How to Harness Your Instincts, Expand Your Capacity, and Take The BIG LEAP
A few weeks ago, I shared this quote:
“Launching your first product is like jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down.”
- Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn
This is probably one of the scariest things any of us can do: committing without the guarantee of a safety net – because in order to succeed or survive, YOU must become your own safety net.
This concept has been sticking with me throughout the whole process of creating and launching my first book, STEP 0. And the perspective shifts that I’ve been discovering are things that I believe can help anybody who is in the process of starting something meaningful.
Our capacity has a direct correlation to how we perceive ourselves.
We largely tend to feel like our capacity to accomplish things is much smaller than it is; but when we choose to be decisive, as opposed to over-thinking, we discover that our capacity expands to match our commitment.
This limited self-perception comes from our survival instinct to stay safe:
We subconsciously pull back on our belief of what we can do in order to avoid the possibility of reaching our limits and potentially crashing and burning.
We are hardwired to avoid pain and danger, which is a really useful thing for avoiding lions and bears in the wild, but not very useful for taking bold steps for success… unless we redirect this instinct to our advantage.
We can use our survival instincts as a powerful tool...
We can harness our instincts to stretch our capacity beyond anything that we can imagine.
And the key lies in controlling WHEN our instinct is activated.
If we contemplate too much, our survival instinct is activated before we take the plunge, and it will keep us from taking any action that involves risk. BUT, if we take the plunge first, without over-thinking, then our survival instinct kicks in after we are already in the air, and it FORCES us to find solutions.
My default instinct is to over-plan and under-act.
What I mean is that I will spend a great deal of time writing out a bullet-point list and laying out a plan before doing anything. This is an important step for sure, but it is definitely a comfort zone for me that I can spend too much time in, and by the end of that process, I end up not having anything tangible accomplished. This results in me being a lot more stressed or intimidated by my goal because I create a lot of action, but don’t have any substantial results.
So, because I am aware of this tendency, I hedge myself against this kind of frustration by taking action and by making decisions a lot more often and a lot sooner.
I purposely give myself less time to think about something by committing to a shorter timeline.
Throughout the development process of STEP 0, I have decided to schedule shooting a video for the next day, instead of the next week. This forces me to not spend hours and hours writing a script for it, and instead to just solidify the main points that I want to talk about.
It prevents me from overthinking because I don’t have time to overthink. And the end result is much more natural, stress-free, and fun. I don’t have time to think, “Oh man, I’ve never done a video like this before!” because I literally don’t have time to worry; I have to allocate all my attention and energy to just jumping in and making it happen.
And the most wonderful thing happens: it gets DONE!
And the momentum from that accomplishment fires me up to make more things happen. And sure, it’s not perfect, but something doesn’t have to be perfect to be excellent.
Just because this is my process doesn’t mean that your process will look the same.
The key takeaway here is to become aware of your strengths, and then make sure that you don’t let your strengths run wild.
Because when your strengths are out of balance, it can cripple you.
Being highly organized and good at planning and forecasting are extremely useful skills that I have, but because I know these can get out of balance and keep me from taking action, I balance them out by surrounding myself with other people who have STRONG action taking strengths, as well as giving myself shorter deadlines to get things done.
For me personally, these influences create accountability that promote taking action. And that results me finishing things in a timeframe that is a lot more fulfilling and less stressful.
Whatever your strengths are, learn to become aware of them (I recommend taking the Strengths Finder 2.0 test by Tom Rath). And once you are aware of them, form the kind of accountability around yourself that keeps them balanced and effective.
Sometimes the longer you give yourself to accomplish something, the bigger and bigger it feels.
This feeling leads to more stress, and can make a task seem a lot more intimidating and harder than it actually is.
There is a principle called Parkinson’s Law that in essence says:
“all work expands to available time.”
And what it means is that as much time as you give yourself to complete a task, that’s how much time it will take. (I mention this in my last post.)
So, you can give yourself a year to write a book, or you can give yourself 30 days to do it. My friends Bob and Jenny Donnelly gave themselves 30 days to finish a book before the launch of Jenny’s blog, and they did it. 30 days to write a whole book! They made it happen because they HAD to make it happen.
Parkinson’s Law is the same principle that you put into play when you were in school.
You had two months to write a paper but you waited until the last two days to actually write it, and all the time leading up to that point was spent either avoiding it, procrastinating, stressing out, or doing anything else to push it back further.
This principle connects back to the main idea of building the airplane after you jump, expanding your capacity, and committing before you have everything in place – because doing so creates the accountability that’s necessary to actually make you finish the thing that you’re trying to accomplish.
When you have accountability from a deadline or from another person, it helps you to be accountable to yourself. This is extremely useful, even if you are already a very self-motivated person.
