Bias For Action: Just Do Something


Too many men fall into the trap of waiting until things are just right, in order to take action. As a result, we spend a lot of our time drifting through life waiting for the right time to take action. Or, worse yet, we move from one crisis to the next putting out fires that wouldn’t have flared up to begin with if we had taken action to prevent them.

The Marine Corps has a concept they call a bias for action. They even list it as one of their core leadership traits. The idea behind having a bias for action is that it is better to make a decision now with the available information than to wait to have all possible information and a perfect environment before taking action. In the fast pace, high risk environment that the Marine Corps operates in this is the only way you can operate. If you wait to seize the initiative, or you stop moving forward it could easily get you and everyone under your leadership killed.

The mainstream cultural version of this is Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan. We’ve all seen the commercials. Most of us grew up with them playing on the television. Yes, they are often cheesy. Yes, they are really only selling shoes. But the slogan strikes deeper at a more important point. Just like the Marine’s, it is better to take action than to wait around for circumstances to line up in just the right way.

Most of us do not regularly operate in such high pressure environments where every decision we make has life or death consequences, but the same principle holds true. It is often better to take action now with whatever information is available, no matter what the circumstances happen to be. That’s not to say that no information should be collected before making a decision, simply that it is rarely beneficial to wait around for perfect information or the perfect situation.

A great example of this principle is Mannerd itself. Mannerd had its origin in Mike’s head. He told some of us about it one day, and we set out to come up with the perfect plan. We wanted the perfect design. We wanted to have a bunch of content at launch. We wanted a podcast. The list goes on, and as the list of things we needed to do continued to grow our enthusiasm began to disappear. Life happened, and Mannerd was forgotten about. That is until Mike and I sat down and started talking about all of the same issues that had brought about the original idea for Mannerd. We felt the need was still there, but the road to launching it seemed long and daunting. That’s when we made the decision to just launch with the design we had. Without all of the extra trappings. We would just put up a post and put it out there for people to see. That’s how Mannerd came to be, and we still don’t know what it will turn into. We don’t have a detailed road-map. We may succeed or we may fail, but at the end of the day we did it. We won’t be left guessing whether it was an idea that mattered to anyone but us, and no matter what happens I think we can always be proud of that.

Most of the time, as men, I think we hesitate to act because we fear failure. We are afraid of what our friends, family, or colleagues will think about us if we don’t succeed. So we drift through life avoiding tough decisions. Never taking action, and we know that most of our regrets are those things that we didn’t do, not the things that we did. But still we wait. Failure is not something to fear. It is possible to fail constructively. When we fail constructively we take action and try something, and if it doesn’t work we evaluate what happened and apply those lessons to the next thing we try. If you look at people who many would consider as being highly successful many have failed over and over again before hitting on success. In the best of the Nike commercials Michael Jordan, who many consider to be the greatest basketball player to ever live, made a point about his many failures.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan

Whatever it is in your life that you are waiting to do, just do it. Embrace having a bias for action. What is it that you have been putting off? What decision have you been waiting to make, or what action have you been waiting to take? Let us know, and let us know how we might be able to help you down that path. Just don’t continue to wait until the perfect moment. Act.

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