I was waiting for a flight a couple of weeks ago when the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. He asked what I did for a living and after explaining what I do I returned the question and asked what he did for a living.
He kind of had two answers. He said he worked for the last 9 years as a sales rep for a medical device company but that was merely what he did to earn a paycheck. He then said that he was actually “an idea man.”
When I asked him to explain he said that he came up with new and better ways of doing things. Intrigued, I asked him for a couple of examples and then he talked for several minutes without taking a breath. This guy had an idea for just about everything. He “knew” how to fix healthcare, solve the immigration mess, make a better cell phone, better batteries, he had several ideas on improving the United States banking system, it just went on and on.
When I asked what he was doing with his ideas he seemed a little puzzled. He mumbled something about being “the idea man” but leaving the action to somebody else. I just smiled politely and luckily my flight was called shortly after that.
I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that leaving the “action” to someone else most likely meant leaving the success to someone else too.
As I thought about this guy a little later it dawned on me that he was just like a whole lot of people. He was filled with a ton of ideas, at least some of them surely actionable but he lacked the initiative to act. He was one of those “somebody ought to do something” people who just never thought about the fact that they are somebody.
Here’s the thing, you can have all the ideas in the world but if you lack initiative then you almost certainly lack the ability to achieve your full potential. You may achieve some limited success but it will be just that…limited.
Make no mistake, if you sit around waiting for someone to do something eventually someone will and right after that they will tell you what to do and they might keep telling you for the rest of your life.
Initiative is defined as the ability to initiate things independently. The definition is only about getting started. Having initiative doesn’t mean you must know exactly how what you initiate will end. It doesn’t mean that you have to have all the answers to every question before you begin.
It simply means you do something, begin something independently, because you can. Everyone can.
Don’t wait for someone else to act on your good ideas, take action, take a risk, step into the unknown and see where it leads. If it doesn’t work out you’ve gained valuable experience, if it does work out you have gained at least a measure of success.
Somebody ought to do something and that somebody ought to be you!