What seperates successful people – however we define success – from the average citizen hobbling along with $10,000 of credit card debt and an extra 20 lbs on their waistline?
This mystery has been the subject of approximately every book in Amazon’s “business” section, world reknowned experts/authors like Malcom Gladwell & Brian Tracy, and a small army of psychologists.
So it may seem rather arrogant to say there’s 1 thing successful people do differently.
Of course, there are a whole host of conditions, many of which we probably can’t succeed without.
That being said, if we were to look at the master list of success factors and pick the one that had the most impact, what would we find?
I’ve read the interviews, the research, and topped it off with a dash of experience, and have come to this conclusion:
It’s not that successful people are action takers, or are able to overcome fear better than the average, or are oozing with charisma and confidence. It’s not that they had rich parents, great mentors, or a particular genetic code – though all these things help.
The critical difference is that successful people minimize the time between getting a new idea and implementing it.
It’s that simple. And that difficult.
Notice I didn’t say they have access to better ideas, they’re smarter, more creative, or luckier. Sometimes they do and they are, but with that being said, we can make up for any perceived lack in intellectual capital with a ruthless adherence to this rule: speed of implementation determines who reaches their goals – in any field, and who gets to shuffle their to-do list and look for motivational witticisms in order to get pumped up enough to actually do something.
The reason this principle is so important – so very important that I’d likely put it before any others – is that no matter how much we’ve read, studied, or planned, none of this comes close to duplicating real life experience.
As soon as we act, the meaning of all our information is irreversibly changed. Our perfect plans which seemed so promising don’t match up with the unpredicable circumstances of real life. The theory doesn’t match up with our personal strengths and weaknesses.
It’s almost as if the world is the playground bully throwing us into the mud and ruining our homework, laughing and saying “try again buddy.”
Though, that’s only if we’re delusional enough to believe that our initial plans are going to be realized without a hitch.
Speed of implementation is the answer to the unpredictability factor. Richard Branson didn’t start out with an airline – he ran a magazing called The Student and ended up selling mail-order records. The path between that start and his billion dollar empire is only visible from the present moment.
I remember being privy to an interesting discussion about “success” literature – books like Think And Grow Rich, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, and The 4 Hour Work Week, and how the number of success books in one’s personal library has an inverse relationship to how successful a person becomes (after the first few).
The idea being that most people who spend all their time gathering information aren’t doing any implementing, and conversely, all the people busy implementing have no need for more than a few, seminal tomes to get their ideas flowing.
Now, there are clearly counter examples to this, and plenty of prolific readers of business and success literature also end up with standout careers, but I think the general principle holds true – the majority of people stay stuck in perpetual information gathering mode, dreaming about how wonderful it’ll be when they have a billion dollars in cash, and never do anything to realize their
Why Speed of Implementation Wins
The reason that fast action tends to beat “perfect-action” or incredibly detailed, calculated, planning is that by acting fast, we get to test more ideas and see what works for us, in our unique circumstances.
Theory is great, but ultimately, none of it matters if we can’t get it to work for us in the real world.
And no matter where we get our information from – a book, podcast, video, or coach – none of that information is perfectly tailored to our personal view of the world, complete with biases, fears, habits, as well as our external circumstances – what’s actually possible right now.
This isn’t about doing as much as possible just for the sake of it, it’s about finding those few key actions that produce an inordinate, almost unfair return on investment.
When we see someone who has just started a new business that’s taking off like a rocket, or someone who just picked up a musical instrument and plays like a pro, or someone who just started working out and now has the physique of the Hulk – these are people who have found a few innocuous actions
Our newly muscle-bound friend may have happened onto some killer steriods. That’s what speed of implementation is – steriods for life. Minus the weird, freaky, and sometimes dangerous side effects.
Case Study: AJWalton.com
Back when I started this website, I had no idea about how to get traffic in a reliable and ongoing sort of fashion. I just wrote because I enjoyed it, and chalked up my lack of traffic to my business traveling the world.
I contributed guest posts to a number of popular advice/lifestyle sort of websites: DumbLittleMan, PickTheBrain, LifeHacker.org and TinyBuddha – some heavy hitters to be sure – but only the last one provided any meaningful traffic back to my website. (Note that there are other great reasons to guest post beyond getting immediate traffic back to one’s website, but that’s a discussion for another time).
I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was doing what I was “supposed” to do in order to get more traffic, but it wasn’t working. So growth was slow and painful, like that teenage year where you suddenly shoot up 4 inches and have to learn how to navigate the world in an almost-alien body.
So I did another thing successful people tend to be good at: I stopped. And I looked for a different idea to test out.
Then I stumbled upon Brian Dean’s article about the “Skyscraper Technique” for getting traffic.
The premise was simple: Find a hugely popular, preferably outdated article – one that had gotten a ton of social shares or backlinks from other blogs, and write an updated version that’s better in every way: more content, more resources, cooler multimedia, more thorough, more practical.
It was like a sign from the gods, because I had been thinking about an article with which I wanted to do something similar, I just had never seen how all the pieces fit together before.
So I executed – immediately. The same day, I wrote a 5,800 word beast of an article called 29 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy
My traffic stats tell the story:
So as you can see, that was a nice bump in traffic. far outpacing my previous best from a TinyBuddha guest article. 1505 visits vs 634 on the peak day. You can also see how long it took me to give up on my ineffective strategy and try something new (the little bumps you see around March are a collection of guest posts that went up around the same time, with limited success).
Then, to top it off, the final key: doing more of what works.
My article had been a relative success, albiet not the stand-out social media sensation of the origional.
So now it was time for the final step, improving on and duplicating my first effort.
I can’t believe how often people – myself included, try something that either A – works flat out or B – sorta works, but being the first effort is sub-optimal, and quickly revert back to their old ways.
I’ll admit it – I got stuck there myself, feeling unsure how to proceed. But when I finally got back on my horse (over 1 month later), I built a whole, thriving center of “skyscrapers” that have flooded my site with traffic, even overloading and crashing my server a number of times – I had to upgrade my hosting plan to accommodate the increased user load.
So, even though this wasn’t, by a long shot, perfect “speed of implementation” in action, we can see how implementing a new idea quickly can have an incredible impact. Same-day impace, even.
And if I had continued building on my first success immediately, I’d be several months “ahead” of where I am today.
Even so, my new best day clocked in at over 3,900 visits, a whopping 600% increase over my guest posting efforts – plus the results lasted longer too, with over 10,000 total visits when all was said and done.
Your particular situation is probably different – it always is. See past the specifics to the underlying principle. Think about how often we miss opportunities like this in our day-to-day lives?
Chances are it’s more often than we like.
So here’s a quick recap of the general principles:
1. If it’s not working, stop doing it. Immediately.
2. Find another idea that seems promising
3. Ruthlessly implement that idea
4. Track your results. Odds are your first implementatin wasn’t perfect. So you may have to try variations, mix and match pieces – depending on your results.
5. Do more of what works.
Information in Action
Now, you may not be trying to grow a blog – but that’s not an excuse to let this powerful idea go untested in your own life.
Where else might it work?
If you’ve been trying to lose weight through restrictive diets and punishing exercise regimes, maybe it’s time to try something a bit less extreme.
If you’re trying to get a date, maybe it’s time to drop “pickup lines” and try something else.
If you’re trying to save money, maybe it’s time to stop pinching pennies on your morning latte and looking at your mortgage, insurance, etc.
The only limit is your creativity. And your desire to get real results and not merely pay them lip service.
So what are you going to do – right now – in order to start moving towards the unrealized goals burning inside you? Let me know in the comments below.