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Leap Before You Look!
Four Times When It's Best to Get Started Without Overthinking

Laura Stack

"Don't let perfection become an excuse for never getting started." -- Marilu Henner, American actress

Have you ever felt paralyzed when facing a work project or task, to the point where you just can't seem to make a decision or get started? This can happen for a variety of reasons. You may suffer from perfectionism, from classic over-analysis, or from what I call the tyranny of choice: Sometimes you just have so many options you can't easily choose. And then there's the fable about the donkey between two mangers, who starved to death because the hay in both mangers looked so delicious he couldn't decide which to eat.

Animals are too practical to let that happen in real life, but I see similar situations with people all the time. Sometimes I think too much talent and intelligence are a curse, especially when I see very smart people consistently overshadowed by those who just pick a direction and get to work. You might think of workers like that as everyday plodders, but you can learn a lot from them.

Those Darn Ducks!

The higher you are in the corporate hierarchy, the more people your decisions affect. But regardless of your position, too much meditation without action hurts the whole team, especially when others depend on your output as their input -- for example, in some software projects, or when your report, book, or manual must go through an editing process before management releases it to users. Such projects tend to be tightly scheduled, meaning you can't spend too much time arranging your ducks before you pull the trigger. Sure, we all want everything to come out right the first time, but some changes are inevitable -- no matter what you do.

Let's look at some cases when it's often best to leap before you look.

  1. When you know the task so well you can do it in your sleep. If nothing has changed since last time, why waste time making meticulous preparations? Just check to see that the pool still has water in it before you make your dive, and get moving. You can fix any minor problems that pop up along the way.
  2. When you need to discover what you can do. Experimentation is important in all aspects of life. You may never determine your full capabilities until you've made a few unprepared leaps. This is especially important for creative people and innovative companies. Don't rush headlong into a huge project unprepared, but do make small leaps when you're not 100% sure of what the outcome will be to see where, and how, you land. It's a great way to expand your comfort zone without endangering yourself or your job.
  3. When your company or team needs you to make the leap. A friend of a friend who is a military nurse was asked to take on a difficult position because she was the only person in the unit who could. Her leadership knew she was very inexperienced for the position, but she had their full support. So, she leaped in with both feet. Although it was a difficult job with a steep learning curve, she's glad now she made the decision to go ahead, because it was an amazing experience from which she learned so much -- and that still influences almost everything she does. In fact, she's including the experience in a book she's writing. If people who depend on you need you to make that leap, and they've got your back, make some quick preparations and go.
  4. When you need to prove you're good enough. If the consequences of failure seem minimal, or your company doesn't harshly punish initiative, take the chance. If you have confidence in yourself, you know you'll be able to get it done, making adjustments and course corrections as you go. When management needs a volunteer for something new, raise your hand. If something important has been left undone, just do it.

Leaps of Faith

As the saying goes, luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Some opportunities, like trains and SAT tests, are so well-scheduled you can key your preparation to their arrival. But most aren't —which means you can't always take the time to look when an opportunity arrives. Sometimes, if you take time for more than a glance, the opportunity passes. If you've maintained your working edge and made a sincere attempt to maximize your ROI, then when opportunity knocks, it may be best to make an Olympic leap of faith without looking.

About the author:

Laura Stack is a high-energy International Keynote Speaker. Bestselling author of six books. Leading Expert in performance and productivity. Audience favorite for thousands year-after-year. Go-to resource to increase sales. Build teams. Grow customer bases. Nurture leadership. And help people achieve more in less time with more balance (and less stress) than ever before. Fun, dynamic, and driven—and perfect for your next event. Contact her at