The reason we have such a hard time with this idea is that it’s counterintuitive to most of our instincts: we feel like we need to grow our capacity before committing.
But it’s the very act of committing that forces our capacity to expand.
As I said earlier, I’ve been applying this personally in my own life while writing, designing, and creating STEP 0: I gave myself a really short deadline.
I decided to give myself about 60 days to finish editing and designing all the materials, design the website, film the videos, record the audio book, as well as writing a marketing plan and actually marketing it.
There has definitely been more than a few times I've said to myself,
"Holy crap, it feels like I've bitten off more than I can chew!"
It’s a massive task; and sometimes I wonder why I’ve willingly doubled or tripled my workload, but I genuinely care about making this dream a reality; not just for me, for everyone who will be impacted by it.
I also know myself well enough that if I hadn’t committed to such a short timeline, I would most likely still be trying to plan the launch six months down the line, or possibly even nine months, or a year.
And while I’ve never done some of these things before, or they were outside of my skill set (like video production and audio production) – what happened when I committed to making these things real, and I announced the date online, to the Frontrunners Community, and to my family and friends, was that I didn’t have time to procrastinate anymore.
I don’t have time to stress out anymore, because I have to make it happen.
And that need has sparked a fire inside of me that fuels me to keep going, especially on the days I don’t feel like working or when I feel overwhelmed.
When you are facing a giant, and you jump right in and start fighting, it activates your focus.
Whether it's a goal that you have, or an issue that you need to deal with – you don’t have time to talk about your giant all the time, you don’t have time to sit and contemplate, you don’t have time to complain, and you don’t have time to be frozen in fear, because you’re FIGHTING!
You are in the battle. And that unlocks your survival instincts.
It unlocks the abilities and strength hidden deep inside of you that you didn’t know you had.
It unlocks new capacity.
And you can only access greater capacity after you commit to the fight.
I think this kind of dedication is uncommon. And I don’t bring that up to pat myself on the back – I made the decision for myself because I saw other people doing the same thing: people who had results and not just dreams. And I wanted to be like that, so I decided that I wasn’t going to just talk about what I was going to do, I wasn’t going to just go online and look at what other people were doing, I was going to go and DO it.
We have to decide to not be satisfied with the semi-real feeling of accomplishment that comes from looking at other people’s accomplishments and from telling people about what we are planning to do.
We need to pursue the real thing: ACTUAL RESULTS.
It’s been proven in studies that when you tell other people about something that you’re going to do, you get a feeling of satisfaction that is similar to the feeling you get when you do the thing.
In essence, it’s a placebo: an imitation that convinces you that it’s the real thing.
This can be really dangerous to your progress because it steals your drive. It's satisfies your hunger. And you need both of those things to be able to keep going and make your goal real!
We’ve got to stop living and creating vicariously through other people.
It’s an addictive drug that stops us from going out into the real world and accomplishing real things.
And the reality is that the “high” that you get from being “inspired” is nowhere close to the “high” you get from taking action and BEING an inspiration to yourself.
That’s why the inspiring people out there keep being inspiring, because:
it makes you feel ALIVE when you’ve got skin in the game.
You've got to decide that you're not going to be satisfied looking at the world through other people’s achievements, you're not content with playing it safe, and you're tired of standing on the edge of the cliff and longing to fly.
Instead you are going to be one of those people who makes their dream happen instead of talking about making the dream happen. That's my goal, and I’m doing everything in my power to encourage others, like yourself, to do the same.
I’m taking the leap. I’ve jumped off the cliff and I am building a plane on the way down.
And even though it’s a scary decision, you’ll find that once you’re in the air,
it’s so exhilarating that fear falls off to the side.
(kind of like skydiving)
This weekend, I’m filming an Advanced Training on this topic for STEP 0, yet another piece of the plane I’m building, along with two other videos.
This whole project is a TOTALLY new thing for me, but it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.
When will you jump?
What is the big leap that you need to take? Maybe I can help.
In addition to writing this blog, I’ve written a book specifically for people who want to take the big step forward in life, but feel stuck the edge. I’ve also created a wealth of resources to go alongside it to help you “build your own plane” as you take the leap of faith.
I’ve already been hearing some incredible things from people about STEP 0:
"Friends, this book by my friend, Nathanael is a must read! I'm part-way into the book and am so inspired and convicted by the relevance of the content. This is what I call, a "t-shirt book", you can put it on and wear it right away! Many of us feel that we have greatness inside of us, a book, a business, a dream job, leadership, influence...the list goes on. This book will help us to stop talking about our dreams and start moving towards them!"
– BEN ROSE
Producer, Videographer, Pastor
If there’s even a chance STEP 0 could be for you,
It could be the missing piece that you need to make your dream a reality.