One of my favorite things about Praxis — and my job doing business development in particular — is meeting our business partners and hearing their stories. What got them from an idea to a business that can afford to employ dozens of people? Lots of people have ideas of things they’d like to achieve one day or something they’d like to build but very few actually go out there and do it. Our participants have the opportunity to spend time around these people instead of spending time around those who someday hope they can actually do something. This is refreshing and empowering.
The one thing that all of our successful business partners have in common is that they’ve all made big decisions. They may not all be the type of person to jump off a cliff and build a hang glider on the way down, but they are all people who have had enough of sitting back and waiting and are actually ready to say, “That’s a good idea. I am going to build that and charge people money for it.”
They have, in other words, a bias for action. I’ve written before about how to develop a bias for action and there are debates about whether or not such a bias is something that comes naturally or is the consequence of conditioning. These are useful thoughts — but the best way to develop a healthy bias for action is to actually make a big decision today.
Lots of people read entrepreneurship books or listen to self-help tapes and nod their heads and think they are getting a lot out of the content and then go back to their usual daily lives of reacting to the world around them. Very few make a proactive choice and make decisions. Making a proactive choice doesn’t guarantee you becoming successful but not making a proactive choice guarantees you not becoming successful. Nobody has ever become successful in their careers, intellectual life, spiritual life, or family life by sitting back and letting life happen to them.
There are a few good reasons to make a big decision today. An important disclaimer is to make this decision from a place of excitement. Big decisions aren’t inherently good — some people get so angry and frustrated with how dirty the kitchen is that they decide to get a divorce in a moment of anxiety — so a good way to filter out rash decisions is to make big decisions that have both a positive and a negative argument for them. Pain is a useful signal to drive action — but it should be backed up by the incentive of pleasure and fulfillment on the positive side.
Making a Big Decision Releases Decision Anxiety
It is easy for people to get stuck in analysis paralysis, where they get caught up in analyzing the potential outcomes of a decision so long that the opportunity comes and goes. Once you are aware of this, it causes decision anxiety — knowing you need to make a decision but putting it off because you don’t want to make the “wrong” decision. This quickly spirals out of control and you no longer have much proactive force in your life. You find yourself reacting to everything around you — becoming a functionary at work, reacting to crises at home, and drifting through weeks at a time without a feeling of strong progress.
Just deciding to make the decision releases this anxiety and is the first step to claiming a proactive lifestyle. It asserts over your life that you are in charge and that you can make decisions for yourself. This is not self-help — this is a key component to developing a bias for action. The difference between a successful entrepreneur and an unhappy employee is that the entrepreneur actually released this decision anxiety and made a decision.
Making a Big Decision Builds Momentum
A consequence of releasing decision anxiety is building momentum. You’ve made one big decision — now smaller ones will be much easier for you. You decided to start charging for a product, now incorporating is just an easy few clicks on Clerky or LegalZoom. You’ve incorporated, now putting out some advertising or setting up a blog is just a few more clicks. You ran your first seminar, now one-on-one consulting should come easily to you.
One of the biggest differences between “normal” people and the successful entrepreneurs with whom I interact is that the entrepreneurs don’t even see making big decisions as making big decisions. They just see them as acting. Normal people view raising a lot of money to grow your business as a huge, life-changing decision — the entrepreneur with momentum views it as just another decision that is made on the path to success.
Making a Big Decision Asserts Control
People are unhappy when they feel like they don’t have control over their lives. You don’t have to be a megalomaniac for this to be true about you. Think about a time when you just felt like things were spiraling out of control. Your dog died. You got laid off. Your significant other is angry at you. And now you are sick. It feels like the world is happening to you.
Making a big decision tells yourself that you are in control. It takes the one subset of things you can actually decide on (your emotions) and moves them in a direction of level-headedness that you can then capture and drive towards making decisions in the areas of your life you don’t feel are in your control.
Some things just can’t be in your control — that’s okay. But you should take the things that are and make decisions in those areas in order to maintain a strong sense that you are the author of your life.
Making a Big Decision Signals Proactivity
Making big decisions also signals things externally to people around you. I don’t mean this in a vain sense that you must make sure everybody knows you are doing something — but professional development is about signaling the value you can add to others’ lives and organizations.
Some organizations want functionaries, so making big decisions won’t do much for you professionally there. The future of work will require fewer functionaries. Functionaries can be outsourced or automated. More companies will want intrapreneurs — people who act and think entrepreneurially inside an organization. Developing a bias for action and being somebody who actually does things works for you in your career, not against you.
I can tell you that when I look to hire interns or recruit new Praxis participants or identify individuals to hire in the future, it is those who show me they have an ability to take initiative and do new things that I want to work with, not those who sit around and think about doing things.
So go out there and make a big decision today. Sell a product. Quit your job. Drop out of school. Move to a new city. Apply for Praxis. Just go do something.