Chances are, whatever it is you want to do, someone else also wants to do it. Whatever your qualifications are, someone else has just as many. For every actor chosen to play even a small role in a small project, there are hundreds and hundreds of others who were rejected. Even for those of us not pursuing a career in film or on the stage, competition for opportunities, money, and an audience is fierce.
How do we rise above the competition? By taking massive action, by doing the things that others are unwilling or don’t think to do and by expecting more of ourselves than others expect of us.
Success is achieved through a combination of clarity of vision (knowing exactly what you want and knowing how to get there) and massive action. Having a desire to achieve a goal is good, but it doesn’t mean much if it isn’t backed up by massive action. Wanting something to change or be accomplished but doing nothing to create it makes you a spectator.
A spectator can say “Oh boy, we tried our best but the other teams’ offense really burned a hole in us,” but the “we” they’re referring to is very different from the quarterback’s. In contrast, actively working to pursue your goal makes you an agent of change rather than a spectator. And agents of change inspire a feeling. When we take massive action steps towards our goals, people begin to believe that we are really going to achieve them. When that happens these people around us will start to develop feelings of investment and commitment, just as we do.
If you want to start a business, for example, when you first share the idea with people around you they will probably be excited at the idea, but not be willing to do much more in the way of commitment or engagement. Once the idea has turned into a reality, however, once you’ve taken the actions needed to pursue this dream, people will start to show up.
If we look at the history of Minneapolis Alternative-rock band Motion City Soundtrack, their career so far demonstrates this idea well. When the group first formed, they had difficulties getting booked to open for national acts even though they played in the city regularly. They wanted to be invested in, they wanted the managers of venues to take a chance on them, but they didn’t have much to show in order to attain that credibility. (Now Magazine Archive)
What Massive Action is
Massive action is a decisive, unusual action that goes beyond the requirements and expectations placed on you by whatever area you find yourself in. It also bursts past job descriptions and surprises the gatekeepers of our worlds, the people who determine access to resources and opportunities.
Massive action, by nature, is going to be difficult. There are going to be barriers in the way, but that is why most people won’t do it. Massive action is only massive action because most people can’t or won’t do the work it takes to succeed. We need to be a minority of people who are willing to do hard things. And we need to trust that doing those hard things will make us luckier, will bring us more opportunity.
“When you take massive action you will naturally expand your knowledge, awareness, understanding, experience, influence and the opportunities that you have at your disposal. In fact, taking massive action will naturally bring you more luck. You get luckier because you are persistently putting yourself out there, and when you put yourself out on the line the Universe will reward you with more opportunities to bring to reality what it is you want most.” – Adam Sicinski
Massive action always pushes us forward towards our goals.
There should be a measurable positive difference between your position before and after the massive action, if not, it wasn’t massive action.
With Motion City Soundtrack, the band realized that they couldn’t succeed if they only continued doing what they were doing. So they engaged in massive action: they started touring out of the city whenever they could, as much as they could. This meant jobs, relationships, and their physical health would be under strain as they pushed to drive across the country and back on weekends in order to play shows and make it back in time for the regular work week. This constant work of putting themselves out there meant there were more chances for them to get noticed by the right people. Which is exactly what happened.
What Massive Action Isn’t
Just meeting the standard – Massive action is not merely meeting the expectations placed on you. If you are asked to help with a project, doing just enough to get by is not massive action. People think that by doing what is asked of them they’ve earned the right to success and advancement in their career, but it is people who do more than what is asked of them are the ones who will advance.
Hard work without a clear goal – Before we can effectively take the sorts of massive action needed to succeed, we need to be clear about what success means. This is called clarity of vision, and it means knowing what we want and what we need to do in order to get there.
What gives you deep excitement about each day? What thing seems to come up for you over and over again, what is most important? Once we know what it is that we’re striving for, a promotion at work, starting a business, a career change, then we can begin to determine the steps needed to get there.
Massive action is also not an action for action’s sake. If you read just the first few paragraphs of this article and run off trying to find difficult things to do thinking that in and of itself will bring you success what you’re really going to do is burn yourself out. We need to be sure that the actions we are taking are not just massive, but that they’re effective. Work smart and work hard.
