What’s the perfect balance between these two forces we feel tugging at each other as we build our businesses? Are they mutually exclusive or complementary? I am reading The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and learning about how this tough man, raised with no political or financial advantage, became the richest man in America, primarily by being a person of constant action.
In our time, when tech-based entrepreneurs are seemingly made into billionaires overnight, this might not sound so impressive. But in the mid-1800’s, there were no opportunities for overnight success for someone from the middle and lower classes. It had to be done by incredible tenacity and shrewdness, and at the opposition of an elite establishment that had stifling privileges over any entrepreneur that wanted to make a go at business. Vanderbilt had disappointments, failures, and betrayals, but never stopped taking action, and he won.
Have things changed much? Recent films like Walt Before Mickey, The Founder, Social Network, and The Greatest Showman depict the most celebrated entrepreneurs of our day rise by taking constant action.
So where does thought play into all this success? Can doers also be thinkers, and vice versa? There are indeed situations in which we can spend too much time thinking, and we miss opportunities to act. Or we can act too quickly (ready, fire, aim), and fall on our faces. The great leaders, like Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the people depicted in those films, struck a balance that worked. But it was truly their ability to take action fearlessly that sets them apart from the leaders that are more easily forgotten.