Execution – Getting things done

Execution Is a funny word. Can either kill a man or get things done depending on how you use it. In fact, Wikipedia doesn’t even have a page on Execution. The first meaning they call by another name (capital punishment) and they don’t even acknowledge the getting things done part.

And perhaps that is what makes Execution (getting things done) such a delicious and alluring discipline to study and master. Because almost everyone takes it for granted and almost nobody takes it seriously.

There are 4 reasons why Execution is such a difficult discipline to understand, and then master.

First, Execution is what life is made of, it hides in plain sight. Ergo, it is not visible. Ergo, it is not sexy unless we have the eyes for it. 

We will experience the lack of good Execution in its absence;  go back to the bad dining experience, or a delivery gone awry, or a bad meeting that you come out of thinking what a waste of time. We will be able to tell when we see great execution; that perfect concert, or perfect gameplay, or an exquisite piece of art. But, we will almost certainly never be able to tell why and how something was executed really well. 

That brings me to my second reason. Execution is a difficult discipline because reality exists at a surprising level of detail. Think of anything that needs to be made or done. With reasonable certainty, for everything, we will have to go down at least five levels deep to bridge the distance between the abstraction of the finished product or action and the absolute tangibility of its building block. Our brains are not trained to handle that level of complexity, which makes us prone to not care about the details.

At the heart of any Execution problem is the matter of persistent & constructive probing. All 3 words are important here. Without persistence, we would give up too soon. In the absence of it being constructive, frustration and blaming are likely to set in blocking a potential solution. And last, the goal is to probe so that we get a better understanding before we attempt to fix it. 

And that is reason three. One can be persistent, constructive, and probing only about matters one is deeply interested in. We are only deeply interested in a few things and by design, there will only be a few things we will be able to execute well.

Last, Henry Ford once said, ‘Whether you think you can or can not, you are likely right’. We can do things only if we believe we can. Our agency – the belief that we can bend the universe or certain parts of it to our will and our willingness to do it, is essential to the act of execution. Until we do, it is a struggle to discover, experience, and develop our agency. But once we do, it cannot be unseen.

In summary, if one has enough agency, is genuinely interested in something, can sweat the details, and is observant and attentive enough, one can get shit done!

Man Muss Immer Umkehren

No one grasps Inversion intuitively. Maybe Yoda, but not the kind I’m talking about.

James Clear and Shane Parrish have written incredibly helpful essays on inversion.

My need to understand and evangelize Inversion, however, is of a red pill level, and is precipitated by the current zemblanities befalling us. Much of what we think we understand is actually the inverse of what it actually is.

Let’s start with the debate around Trusting The Science.

Science is the discovery & invention of new things that are True, right? Or is Science the disproval of as many possibilities so that the only things left are the possible truths? 

Wikipedia defines Science as a Systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Note how there is no mention of truth, fact et al; only explanations and predictions. The way to trust Science is to keep seeking testable explanations and not accept things at their face value. 

Good Health is the well-being of the Mind, Body, and Spirit, right? Or is it the absence of Disease? 

Government is the System that will lead & govern an organized community to better outcomes, right? Or is Government is a system to determine the monopoly of violence, and hopefully the better outcomes for the community are a result of it?

As a Corollary, Democracy is the best way to determine the Government of the people for the people by the people, right? Or is Democracy the mechanism to prevent despotic dictatorships and create an honorable explanation for the transfer of power without violence & bloodshed? 

At work, our goal is to be so good that we become critical to the success of the enterprise, right? Or is it to relentlessly put systems & structures in place, and develop our teams such that our we are no longer critical, very likely irrelevant,  and can move to bigger & better opportunities? 

As Managers, our job is to Create, Organize, Delegate, and Review work, right? Or is it to remove bottlenecks, create an environment for people to do their work best, and then get out of the way?

During Negotiations, the goal is to get to a Yes, so that we can close the deal, right? Or is the goal to uncover all the ‘No’s so that we can discover the objections and obstacles to a Win-Win outcome? 

I can go on for a few pages and across many more disciplines, but I’m going to leave you with the mother of all cliched Inversion examples that literally saved many, many lives. IYFKIYKI

Purpose

Life’s main purpose is to go from Non-existence to Sovereignty.

From Helplessness to Power. From Survival to Actualization. From Pessimism to Optimism. From Non-entity to God.

Parents, Teachers, Politicians, Artists, Entrepreneurs are all on the quest to play God. Shape reality to our will.

Life is a journey on that spectrum. Everything we do is a choice of where we want to be on the spectrum.

Our agency – the belief that we can bend the universe or certain parts of it to our will and our willingness to do it, determines where we travel to on the spectrum.

And agency, once seen, cannot be unseen.

So, life’s purpose is to discover, experience, and develop our agency; and hopefully, channel it to put a positive ding in the Universe.

Second Person

I have a very counter-intuitive goal.

In a world that celebrates being the man/woman in the Arena, I want to be the best spectator, cheerleader, coach, supporter, and sponsor for those who are the men & women in their Arena.

The Second Person, as defined in English grammar, is the audience of the speaker.

We are all the protagonists of our own lives, our own stories. Life, as Naval puts it, is a single-player game. However, the ability to be done with oneself, to become a force of nature NPC in someone else’s game is a superpower and a rarity in a world too caught up with itself.

I’m not the first person to have thought in this direction. Zig Ziglar famously said that You can have everything you want in life, if you will just help others get what they want.

My reason, however, is that being a great Second Person ends up becoming a reward in itself.

First, it is well neigh impossible to not look at oneself in the first person (Protagonist) or the third person (God complex). Overcoming that level of difficulty is an achievement

Second, and more importantly, the process of becoming a great Second Person requires us to develop the highest level of Emotional Security, Self-awareness, Mental Balance, and Kindness.

Learning to become a great Second Person transforms the First Person for the better.

And if we become any good at it, those for whom we are great Second Persons will ensure that we are spoken of well in the Third Person.

New Year Wishes

My New Year Resolutions over the past few years have gone from HAVE/Want to DO to BE.

From HAVE weight 70Kg/155lbs To DO 10,000 pushups a year To remain/BE healthy.

From Know things (HAVE) To Read 50 books a year (DO) To Grow as a person (BE).

From HAVE a big house to Move to another place (DO) to BE in an environment where I can live stress-free (BE).

Too often we conflate measures or results to goals. As dear Mr. Goodhart said, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”.

Results are easy to visualize, they often already exist in reality for someone else. It is easier to borrow from someone’s life or live vicariously than to create our own.

Goals require us to do the difficult work of thinking for ourselves. They also require us to have self-awareness and require that we not lie to ourselves.

So, while our first instinct may be to Have or Do something, I wish for everyone, that in 2022 we all figure out the person we want to be and focus our energy, attention, and time on becoming that person.