The Life and Career Changing Magic of Rapid Execution
Because he was frustrated with how much homeowners in Southern California spend on water bills, gardeners, and landscaping, my dad had an idea for reducing these costs once and for all: replace the lawn with artificial grass. From conception to completion because of his rapid execution skills.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas
- He sketched a design for a new walkway, artificial grass, and palm trees
- Obtained the necessary paperwork
- Hired a landscaper
Speed, decisiveness, and action were the keys to rapid idea execution for my dad’s landscaping project.
Speed As a Habit
The night before I started writing this article, my brother-in-law said, “I can’t believe how quickly this happened. You should write about this. Speed as a habit is a Rao-family trait. But we use it differently and don’t always agree on whether it’s a good or bad thing.
My parents think I’m impatient. And they’re right. I hate long lines, talking to customer service reps, and people who move at a snail’s pace. But weakness in one context can be a strength in another. As Naval Ravikant says, impatience with actions, patience with results.
Rapid execution isn’t just about speed for the sake of speed. It’s about strategic speed, ignoring what’s trivial, and focusing on what’s vital. The paradox of rapid execution is that it requires what Cal Newport calls slow productivity.
How Rapid Execution Changed the Trajectory of my Carer
At the end of 2009, Sid Savara sent me the following email:
- 2 hours later, I replied to his email with a mockup of a website and said, “Is this what you had in mind? When do you want to get started?” Today that website is the Unmistakable Creative Podcast
- My brother-in-law suggested the idea for this article at 6 pm. The first draft was done at 7 am the following day.
- Rapid execution enabled me to finish a 45,000-word manuscript in less than 6 months.
Going fast is always better than going slow if nobody ends up in jail, bankrupt, or dead. Speed as a habit is a precursor to rapid execution and means Sacrificing perfection for progress.
As Reid Hoffman says to founders, if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of a product, you’ve launched too late.
Speed Reduces Friction. Slowing Down Increases It
As counterintuitive as it sounds, going fast is easier than going slow.
On a snowboard, slowing down creates friction and is harder on your body. Going fast decreases friction and is easier on your body. When you go faster, you get more runs in and paradoxically are less tired at the end of the day.
When it comes to rapid idea execution, the friction that slows individuals and organizations down is mental instead of physical. Fear, doubt, and indecisiveness become reasonable justifications for procrastination. There’s no time for excuses when you develop speed as a habit.
According to Parkinson’s law, we’ll complete a task in the time that we’ve allocated for that task.
But the oversight of Parkinson’s Law, which I call Srini’s law, is that the longer it takes to complete a task, the less likely you are to complete it.
- Today becomes tomorrow,
- Next week becomes next month
- Next year becomes never.
Rapid execution reduces friction, increases momentum, and helps you stay motivated to accomplish your goals and make ideas happen.
4 Stages of Rapid Execution
There are four stages to rapid execution, which conveniently form the acronym IDEA
Nobody has a shortage of ideas, but they lack the discipline to capture them. Or they fail to capitalize on their ideas because they procrastinate or someone else executes the same idea much faster.
Ideas without execution are worthless. Nobody gives a shit what you’re going to start. All that counts is what you finish.
Rapid execution capability increases in proportion to decisiveness and decreases in proportion to indecisiveness.
- When people are indecisive, it leads to paralysis by analysis, procrastination, and the eventual death of an idea.
- Rapid idea execution requires you to be decisive in the absence of clarity. By definition, every decision is a bet on an unknown outcome.
- Because decisions precede actions, being biased towards decisiveness is just as crucial as bias towards action.
Almost every decision is reversible. You always have the freedom to change your mind. But, the longer you wait to decide on an idea, the less likely it is to see the light of day.
Execution is how you bridge the gap between ideas and reality. The easiest way to develop a rapid idea execution mindset is with The Four Disciplines of Execution.
Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important
There are a handful of wildly important tasks and lots of trivial ones for an idea.
- If you’re writing a book, writing is your essential priority. Everything else is until you’ve finished writing the book.
- When you’re building a company, finding customers who will pay for a product is more important than everything else. If you get that right, the rest will take care of itself.
To determine if something is wildly important, ask yourself the following question:
Is what I’m doing right now moving me closer to completing this project or accomplishing my goal?
If the answer is no, then you’re not focused on the wildly important aspects of the project.
Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures
Lead measures are the aspect of a project or idea that you can control. An
- A salesperson’s lead measure is the number of calls they make to prospective customers
- Lead measures for writers might include hours of deep work, word counts, or the number of articles they publish
Behavior change leads to better outcomes than goals because your behavior is something you can control.
When you focus on what you control, all your excuses go out the window. But many people avoid this because it forces them to confront a painful truth: they’re lying to themselves and making excuses that prevent them from taking action on their ideas.
Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scorecard
Lead measures are the metrics you use to keep a compelling scorecard. Having a scorecard leads to visible progress. You build and maintain creative momentum and enter a cycle of visible progress, momentum, motivation, and flow. You have to track and measure for rapid execution to be effective.
Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
With a cadence of accountability, you learn to honor your commitments to yourself and others. When someone else holds you accountable, your ass is on the line. But for rapid execution, you have to be self-disciplined enough to hold yourself accountable or find someone else who will.
A strong bias towards action is a key trait that separates people who capitalize on rapid execution
- Having a strong bias towards action means that you don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do, ideal conditions, or the perfect time (all of which are illusions).
- It doesn’t mean trying to do a hundred things in a day. Most people would have a stronger bias toward action if they did less but did more of what’s essential.
- Last but not least, condensed timelines, artificial deadlines, and the power of artificial time constraints can help you get things done much faster than you thought you could.
By putting a verb and a number in front of the items on your to-do list, they become clear, actionable, and measurable.
Example: Starting a Podcast with Rapid Execution Framework
A simple way to apply the rapid idea execution framework is by starting a minimum viable podcast.
- Idea: Start a podcast to document and preserve the stories of your family members.
- Decisions: Which family members will you interview first, what questions will you ask them, etc., etc.
- Focus on the wildly important: Since the interviews are the essential ingredient recording them is more important than building a website, buying a domain, or setting up a Facebook fan page.
- Act on the Lead Measures: Since you can’t control how many people will download or listen to the podcast, your lead measure could be hours spent conducting interviews.
- Keep a Compelling scorecard: Setup an editorial calendar and track the number of interviews you conduct
- Reach out to one family member every day of the week and schedule a 20-minute interview with each one.
- Record 5 interviews
- Buy a domain and set up your podcast in iTunes.
If you conduct all of the interviews in 3 days, you’ll be able to launch your new podcast in less than a week.
Rapid idea execution is an antidote to resistance, self-doubt, fear, and procrastination. When you move fast, it will be too late for them to derail you by the time these obstacles surface.
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