I can’t even type them right now… give me a minute
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive business advantage.”
— Jack Welch
There are two words in the English language that I dread to hear.
Not because they are good or bad. And not because they are harmful, shameful, or scary.
I fear these words because I know that there is a secret, hidden truth that lurks behind them. And I often try to push that truth aside. It is easier to go through life without considering this great truth — most people never face it.
But at every juncture, and at every fork, the truth appears.
Why are these two words so hard to hear? Why do I, and others, dread their very utterance?
I hate to even type them, because they serve as the shot that starts the race that might never end.
What are these two words?
I can’t even type them right now. I am a little scared. I need to build up the courage. Give me a minute.
Ideas are Everywhere, But They Are Not Enough
I was reminded of the two words this morning. I was listening to a podcast while getting ready for the day.
Most of us love podcasts. I suspect a part of that adoration comes from the ability to learn or be entertained while we are doing something else. Passive learning, right?
But I started thinking this morning that just listening to a podcast is not going to get me closer to any of my goals that are written down beside me.
I have to do more than listen to a podcast. Or read a book.
Granted, the ideas in the podcast or book educate us. Or entertain us. Or may even energize us. But something is missing.
We have to do something.
That reminds me of the two words again.
Can’t escape them.
One of my favorite movie moments comes from a superhero movie, Captain America: The First Avenger. The main character in this movie cannot escape these two words either.
If you have never seen the movie, Steve Rogers is a scrawny man who desperately wants to fight in World War II. However, his physical deficiencies prevent him from even enlisting: frail, short, weak, asthmatic, and more. But his desire to push back on the world’s bullies was so strong that he pushed through every rejection.
Then one day a scientist sees Steve attempting to (again) enlist. The scientist sees the rejection (again). And the scientist decides to select Steve as the first subject of his super-serum. (It is a comic book movie, after all). The serum will make the subject much bigger, faster, and stronger than a normal soldier.
Of course, the serum works. Steve is transformed from the scrawny kid to the ultimate soldier. Physically, Steve is superior in every way.
But he has not done anything yet.
And instead of going to the battlefields, Steve is sent to raise the morale of the troops and to sell war bonds to the public. Largely, his new abilities and gifts have been wasted in these activities.
It is not until Steve’s best friend has been captured behind enemy lines that Steve hears the footsteps of the two words sneaking up behind him…
- Are you actually a soldier, or are you just a fancy sales and marketing guy?
- What kind of a soldier are you?
- Are you actually going to help in battle?
- What kind of friend are you?
- What good are your strength, size, speed, and abilities if you never use them?
I do not think the actual two words that I am writing about are in the movie, but the character certainly heard them — and responded to them.
If you are really “Captain America” — then prove it.
- If you are really that good, then prove it.
- If you are truly the best soldier, then prove it.
- If this is really your best friend, then prove it.
Until this point, Steve was merely a man who was big, strong, and fast.
The character had to make a choice: I have these abilities, but what am I going to do with them?
And the character chooses to go, by himself, into the enemy’s territory. He chooses to rescue his friend and hundreds of others.
And this is when Steve Rogers became Captain America. Because he proved that could do something.
Those are the two words that scare me.
How do you know if an idea is good or bad? How do you know if you have what it takes? What standard do we have to measure our effectiveness?
The two words provide the standard that we need:
If your idea is good, prove it.
If you are a good leader, prove it.
If you are a good spouse, prove it.
If you are smart, prove it.
If you are the best, prove it.
If you are a winner, prove it.
If you are a writer, prove it.
If you are an entrepreneur — a good one — prove it.
If your philosophy is so good, then prove it.
If a promise is made, then prove it.
I have a love-hate relationship with those two words. I love them because they cut right to the truth. I hate them because they mean that I have to follow through and not only act but achieve.
This Is Why I Had to Leave My Job
“You give your ideas value by acting on them. A good idea, not acted upon, only brings pain and fear. Conversely, action brings confidence. Action is fun. Inaction slowly kills you inside.”
— Seth Godin
Years ago, I left a good job to enter law school. There are plenty of reasons why I left my job, which I have written about previously.
But one of the reasons was those two words kept popping up in my mind. I could not avoid them. Everywhere I looked they were there.
I had a good idea, or so I thought. I told everyone I could about the idea. No one listened — and I was crushed. But I had to confront the brutal truth.
The only way to prove that any of my ideas would work, was to prove that they worked. I had to execute them myself.
I tried to forget the ideas. I tried to avoid them. But I couldn’t do it.
I had dreams and goals and ideas. And I got so tired of being the person with just dreams — and no reality.
So I stamped the two words into my psyche. I told myself that I had to prove it.
Words are not enough.
Ideas are not enough.
If you’re right, prove it.