Even if it doesn’t work, action will bring you clarity
Most people don’t want to endure the necessary criticism, failure, and embarrassment on the road to true success.
But small losses now mean big wins later — if you can push through the negative, you’ll eventually reach greatness. When you look into the lives of the world’s best performers — athletes, comedians, actors, writers, singers, artists, creatives — you’ll always see they’ve put in a tremendous volume of work before they really got big.
Most of that work wasn’t even good (many times, it was just plain terrible).
But it doesn’t matter if it was good — what matters is that you took action.
Most people never take enough action necessary to succeed. As best-selling author Grant Cardone once wrote, “Almost every problem people face in their lives are all the result of not taking enough action.”
Are you taking enough action? Are you taking more action than others around you?
If You Don’t Know What to Do With Your Product, Then Just Do Something
Trying to market a product is hard; it’s ten times harder when you don’t really know what the product is. Great marketing for a bad product will only make it fail faster.
In his autobiography, Steve Martin (one of the most famous and successful stand-up comedians in history) described his humble beginnings in comedy — a nonsensical magic/comedy act he gave for small families and foot traffic at a dusty, second-class amusement park.
“I was not naturally talented,” he wrote, “though working around that minor detail made me inventive.” He spent a decade learning his craft, marketing his talents, practicing his routine literally thousands of times, up to four times a day at the amusement park for years.
“I kept scrupulous records of how each gag played after my local shows. ‘Excellent!’ or ‘Big Laugh’ or ‘Quiet,’ I would write down; then I would summarize how I could make the show better next time,” he wrote.
After years of practicing, tweaking, re-doing, and practicing, he finally began to make enormous strides very quickly. In a few short years, he became the most dominant and well-known comedian in the world. He took so much action that he knew exactly what his product was, and was able to market himself well. He had failed for so long, he had learned more than any of his competitors.
“Perseverance is a great substitute for talent,” Martin wrote.
Consistency and discipline are the greatest determining factors of your success.
But to reap the rewards of these traits, you must do something. Even if it seems totally irrelevant and a waste of time. When you’re stuck, the only way to get unstuck is to take action.
If you don’t know what to do with your product, then just do something.
I really like books like Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss — basically, enormous volumes documenting dozens of interviews with the world’s most successful people — because you start to notice themes and similarities.
Most of these people — men and women, gay and straight, from every country — started from nothing. They were stuck in lives they didn’t like. Eventually, they started taking action, a lot of action. They worked three jobs and still found time to write screenplays or learn programming. They scheduled time for work. They took more action than anyone around them… even when they didn’t know if that action would get them anything.
If you don’t know what to do, no problem — just do something.
Your Job Isn’t to Be Perfect. Your Job Is to Take Action, All the Time.
In an interview, Robert Zemeckis (director of Forrest Gump and Back to the Future), said he almost cut out an important scene from Back to the Future. It was the now-famous scene where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) plays “Johnny B. Goode” on guitar.
“Well, it doesn’t really fit,” Zemeckis remembered thinking to himself. “I’m going to cut it before we even preview it.”
His editor encouraged him to just try it out. “Just leave it for the screening,” he told Zemeckis. They could cut it out later if the audience didn’t like it.
The rest is history — audiences loved the movie (the first film of the trilogy grossed nearly $400 million alone), and audiences especially loved the famous guitar scene.
Your job isn’t to be perfect. Your job isn’t to make things, or say things, or write things that everyone will love.
Your job is to take action, all the time. Because when you experiment, learn, and try new things — things you might think will come out terrible — that’s how you find the real gold, the stuff people will truly love.
There’s no secret formula or equation that cracks the code. There is only you, and the action you take.
Small Losses Now Mean Big Wins Later
Robert Rodriguez, filmmaker and founder of El Ray Network, made his first movie (El Mariachi) for about $7,000. It was a bit of a mess — his friends did everything themselves. His sets were all borrowed from his friends’ workplaces and homes. He didn’t have the money to do anything else.
Everything was a one-take shot, good or bad. He borrowed his friend’s turtle and bulldog to make it seem like they had a professional animal trainer (they did not). He quickly edited the film and entered it in a film festival.
The film did extraordinarily well, winning the top award of the festival. The small obstacles and losses — not having a big crew, not having any money, doing everything from scratch — eventually paid off.
Rodriguez used these lessons to eventually make massive blockbusters like Spy Kids ($535 million gross) and Sin City ($74 million gross).
Small losses now mean big wins later.
There’s a lot to learn from failure and mistakes. A common practice by many world-famous comedians is to show up unannounced to random, small-town comedy clubs to try out new material. Most of the jokes fall flat — no one laughs, even if it’s Jerry Seinfeld or Kevin Hart.
But they learn from these small losses, and go on to make huge comedy specials seen by hundreds of thousands of people, earning millions of dollars.
Take action now. Even if it’s a loss, you can use that knowledge to make huge wins later.
Action Always Brings Clarity
Most people remain stuck in their mediocre circumstances while doing more complaining and worrying than actual action. But when you take massive action, you get massive results; you’ll discover you like it, dislike it, or feel neutral towards it. Another action step, another lesson learned.
Those lessons will bring clarity.
The problem most people have is that they don’t have clarity; they don’t know where they’re going, what they’re supposed to do. I feel this often myself. It’s a terrible feeling, not knowing what to do.
The solution is simple: action.
Achieving your goals is hard — a few weeks (or days) of inaction, and you risk feeling like a total failure, like you’ve lost your mojo. Stephen King once noted that if he even took a two-week break from writing, he felt all his creativity was gone.
But the worst things you can do in the face of constant uncertainty is to do nothing, staying in your rut. Action breaks the cycle; action brings clarity and tells you what your next step is.
I’ve been writing for over six years. The first four and a half years, I was constantly confused and unsure of what to write about. It felt like I always had writer’s block, and I couldn’t scrape more than one or two ideas without my mind going blank. I had very little clarity.
What finally ended it? Consistent, disciplined action. In May of 2017, I wrote an article on Medium almost every single day of the month (you can go look). But be warned — those articles are mostly terrible. They have bad structure, confusing headlines, and are mostly self-indulgent diary entries.
That’s OK — the quality wasn’t the point. It didn’t matter if it was good. The point was action. And action brought clarity. Publishing something was better than nothing. I saw some of the articles start to stick and get traction. I followed those ideas, and copied that structure for the next month. I went from 1,000 views in May to 25,000 views in June. It doubled again a couple months later. Now, I regularly get hundreds of thousands of views a month.
A small bit of action can bring enormous results, very quickly.
Action brings clarity. If you’re feeling stuck or uncertain, the solution is to take action, consistently. It gets you moving and points you in the right direction — even if it’s just a few steps at the beginning.
Feeling stuck sucks.
And it’s so easy to get stuck. No one can take action all the time — we need breaks and rest. But when you try to get back on the horse, it can feel like you’re at the bottom of Mount Everest.
But that’s the tricky thing about feeling stuck — you’re never as stuck as you think you are. It’s kind of like an old, rusty faucet — when you turn it on, the water is dirty and gross. But keep it on for a minute, and eventually, the water becomes crystal clear.
It’s on you to push through the first few steps, the first few days of action. It will feel like you’re going nowhere.
But soon — often, very soon — things will start to move very fast. You’ll have more clarity on what to do.
But it can only happen after you take action.