Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 10, 2011 7:41 AM

What It Takes

Have you ever thought of what it takes to make something really happen?

It could be an advertising campaign, it could be a successful Blog, it could be meeting more interesting people on Twitter or Facebook and it could even mean getting a promotion at the office or making a personal relationship work more effectively. I reflect on this often. Not just for myself. In fact, when I think of "what it takes" I'm often doing it by analyzing those that I consider to be successful (rough translation: individuals I appreciate, and if my life should somehow become similar to theirs, it would not disappoint me in the least).

It seems like there are two primary factors that need to be working for something to gain acceptance:

  1. Self-discipline. It's hard. Very, very hard to get motivated without external forces at play (a looming deadline, a demanding boss, a nagging spouse, etc...). It turns out that when we're left to our own devices, human beings are amazingly good at avoiding the act of "getting things done." If you don't believe me, check out the work of David Allen (he wrote the best-selling business book, Getting Things Done). Millions of dollars (maybe billions) have been made in the business of selling books, seminars, programs, etc... on how to stop procrastinating and how to start acting on the things that are important to you. The experts will tell you that, "all it takes is a little self-discipline," but the truth is that it takes a lot of self-discipline (and it needs to be consistent and ongoing). Getting something to a point where many people will embrace it and share it requires that the creator has the self-discipline to work at it, to chisel away at it and to tweak it. It may seem obvious, but when people ask me why they're not accomplishing the many things that they would like to do in the Digital Marketing spheres, the main issue holding back the majority of people that I meet is their lack of self-discipline (and it's something that I grapple with on an ongoing basis as well). They don't commit (time, effort, energy, output, etc...) in a consistent and self-disciplined way. If you're doing anything with creativity, try Steven Pressfield's latest book, Do The Work! for a kick in the pants.
  2. Secret Sauce. If you thought that self-discipline is difficult (and it is... it's very difficult), the notion of secret sauce is going to be a true mind-bender for you, because there nothing I (or anyone) can say or do to help you find your "secret sauce." In fact, to push that thought just a little bit further: There are no individuals that can define their own secret sauce or the recipe for it, either. John Lennon may be able to tell us what he was thinking when he wrote, 'Imagine', but he could never define how or why that song came to him. Over the length of his life there were many mitigating factors that acted as partial ingredients for what is his secret sauce for writing a song that transcends time and culture. The good news is that we all have a secret sauce for something - a skill or trait that is uniquely ours - that when we're outputting our best efforts, it's truly reflected in the result of the work. Where do great ideas come from? That is the secret sauce.

Don't stress (too much) about figuring out what it takes.

It's fascinating to see how few people spend any significant amount of time nurturing their secret sauce by actually having the self-discipline to keep at it. If you have a thing for writing, but haven't written in a long while, you know what I am talking about. Have the self-discipline to write - every day - even if it's just for a handful of minutes. Keeping those muscles (the physical and mental ones) warm is better and will lead to tone faster than creating a myriad of excuses as to why the writing is not taking place. The interesting part of this exercise is that the secret sauce really starts flowing when you apply the self-discipline in a rigid and consistent manner.

For me, it's the self-discipline and secret sauce that makes stuff happens. What's it all about for you?

By Mitch Joel


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