I love personality tests. If you’ve listened to previous episodes of the podcast, you’ve undoubtedly heard me talk about the Enneagram (I’m a three, by the way).
But, I also love StrengthsFinder. It’s a tool that I’ve used in my work and it’s been a helpful guide for me as I hire people to work on my team. It was through StrengthsFinder that I recognized that a young man I had hired was a mismatch for the work I brought him on to do. His strengths did not align with the kind of work I needed from him, which meant he was unhappy with the work and I was unhappy with the result.
For me, Strengths Finder helps me see when and where I am working in my genius zone. It has helped me identify the areas where I’m at my best and the kind of work in which I’m at my best.
One of my top strengths is ideation. I love ideas. I love dreaming up new ways to do things and thinking about new approaches to solve problems. When you combine it with some of my other top strengths, such as strategy and futuristic thinking, you’ll see that I’m a dreamer, innovator and planner.
Planning is Safe, Action is Scary
My challenge often comes in the execution. While I love seeing my ideas realized, sometimes, it can be hard to get started. Because, for me, the fun is thinking through the ideas and building a plan.
Taking that first step is harder. Putting the plan into action is challenging.
It’s where the doubt and fear can creep in.
It’s where you worry about messing up or getting it wrong.
You see, thinking and planning and dreaming is safe. And for me, those things are fun.
But action is where the REAL work, the hard work, the brave work, comes in. It means showing up, day in and day out, to get the job done. To work toward the long-term goal. To achieve our dreams. To make change happen.
After all, plans, strategies and ideas are worthless if we don’t act on them.
Are You Taking Action or Stalling?
But here’s the thing, sometimes, we trick ourselves into thinking we are taking action and moving forward when in reality, we are just stalling.
We stall by reading, learning, and equipping ourselves for the road ahead. We trick ourselves into thinking we’re doing the actual work. After all, preparation and education is important, right?
But in actuality, all we’re doing is stalling.
If we want to move forward on our ideas––whether that’s starting a business, writing a book, making art or becoming an activist––we actually have to take the first step. We have to DO something.
We have to be brave enough to take the risk. We have to be brave enough to get it wrong. And then be brave enough to get back up and keep trying.
The Importance of Taking Action
I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of action as many people are looking for ways to stand up against the deeply rooted systemic racism in our country.
For many people, myself included, I’ve wanted to take a lot of time to educate myself because I’m so concerned with getting things “right”. I don’t want to spread misinformation or hurt someone with my words or actions.
However, if I spend all of my time reading, learning and equipping myself with information, what good will it do? What good is all of that knowledge if I don’t actually DO something with it?
The reality is that even if I spend hours and hours educating myself, I’m still likely to screw up at some point or inadvertently hurt someone. The trick is that I need to be brave enough to speak out and stand up anyway. And when I get it wrong, be humble enough to listen, learn and find ways to do better next time.
I think Maya Angelou summed it up perfectly when she said, this:
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
Hard, Important Work is Risky
I recently saw Rachel Cargle say on social media that a white person asked her how she could do racial justice work without the risk. And her response was that it’s not possible. This is hard work. It’s important work. And it carries a lot of risk.
This same idea showed up in my interview with Melissa Greene. In our conversation, she shared the story about how her church became an LGBTQ+ affirming congregation. They wanted to make sure people in the LGBTQ community not only felt safe and welcomed in their church, but had full access to lead and serve.
It was a difficult and painful process. She said it felt like being in both a hospice ward and a birthing unit at the same time. It was not easy, but it was the right thing to do.
And in doing this very brave thing, they got a lot of things wrong. Melissa willingly admits there are things they could have handled better. But she said the mistakes she made along the way were where she learned and grew the most.
Her story is a great reminder that some of the best lessons we can learn don’t come from reading books or listening to podcasts, but from actually doing the work. From action. From being brave enough to try something new. And being willing to learn when you get it wrong.
Being “Right” is Safe
As a recovering perfectionist, this is hard for me. I like being “right.” I want assurance that my steps are good, solid ones, before I start moving forward.
But, where is the bravery in that?
Where is the bravery in having a sure-footed, solid plan with guarantee of success?
There is none.
And besides, even if you have the best laid plans, that won’t prevent you from making a misstep. So, why not get started already?
And on the flip side, I most definitely don’t want to get things wrong. I hate that. I don’t want to be called out or made to look like a fool. No one does.
But what if playing it safe is holding me back from incredible learning and growth? What if I’m missing out on a big, bold life because I’m too scared to mess up?
That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?
It is for me. Because I don’t want to keep living within the confines of a safe, secure box. If I want to start living the fuller life that I believe God has in store for me, it means being brave enough to show up, take steps forward and embrace the possibility that I might get it wrong.
So, what does this look like in application?
It means stop scrolling, reading, listening and consuming and start DOING. Start taking action on your ideas, your dreams and your goals.
It means if you want to start a business, what small step can you take to move forward TODAY? How can you share your idea and get started now?
If you want to stand up against racism, what conversations can you have with your family members and friends? How can you use your voice TODAY?
If you want to write a book, start writing TODAY.
If you want to make art, start drawing, painting, writing and taking pictures TODAY.
Will your actions be perfect? Will your writing, your art, your activism, your business have success right out of the gate?
But, by taking action you are one step closer to getting there. After all, action and movement is far better than just thinking and dreaming about what you want to do and where you want to go.
You just have to be brave enough to take that first step. Because once you do, each subsequent step will feel easier as you get stronger and braver.
Don’t wait to feel brave. Take action. And the bravery will come.
Taking Action Against Racism
For those of you who want to take action and stand up against racism, I have two suggestions on ways you can do that.
First, if you listened to this week’s episode with Stan Smith, you heard us discuss his initiative, The Next Step Coalition. This is a website and Facebook group where he’s helping people have productive conversations about race and then helping them find ways to take action on how to become anti-racist. I encourage you to check out his website and join the Facebook group.
Second, I just completed Chakita Patterson’s 7-Day Anti-Racism Challenge. It was a helpful way for me to identify and uproot racism in my own life and also learn how to speak up against racism when I see it in others.
The next challenge starts August 3. You can go here to reserve your spot.
And if these groups and opportunities are not for you, I encourage you to find someone else to learn from and find ways to take action. Our Black brothers and sisters are counting on you.
Taking Action on Your Big, Brave Goals
For all of the other brave things you want to do, I challenge you to write down your goal. I call this the big, brave thing you are striving toward. Maybe it’s starting a business or writing a book.
And then, write down a list of steps you can take toward that goal. Next, carve out 10-15 minutes (or more) every day to work toward that goal. Make these actions part of your daily routine.
Find one thing you can do every day to take action.
These don’t have to be big things. Action toward big things often come through a series of small steps. Just keep taking those steps every day and you’ll be a lot closer to achieving your goal than if you continue to stand still and just think about it.
I’m going to take my own advice here. As I write this, I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else.
It’s time to stop thinking about being brave and start acting like it. And that comes by taking action. By moving forward. Day by day. Step by step.
What do you say? You ready to join me?
Let’s all start acting brave by taking action.
I can’t wait to see what we will create once we do!