Making massive(ly smart) action
Massive action must be intentioned, purposeful, and results-driven. Timo Sandler outlines this in his blog post about ensuring that our massive actions are also smart actions:
“Smart massive action means focus – it gives you the reason “why” (why am I taking action?). You are not just taking action, but you also know what that action relates to. The focus comes when you have set goals and when you take action that is related to those goals.
Taking action the smart way is also a motivational booster. When you act, you know you are not procrastinating and that improves your self-confidence. Also, when you take action the smart-massive way, you see results faster, which makes you take even more action.
Finally, smart massive action means time savings and less stress. This is quite obvious since you are focusing on very specific actions. The rest of the “stuff” can be dropped out and eliminated.”
Once you can concretize your goals into a specific result (example: getting a pay raise at work by the end of next quarter), then you know what work is important to do to reach it, as well as what work is going to be pointless to do because it doesn’t further your goal.
Once you have a concrete goal with a deadline and a window of time to complete it. Then you have a standard you can measure with. This creates an accountability loop, especially if this goal is put in a prominent place in your home or office. If that time passes and the goal isn’t achieved, then you’ll know that more needs to be done.
In order to have the motivation to achieve the results you want, you need to know why you want the results. Sometimes that might seem small (getting more money, for example, might seem to be a good enough reason on its own) but there is always a deeper reason, a purpose. This relates to our clarity of vision, the future state is that we want to reach. What good can we do in our lives and in the lives of others once we reach that goal?
Massive Action Plans (MAP)
Tony Robbins advocates a tool for this that is extremely effective, called MAP (Massive Action Plan). There are three steps to a MAP:
- Write down the results you want to achieve
- Write down your purpose (compelling reasons why you want to accomplish your goals)
- Develop a sequence of priority events
Once we know the result we want (point #1), and why we want it (point #2), we can develop a sequence of events needed to get to that place (point #3).
If the thing we’re chasing is an increase in pay at work, maybe that list looks something like this:
- An increase in pay by the end of next quarter (specific result)
- I want to increase my pay so that I can afford to invest more in my and my family’s futures. I want to create a net of safety for the people I care about and further the opportunities for myself and my loved ones (purpose)
- This is my plan to get that done (sequence of priority events):
- Recognize a need in the business that is not being met
- Develop and engage in a solution to that need
- Examine ways to expand this solution to further benefit the enterprise
- Approach management about the increase in pay, pointing to the solution and the ways your role can be expanded to reach that.
These steps (or whatever the steps in your specific area are) might seem daunting, but if we’ve written the result down and we have our purpose clarified, we can steel ourselves to get that hard work done. There are plenty of tools to take massive action like this, but we’ll go over a few.
Eat That Frog: Do the Hard Stuff First
“Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.“ – Brian Tracy
There are rules to frog eating, rule #1 is eat the ugliest frog first. Rule #2 is if you have to eat a frog eat it as quickly as you can. Don’t sit with it.
Rule #1 means that when you have a set of tasks you need to accomplish in order to reach a goal, tackle the biggest and most difficult task first. Which thing on your to-do list prevents you from doing other things on it? Which thing do you find yourself dreading and wanting to avoid starting because it feels like it will take forever? Do that thing first.
Rule #2 means that we should also do this difficult thing as early in the day as possible. Time is our most valuable resource. It is the one thing we cannot get back no matter how much money or energy we put into it.
If you spend the whole day fiddling with smaller to-do list items with lower priority and less importance than the big task you told yourself you’d do at 8 pm tonight, not only are you less likely to do that thing at 8 pm, you wasted lots of smaller chunks of time all day worrying about it.
Two eyes, One Point of Focus; just do one thing
One of the biggest mistakes we can make when looking at a set of priority tasks that need to be completed is to give in to the temptation to multitask. Humans are incapable of multitasking. When the human brain is scanned by an MRI while attempting to do two things at once what the brain is actually doing is switching back and forth repeatedly. This is called context switching, and it is not a good thing for productivity (or for a healthy work-life).
