Abraham Lincoln is quoted as having said, “If I had five minutes to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first three sharpening my axe.” I was going to say that Lincoln was totally wrong (no one is right all of the time), then I discovered Abe Lincoln aptly never said this quote to begin with!
Many times we seek answers to moving forward by trying to come up with a good strategy, figuring ways to analyze carefully, laying out a plan and so on.
The reality is speed can make up for nearly any lackluster aspect of yourself.
Let’s say you had an awful plan to get rich by deciding to start playing the lottery – if it didn’t cost $1 to play, you could win with enough speed. You played, you lost, you played again, and so on until you win. If you take a enough lotto tickets, you’ll eventually win almost guaranteed if you could just get the speed to keep playing.
Let’s say you wanted to evaluate which piece of software to learn by carefully reading all the reviews about it and so on? But if you just picked one, and started learning, you might know both pieces of software better than if you watched another YouTube video review or dove in deep into another forum where people debated on which software was the best to learn.
Even the guy that wants to sharpen the ax before cutting the tree will lose if you could chop speedily with a duller blade.
Even the guy that learns the best sales pitches in the world will lose vs the guy that is mediocre but makes an extra 50 sales calls in the day.
There’s a certain point where you’re “good enough” and that nothing else is going to give you the same ROI outside of speed.
You’re good enough right now.
You can even provide the right answer on a math quiz given enough attempts and given enough speed. Just keep guessing randomly until you get the answer right. That’s bad test taking advice, but the point is that speed can overcome complete incompetence, lack of planning, lack of organization, etc.
You technically don’t need anything besides speed to win.
The companies that make it first to market, even with a mediocre (but functional!) product at first, often win the market. If you have something functional, and it doesn’t cost anything to hit the ground running, it’s better to just start experimenting by doing something. Trying making a slightly better Facebook and launching it and see how terribly that goes – even if it was slightly better, you’ve lost not because it wasn’t factually better, but because of speed.
The counter argument here is that it takes moments of your life away when you make the wrong choices, and even when there’s not a $1 at stake like in a lottery, you’re spending a minute of your time doing the wrong thing. While true, the point is that there are only 2 ways people can be screwing up:
1) Taking action hastily without proper research and knowledge
2) Not taking action fast enough due to researching and learning.
Restated, there’s only 2 ways to not get what you want: 1) You make the wrong decision, 2) You don’t make any decision.
Statistically, it’s more likely that people are wasting their life researching more so than wasting their life making hasty choices. The fear of wasting time is crippling. Name all the hasty choices you made last week in respect to your goals that you regret? Not so many, I’d wager.
Peter Thiel in “Zero to One” talks about needing to be 10x better than everyone else such that you don’t even have any competition. It’s hard to argue with Peter here, but many people will read that book and start endlessly “sharpening that ax” to become 10x better. When you’re 10x better, you’re not just a “sharper ax” you’re likely a different ax, which is a factor of speed to fill a market void. Let me take Thiel’s torch and say this,
You don’t always need to be 10x “better”, you can simply be 10x “different.”
James Altucher talks about how he got rich creating websites for people – was he the best designer and developer? Who knows, because back then no one else knew how to do it, therefore no one was as fast as James in regards to learning web development.
Altucher thinks he succeeded because he was the best, but he was the best only because he was the fastest.
Stop considering efficiency, perfection, plans, organization, and so on that’s designed to just bog you down and keeps you from simply starting anything.