The best people most often have a simple common tendency. They dwell not on how hard a task is, but on how to make it happen. In the New York Times Sunday Business section, the current CEO and President of Montblanc North America, Mike Giannattasio, talks about his office and his work life. At one point he says:
When I suggest that employees do something, they'll sometimes say, "It's not that easy." I gave everyone in the office a Staples Easy Button, and I tell them "You are able because you think you are able," which I've paraphrased from Virgil. People need a good understanding of what they can do.
I once heard that the New York Times was doing an article on bringing philosophy to a broader public audience. I had just published Philosophy for Dummies in the famous Dummies series of books, to help jump start their foray into the Humanities with the Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Thomas Hoving, who wrote for them the estimable Art for Dummies. I called the publicist for the series and told him what I'd heard about the Times piece being done, and that I'd love to be interviewed for the article. He said, in a trembling voice, "Well, I don't know. The New York Times is a REALLY big place." I sighed, and thanked him, and found the writer doing the article myself, and ended up being the lead person interviewed.
One of the smallest bestselling books ever written was on this precise problem. It's called, enigmatically, A Message to Garcia, and is by Elbert Hubbard. The President of the United States needed to get a message to a rebel leader named Garcia somewhere in Cuba. He was told that there was one man who could do the job, no matter what it took. The President summoned him and gave him the message. The messenger didn't ask where Garcia was, or explain how hard it might be to find him. He didn't make excuses, dwell on obstacles, or "manage expectations." He got going, took a boat, went into the jungle for three weeks, and accomplished his mission. Hubbard suggests that we almost never come across a person who is ready, willing, and able to do such a thing. Those who are able to take a message to Garcia will be the ones who make a big impact on the world.
If we're in a managerial or leadership position, how often do we ask someone to do something interesting and hear them say, "Well that's harder than you might think." And how often do we already know both exactly how hard it is and that the person we've asked can certainly do it if they actually try? And of course, most of us have also been on the other side of the request. I was once asked to do a talk about Steve Jobs. I could have said, "Well, I really don't know anything about Steve Jobs, and it would be really hard to put together a talk that was both original and helpful on him." But instead, I said, "Sure. Let me look into it. I'll come up with something great." And it was hard. And I made it happen. I've given that talk several times and even have the draft of a book based on it.
I've often said that if I was asked what the most important quality is that successful people share in common, I'd probably identify an overall action orientation - the proclivity toward making it happen, whatever the relevant "it" is, in context. They don't ignore obstacles. But they don't dwell on them either. The success mindset is one of making things happen.
And, no, that's not me at the top of this blog post. I still have hair. But not all great thinkers do. That's Seth Godin. Take his advice and mine. Go make something happen. Now.