It takes a moment for our brains to adjust to doing something, especially if we’d been doing something else for an extended period of time. These context switches cost us time as well as energy, and having to do it constantly is draining and worsens our ability to complete tasks.
What’s the solution? Stop trying to do more than one thing at once. Human eyes work well only if they’re looking at the same thing together. Take a hint from your physiology, do one thing at a time.
“What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” – Gary Keller, The ONE Thing.
Keller mixes this idea with Twain’s Frogs by pointing out that since we can only do one thing, we should do the one thing that makes everything else easier to accomplish. To keep with the analogy, which frog is particularly big and ugly but by eating it will make it easier to eat the other ones? That’s the first amphibian to digest, then.
Chop Up Your Time
Time, as I said before, is our most valuable resource. It is the only thing we cannot replace, so we must protect it jealousy. Time Blocking is an exceptional tool to that end, here are the basics:
- Figure out how much time you have in a given week
- Write out as complete of a list of tasks and important problems to solve as you can. Note how important they are (maybe on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being extremely important need-to-do-this-now-or-I’m-in-hot-water tasks and 1 being something you can’t quite ignore but can stand to wait a while on).
- Which of those tasks have a time-sensitive component? Give those priorities when blocking out your week in your calendar. If you can only meet with a contractor between 3 and 5 pm on Tuesdays, for example, schedule that before you schedule the other tasks that can be done anytime. Once you’ve slotted out the time-sensitive tasks, work by priority and fill in the rest.
- Be sure to fill in your daily routines, both work things and otherwise. If you always have meeting with the VP at 1pm on Thursdays, put that in your calendar every week. Likewise mark out lunch, rest, work-out times, etc.,
Use These Tools to Take Massive Action
Mark Hoppus, the bass player for Blink-182, came across Motion City Soundtrack’s music while they were still struggling to get through full work days on Mondays after a weekend of driving 19 hours and touring like crazy.
He loved it. Hoppus praised the band in an interview with Rolling Stone, and not long after that brought them as the openers for Blink-182’s European Tour. From there money, fans, notoriety, all started to come. The band went back to Minneapolis and played the main room at First Avenue, the iconic venue of the city.
It was luck that Hoppus found them, sure, but that luck was earned. By consistently working hard and putting themselves out there. The members of Motion City Soundtrack gave themselves more and more opportunities to be discovered. Eventually, it paid off.
The feelings of the fans and of the industry professionals who act as gatekeepers in the music world followed the hard work of the band, the massive action they took to earn their place. The music was the same, the members of the band were largely the same, but they needed to engage in action before the feelings of investment could follow.
Likewise, we shouldn’t expect our projects, our passions, to be supported until we have put the work in to prove that we really want it. It is easy to have a dream, just about everyone on the planet has one. But to be the person who actually goes out and takes the actions needed to make that dream a reality is to be unlike just about everyone else on the planet.
We can’t wait for affirmation to come before we’ve done anything. Also, we can’t work fruitlessly on projects that don’t further our goals. We have to ensure that we’re spending our time wisely doing the hard things in the way of our success. When the going gets tough, the tough eat the frogs.
How do I know what it takes to exceed the standards of my workplace to take massive action?
It is incredible just how few people actually know what their job description is. That is what you’re legally obliged to do in your job, so compare that with what you actually do. See what pieces you’re meeting, see where you might fall short. Then you’ll also get a sense of where you’ll have space and energy to go above and beyond.
I don’t know what massive action to take, but I want to do/be ____________.
No matter what you want to do, there are people who can help you get there. Even if you don’t live near someone who can help you figure out what the next steps are, you can find conferences, podcasts, books, and blogs all over the place. We never had better access than we have now to the geniuses of the world and the work they’ve done. Use what’s available to you.
I’ve never kept a calendar or used time-management software before, what should I do to start?
Who’s the most organized person you know? Go ask them how they do it. You can find books on the subject, tutorials and videos on it all over the place. But in my experience, it is easiest to learn time-management from someone you know who is good at it. If there isn’t anyone you know who can do it well, then I’d suggest starting here. Hey, if it works for Elon, it will probably work for us, right?