deliver? Especially if they happen to be the person who hired, booked, engaged or commissioned you.
That means their ass is on the line. Which also means: They don’t want to look stupid. They don’t want to lose their job. They don’t want to be the first person to trust you. They just want you to follow through. That’s all. And you need to be aware of this reality of the human experience.
What’s more, you also need to be aware that you get zero brownie points for delivering what people didn’t ask for or need. Delivery becomes debris if it doesn’t align with the needs of its recipient. Are you following through with a compelling need, or superimposing onto people what you think they ought to want?
3. Build in reflection time. Some people are so excessively focused on following through that they bury their heads in the heart of exertion, only to miss the very finish they crave.
It’s like swimming your legs off for ten straight minutes only to realize you’ve gone five hundred meters in the wrong direction. Woops. And not that there’s anything wrong with focus. But it’s almost impossible to gauge your progress if you never come up for air.
My suggestion: Book blank time. Reflect on how far you’ve already come. This form of comparative analysis will fuel you with the executional confidence you need to follow through beautifully.
What’s more, reflection time instills a renewing and reenergizing spirit that helps you return with strength. Are you staying committed to your own personal reflection needs?
4. Establish expectational clarity. This is a phrase I coined a few years back. And when it comes to follow-through, it couldn’t be more relevant. One way to eliminate guesswork is to put a timeline on every action. This creates an end game and helps motivate you to move to completion.
Also, here’s set of helpful questions to ask yourself as you make progress:
*What will success feel like?
*When you work on an important project, what do you usually do that might jeopardize its successful completion?
*What if, overnight, a miracle occurred, and you woke up tomorrow morning and the problem was solved – what would be the first thing you would notice?
Ultimately, even if you’re the only person attempting to follow through – and even if you’re the only person who will ever know if you don’t follow through – what matters is that you know what a win looks like.
Speak from the future. Look back to identify the steps will lead there. Paint a compelling, detailed picture of following through. Then make meaningful strides toward it, every day. How are you telegraphing your reliability with yourself?
5. Deliberately move your goals from nice to necessary. People always make time for what’s important to them. Period. And if you’ve been having trouble following through with something in particular, you might consider asking yourself how much that thing actually means to you.
Because if it’s not high enough on your list, it’ll get buried under the tyranny of the urgent. Your challenge is to end the war with how and begin the love affair with why.
Don’t worry: How will make its appearance when it’s ready. You’ll figure out the formula for following through later. Yes, how is a great educator – but why is the ultimate motivator.
Instead of thinking about what you’re committed to, try thinking about why you’re committed to it. How did you learn about what was important to you?
6. Become a master of the mundane. “Fully extend your dominant arm.” That’s what good coaches will tell you. Whether you’re shooting hoops, slinging slap shots or slamming aces, nothing beats an unbent elbow. It’s just a basic tenet of most sports.
The interesting part is how well the pros execute this strategy. Even the ones who get paid millions of dollars a year. They’re never too good, too rich or too successful to master the mundane.
My friend Steve Hughes, a presentation coach, teaches his clients this very principle: “You’re looking for the trick play when you need to just work on basic blocking and tackling.”
Remember: Never underestimate the power of continual application of the fundamentals. Forget the rudiments and forego the revenue. Are you brilliant at the basics?
7. End your obsession with convenience. The reason follow-through is so rare, so difficult and so valuable is because it requires patience. Heaps of it.
And since most people are so addicted to the sweet nectar of instant gratification – not to mention, have the attention span of a goldfish – it’s no surprise that execution is so rare.
The two key questions are: How patient are you willing to be? And how hard are you willing to hustle while you wait?
Ideally, your answers to both questions should be the same word: Very. That’s the rarity that becomes remarkability. That’s what gets people telling your friends about you: When you’re committed enough to follow through despite a ticking clock. How much customer loyalty are you sacrificing by wearing a perpetual cloak of convenience?
8. Stay passionate despite success. Isn’t it frustrating when the waitress stops caring about your table once you’ve gotten your food? As if that was the last thing you’re going need until the check. Humph.
That’s what happen when you get complacent: Your customers get complaining.
Lesson learned: Don’t disappear once your people have been served. Make sure all the dots in the process are connected. Follow up, follow through and keep your eyes on the target – even after the shot’s been fired. Because that’s not the final point of action.
In fact, there is no final point of action. In the same way that fashion never finishes – business never bails. You’re always following through with something.
Don’t get so excited about the fact that you’ve delivered that you forget to ask people if they like what’s inside the box. How will success affect your frequency of follow through?
ULTIMATELY: I think my yoga teacher said it best: “The exit is part of the posture.”
That’s how you execute what matters. That’s how you follow through beautifully.
Otherwise you’re just some guy who shows up.
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What did you follow through with this week?
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For the list called, “6 Ways to Out Position Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
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