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Career Advice

The 4 Traits That Separate The Doers from The Dreamers


Nothing kills progress faster than indecision.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked across three different continents either growing my own businesses or helping other people to grow theirs. Through these experiences, as well as being a mentor at various business accelerators and a career coach, I’ve had a front-row seat to observe the behaviors of those who have the courage to go after what they want and those who keep allowing dust to build on top of their dreams.

I could write a book about these experiences, and maybe one day I will. But in the meantime, below are the 4 most glaring qualities that separate the doers from the dreamers.

1. They have the courage to ask for what they want

The late Steve Jobs left us with a million and one nuggets of advice during his lifetime. When it comes to turning our dreams into reality, none are more important than his words below:

“Most people never pick up the phone. Most people never call and ask. And that’s what separates sometimes the people who do things from those who just dream about them. You gotta act. You gotta be willing to fail. You gotta be willing to crash and burn. With people on the phone or starting a company, if you’re afraid you’ll fail, you won’t get very far.”

If you reach your goals and you do not have any scars, you aren’t aiming high enough.

You have to put yourself out into the world. You have to learn how to dance on the edges. You have to be willing to fall.

The people you want around you do not sit around making fun of people for failing. And they certainly don’t brag to their friends about how many people they’ve rejected today.

So by all means, talk to people about your ideas to get them tighter and ask people for advice regarding how you can turn your dreams into reality. But don’t mess up the end-game after putting in all that work — and spending all that time — by not having the stones to ask for what you want.

Respect is given and progress is earned to those who have the courage to say, “This is what I want to do and I’d love your help!”

2. They understand nothing impedes progress more than indecision

When asked how he deals with overthinking by Cathy Heller, the host of the podcast “Don’t Keep Your Day Job,” author Malcolm Gladwell said something that stopped me cold:

“There’s no such thing as a bad decision.”

He then went on to explain that the only thing that any of us can accurately predict about the future is that it will continue to be highly unpredictable.

Doers understand this. Experience has taught them that the only thing they can control with any level of certainty is the amount of care and intensity they bring to their work.

So instead of allowing themselves to be paralyzed by indecision, they make what they think are good decisions and then they work their ass off to make them great.

If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that we have no idea what will happen tomorrow.

Remind yourself of this. Remember Malcolm’s advice. Never forget that the quality of your decisions is a direct reflection of the commitment you give to your work.

Sure, the idea that much of life is out of our hands can be terrifying. But it can also be extremely liberating. It serves as a reminder that we have zero control over how life will unfold tomorrow so we might as well do what we want to chase our dreams today.

3. They prioritize their systems over their results

Best-selling author of “Give and Take” and host of my new favorite podcast “WorkLife,” Adam Grant, encourages us to stop visualizing our future successes and focus on the daily grind instead.

James Clear, the author of the mega-successful book, Atomic Habits, mirrors Adam’s advice when saying,

“Results have little to do with the goals we set and nearly everything to do with the systems we follow. Goals are the results we want to achieve. Systems are the processes that lead to those results. If you want results, forget goals. Focus on your system.”

After working day-in and day-out with successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and creatives over the years, I can’t help but think Adam and James are dead right.

If you want to reach your goal of becoming a best-selling author, stop dreaming about all the accolades you will receive and instead make a commitment to write 1,000 words a day, every day.

If you want to receive funding for your startup, stop thinking about all the attention you will receive and instead focus on doing everything you can to build a wind-proof foundation.

Success comes to those who embrace the boring days. It comes to those who learn to love Tuesdays.

This doesn’t mean you can’t dream big or set lofty goals. Of course, you can. It just means that if you want to turn your ideas into a reality you have to give more credence to your systems than any of the potential results.

Frontpage news will always be rewarded to those who consistently take the unsexy, but right steps behind the scenes.

4. They befriend their fears

As someone who has a stutter, I can’t begin to tell you how many days I have wasted in my life worrying about what other people think about me. Once I made the decision to face this fear by taking a sales job, however, something magical happened: for every person that made fun of me, there were 100 people who were willing to support me.

Clients wanted to work with me because they respected what I was doing. Managers from other companies tried to recruit me because they thought I had spunk. My wife wanted to go to dinner with me because she thought a communication coach with a stutter was interesting.

I’ll never be the smoothest talker in the world. I’ll probably never be invited to record an audio-book. I still get nervous when I have to give a talk or even receive an invitation for a group chat on Zoom.

But nothing anyone can say to me is ever going to stop me from going after what I want. This is for the simple fact that for 23 years I allowed my fears to paralyze me and no matter how hard I fall in the future I know it beats the shit out of the alternative.

If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of small fears, but one giant one.

Follow the lead of entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss and give your fear a name. Then sit down and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s the worst that can happen if I face it?
  • What’s the best that can happen if I overcome it?
  • How will I feel about myself if I don’t do anything about it?

If I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to succeed. Nor do you need to be the fastest or the strongest. But you do need to try.

And if there’s anything worth trying, overcoming your biggest fear is a good place to start.

Good things happen to those who make the decision to open themselves up to the world and say, “This is me. Give me your worst!”