I have had a number of conversations recently that have resulted in someone saying that they were surprised that things were getting done. They were surprised at action. While I was somewhat baffled by the reaction, it made me think about what the root of this surprise might be.
Getting things done has traditionally been hard. It has required labor, huge amounts of time, or many people who were highly skilled in the areas that needed attention. Action has required a level of organization and planning that almost insurmountable considering everything else that needs to go on. It also has necessitated permission to actually “do” something. Meetings must be had, protocols must be followed, the chain of command had to remain intact.
In fact, we had so much protocol, there is even an entire mystique and formula for who you should cc or bcc on an e-mail. We have created a space that requires little action in any given day. We have set up systems to look like getting things done: Things like conference calls with the vast majority of participants muted, like conferences without the time to implement what you learn, like tracking systems for time/milage/payment that are removed from the ideas and the tasks that generated them.
Action has become foreign to many. Because we don’t produce any products, we don’t have things to show for our work at the end of the day. We have become inbox cleaners and document hounds. We wait, in a bad way, for people to finish their part of the problem for us to start on ours. Action is a surprise when we find it.
I am a firm believer in creating at least one thing every single day of my life, and I believe that this is my humble (or not so humble if I keep talking about it, I suppose) way to make action unsurprising in my life. The things that I create (Blog posts, trackable conversations, online courses, companies, learning objects, and collaborative spaces) may not look like much in the face of people who create real objects, but I believe that in my own way, I am trying to stave off the starvation of ideas. I am trying to figure out how to solve the problems, and then actually solve them. I am trying to answer my e-mail, not pass it around to someone else. I am trying to engage those who are unengaged in the process. I am trying to solicit others as directly as I can to act on their own behalf.
Because action should not be a surprise. It should be a regular part of our day, something that we celebrate and see in everything that we do. We should see the change we create. We should see the products, even if they take some time. We should see the spaces that we inhabit as malleable, because getting things done isn’t hard anymore.
It stopped being hard when we could create virtual goods and services. It stopped being hard when we could create things on our own and solicit help from people outside of our organization. It stopped being hard when organization became as easy as a hashtag.
So, start a school. Start a business. Start a project that requires something important of you. Be deliberate in engaging others in conversation. Intentionally break protocols in your organization so that you can get things done. Not haphazardly. Not unreasonably. Purposefully and with a huge amount of hope: Act. Do things. Now.