A bias for action is one of the most necessary traits for a successful entrepreneur. Studies find that an ability to make decisions quickly and to act upon them is one of the key determining factors differentiating successful people and companies from the unsuccessful. While there are plenty of people who sit around thinking about what it would be like to start a business, take a new job, launch a new project, or send in an application, the number who actually do is always just a fraction of these people. The bias doesn’t guarantee success will come, but the successful are only in the category of those who decided to act in the first place.
Is it innate?
Not everybody has a natural bias for action. Years of schooling — spending time in a place where a bias for action is not only frowned upon but is actively discouraged through highly structured and regimented days and schedules — and working in traditional, stodgy workplaces makes it even harder to develop this bias. Some people convince themselves that they can’t develop a bias for action because they just never had one. “It’s just innate, I guess,” they tell themselves before giving up and going off to become an analyst for the rest of their life.
But a bias for action doesn’t have to be innate. It can be developed and teased out through habituation and working constantly on becoming better at acting on those ideas that interest us.
A word of caution
You probably know somebody who embodies the cartoonish idea of a bias for action. They get an idea, have built a website, have business cards made, and are already talking to suppliers. It seems like they are always moving towards some kind of ambitious new project and are always moving forward. They’ve been this way since they were a little kid. Biographies will be written someday for how they were always building something new.
But where’s the track-record? How many of these things do they actually take from idea to fruition?
If we aren’t careful with what we mean when we say, “bias for action” when talking about success, we might think that the cartoonish person is a good example. They’re not. A bias for action, in order to be useful and not just a habituated form of ADHD, needs to be complemented by a strong, long-term work ethic and sense of follow-through.
For this reason, it is said that successful people commit to decisions quickly but change course slowly.
They know that when an idea really strikes a chord with them, they need to act on it. But they also know that they can’t jump on every cool idea that comes their way. You have to be tempered in your approach, being ready to act and not taken over by paralysis by analysis, but keeping the course when you’ve started.
1. Start Something That Makes You Uncomfortable
Preferably this would be a website or a project, not a bar fight or vandalism.
Doing something that takes you out of your comfort zone is one of the best small steps that you can take towards developing a bias for action. If you have a bias for analysis and you want to get out of that mindset, then the very act of starting something new will make you a little uncomfortable. When you really start to build something that is outside of your comfort zone, that will guarantee that you capitalize on this discomfort, making the next project all that easier.
You could always start by just building or launching something that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but that doesn’t help you embrace and overcome the additional discomfort of launching something new. You need to work your way out of your bias for analysis on all fronts, not just on the side of things that don’t make you uncomfortable. You won’t really know what it is like to do something new unless it is something that is truly new and foreign to you.
For a lot of people, this requires embracing and overcoming a form of stage fright. Maybe it doesn’t mean actually going on to a stage and giving a speech (although public speaking is a great tool for overcoming a bias for analysis), but it does require putting yourself out there. Starting a website, building a digital brand, and actually taking stances and having opinions that you are willing to articulate and then defend against criticism is one of the best ways to start.
2. Take a Commission-Based Sales Job
A commission-based sales job is one of the best possible tools that you can use for developing a bias for action.
When you launch something yourself that doesn’t pay you immediate gains, you might be motivated by the desire to see it grow or the intrinsic joy of creating something, but that doesn’t pay the bills.
A commission-based sales job forces you to develop the ability to start engagements. If you are given liberties with your job, you may even be allowed to write a new script, find new ways of prospecting candidates, and develop a pitch deck.
You can always sit back and do nothing and just deal with some inbound flow and hope you get a majority of your swings, or you can implement a system of A/B testing, you can go out there and try new things, and you can even push your own bounds and comfort zone. If you succeed, there’s a great payoff. If you don’t, the only person you harm is yourself.
There’s the added benefit that this is true of launching a new business, too. A sales job is the closest thing a regular employee can do to emulating the day-to-day of an early-stage founder (in fact, many successful founders started their careers as salespeople).
3. Take the Plunge
Once you’ve built up your bias for action from building your own project and running through a sales job, you’re now ready to really step outside of your comfort zone and do something big like start a business or take that motorcycle trip across Asia that you’ve wanted to do. By taking the plunge you will really test your ability to not only act but to also develop a sense of follow-through. You can burn the ships, put your social capital on the line, and make your friends and family hold your feet to the fire. You can’t just launch a project that requires thousands of dollars of your own money and your friends’ money and then decide next week that you don’t want to do it anymore. Now you owe something to them. Now you have other people bought in to your idea.
You use steps 1 and 2 to get you ready to do step 3. You take your idea to the open so that you can’t just go do something else. You use this time to build the long-term work ethic and the follow-through to make your newfound bias for action something that can actually pay off in the long run.
These are some of the best tools you can use to develop your own bias for action. I know, I’ve used them. Years of schooling and a desire to follow a traditional path muted my own innate bias for action that drove me to achieve when I was a child. It was only after stepping outside of that system and really putting my own feet to the fire that I was able to develop the action bias I have today. Contact us if you want to learn more.
Developing a bias for action and the work ethic necessary to become a successful entrepreneur is a core feature of the Praxis education experience. Apply to Praxis today for this opportunity.