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Jim searches for the balance between acting too quickly and waiting until the time is right.

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Is taking action immediately always the best course?

If you’re an entrepreneur, the one thing you’re constantly told is TAKE ACTION. Stop planning, stop trying to develop the perfect product, and just get something out there. My friend John Murch loves the phrase JFDI: Just Freaking Do it.

But is that always the wisest course? Isn’t there value in researching the competition, learning best practices, and having a plan?

As with most things in life, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the bell curve.

At the far left, are people that research too much.
• They spend days, weeks, or months saying they are going to do something
• They research all the different ways that others have done something, from launching a website to starting a business to traveling the world
• Or, they work on something month after month, honing it until it is just right, but ultimately taking too long or never releasing it to the public
• These people wait for the moment that everything is perfect, which of course it never will be. In the saddest cases, it’s a life lived with regret when looked at retrospectively, when it’s too late.

At the far right, are people that are too impulsive
• They leap into the latest and great venture without thinking things through
• They blow time and money on one project after another, never stopping to wonder if what they’re working on is a good fit for them
• Sometimes they never stick with a project long enough to see it through, jumping to the next new thing once they get bored
• And often, they do exert twice the time and effort reinventing the wheel, when a little advice from mentors that have been there and made newbie mistakes would have let them get to their goals faster

I’ll tell you where I think the sweet spot is in a moment.

When I look back at my life, I see that I’ve lived it with the following mantra:

Observe with Intent, Act with Purpose

To be clear, I feel I’ve spent most of my life too far on the left side of the curve. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve tried to act more like an entrepreneur, using my best judgment and suppressing my need to research each and every outcome.

But perhaps it’s not my fault. It might be wired into my DNA.

Let me start with a very embarrassing confession: I didn’t hit puberty until I was 16 years old. Oh sure, it’s fun to look back now and laugh about it, and some people might be like, what’s the big deal? That’s when it happens, right? Around 14 or 15 or 16?

But when you’re the one living it, it means the world. I still remember being in gym class in 7th or 8th grade and there was another boy hanging from the gymnast-style ropes. He was hanging there, swinging around, yelling, and then I noticed something. He had dark circles on his t-shirt under his arms. He was sweating.

Listen, junior high and high school are difficult enough. Now picture all of your friends and classmates maturing before you. They’re getting taller, their voices are changing, they’re growing cheesy facial hair. I’m sure women have it the same way with, um, moving out of their training bra and so forth.

Some people mature early, in junior high at age 12 or 13, I get it. But then you go to high school. And it was an entire year at age 14. It seems like a lifetime. But then, I went my entire sophomore year at age 15. Now I was really at a disadvantage at things like sports. I was never the shortest kid in class, but at about 5’5” and 110 pounds,

How was I supposed to compete against soccer players that were 50 or even 75 pounds heavier than me?

My brain is fuzzy, but I’m 90% sure that I didn’t get a growth spurt until my sophomore summer, when my voice finally cracked (in clichéd Brady Bunch format) and I shot up 4” to about 5’9” by my 16th birthday in August.

So maybe I learned a biological lesson from all this.
• Observe and be aware of what is going on around you
• Study and learn from others that came before you
• Get used to delayed gratification, and use it for motivation

The pattern repeated itself over and over:
• I watched as other friends in Boy Scouts climbed through the rankings, before I finally jumped on board, earning my Eagle Scout at 18
• I was a shy freshman and one of the quietest people in my fraternity, before growing into a leadership role 4 years later and becoming president
• My sports ability actually peaked in my mid to late 20s, as I won intramural championships in volleyball, hockey, and 4 in soccer
• As I talked about briefly in episode 191, I watched how other people made the leap to their dream jobs in other parts of the country before pursuing mine at age 28
• I left my job and made the leap to being an entrepreneur, not as a 22 year old out of Stanford, not after cashing out a Facebook IPO at 25, but as an industry veteran at age 42!

Maybe I was born to be an entrepreneur, but just much later in life.

Think back on your career and life.
How many times were you late to jumping on a trend, and were you better for it?
Or are you the type to jump in with both feet and never, ever look back in any situation?

The point is, each person has their own pace, but here is how I think the ideal scenario works:

Observe with Intent

When you have an idea, whether it’s moving to Japan or building the next startup, it benefits you to do some research first. In almost every case, there is going to be someone before you that has done the same thing, and you can benefit greatly from not making the same mistakes they did. You want to become educated enough that you don’t look back and realize you made a stupid, newbie mistake.

• Research and read up on the subject
• Talk to trusted friends, and even solicit advice from strangers
• Know what you’re getting into
• Make sure your excitement about it is genuine
• Think about best practices

Then stop there, trust your gut, and go for it. You’re in the sweet spot.

Act with Purpose

If you find you’re doing any of the following, you’re in danger of paralyzing yourself with inaction:
• You want to check with EVERYONE before you make a decision
• You start basing too much of your decisions on data only and not listening to your heart
• You start getting conflicting information from people, blurring your ability to see your original plan
• You start listening to naysayers and negative people, who start doubting you or listing all the ways your idea won’t succeed
• You tell yourself you’ll move forward when the exact time is right

Summary

So if you read this post (podcast) and recognize yourself as a late bloomer, don’t despair. Delayed gratification can be a wonderful tool to help you identify what you want, and be incredibly motivated and prepared to get it when the time is right.

But don’t wait too long. Once you know what you want and have the basics covered, act with purpose to reach your goals.

Sponsor Message: Freshbooks “Fresh Take of the Week” – Has to do with today’s topic, delayed gratification. When am I recording this? It’s a hopping — albeit hot — Saturday night in New York City at 10pm. So why stay in on a weekend night? Because I’m heading out to Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit next week and won’t be home to post my podcast.

So I’m working hard now, so that I can go on vacation, go to this conference, and hear fresh takes from amazing entrepreneurs, and all I’ll have to do for the podcast is sign on for 5 minutes and press publish on WordPress and on Libsyn, where I host my podcast files. So you get my fresh take on this subject now, and I’ll report back from WDS later. In a room full of entrepreneurs, I’m sure many of them will be using Freshbooks.com for their invoicing.

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