There I was, poised confidently on the edge of the platform, 10 meters above the sparkling blue water of the pool. I leaped, soaring briefly above the platform before plunging, head first and slicing cleanly into the cool water.
That’s the edited version. You saw the end, but you missed the five or ten minutes before. First, the bravado on the side of the pool, bragging to my friends that I could do it—ten meters, head first, no problem.
Then, the long climb up the ladder, with the pool getting smaller and smaller with every step. Finally, inching to the edge and peering over…
There’s no way I’m going to do that!
Oh, come on, you said you were going to do it. You better!
But I might get hurt!
Hey, lots of people do it.
But what if I land wrong?
And all the while, my friends are down there yelling: “Bawk, bawk! Come on you big chicken!”
I’m reminded of this scene often when I talk to some of my friends. You see, I work for myself, and some of my friends envy me. There are a few of them, who often say: “Someday I’ll do what you do. I’ll go out on my own.” Some of them have even taken steps to make their dreams a reality—they have great ideas, do a little bit of research—but when they step close to the edge, it might as well be the rim of the Grand Canyon.
I call them the talker’s club. It’s an easy club to get into, but very difficult to get out of. Their favorite phrase is “someday I will…”
And it’s not just business: “Someday I will lose this spare tire. Someday I will go back to school and get that degree. Someday I will join Toastmasters.”
But of course, someday never comes.
There is always a good reason not to start—a good reason to put it off just a little while longer. Here’s a true story: I knew someone who came to a few morning meetings of our Toastmasters club, and then stopped coming. A few months later I ran into her at a store. She said, “you know, I really need to get back to Toastmasters. I plan to be a professional speaker someday.”
“But it’s just too early in the morning for me”
Usually, I simply smile politely and say something encouraging…like “whenever you’re ready, I’ll be glad to help.”
But what I really want to say is:
Why not now?
Go for it!
Just shut up and do it!
You can plan all your life, but the plan will never be perfect. Just shut up and do it!
You can talk all your life, but talking never got anything done. Just shut up and do it!
That may sound a little impolite, so let me tell you what others have said about the same subject. Emerson said, “what you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” To which I would add, “actions not only speak louder than words, they tell fewer lies.”
The great Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson said, “after you’ve stared long enough into the dragon’s eyes, there is nothing left to do but to slay the dragon.”
Now I’m not perfect myself. Ask my wife. She will tell you that around our house it takes a week and two minutes to change a lightbulb. But…let’s talk about the bigger things. I said I was going to run a marathon—I ran a marathon. I said I was going to start my own business—I started my own business. I said I was going to write a book—I wrote a book.
I can be pretty thickheaded some times, but fortunately, one lesson I learned early in life was that doing beats talking any day. When you’re about to hit the wall in the eighteenth mile of that marathon, it’s not the miles you talked about, it’s the miles you ran that get you through it. If you are in sales, you know that no one pays commission for the sales you’re going to make.
I love to read biographies. I have four shelves full of biographies, from Alexander to Lincoln to Washington—all the books are different, because each made a unique mark on the world–but it’s funny, not one of those books was written about someone who talked about getting things done.
Now, if it sounds like I’m getting down on my friends, it’s only because each one has more talent and ability in their own way than I do, if they could just get out of the club—so, here’s the practical part: I’m going to share 4 simple steps for getting out of the talker’s club.
Now, I know some of you will want to rush right out of here and take action, so in case you forgot to bring a pencil, here’s an acronym that will help keep you straight: jump.
J stands for just stop paying your dues. In other words, stop talking. It’s like a law of physics. Talking releases pressure—and then you don’t have to act. Keep it bottled up inside, and the pressure will build up so you have to do something. Many people use talking as a substitute for action. They don’t want to give up and admit defeat, so as long as they keep talking about it it’s like they’re still doing something.
U stands for use your fear. Fear will always be with you. Don’t just learn to deal with it–use it. Fear has two sides—it can be an obstacle or a springboard—depending on which side of it you’re on. Let me explain: when you tiptoe up to the edge, fear is an obstacle you need to cross over. It’s natural—expect it to be there—but then punch through it. Because when you get to the other side, fear is a springboard to action. It will keep you going like nothing else, and nothing works better for concentrating your mind on the task at hand. As I fell from that platform, fear guaranteed that I would do things right.
M stands for movement. Do something—anything. You have the tools, just use them. It’s amazing how a little step can lead to another, and then another, and before you know it you’re well on your way. A little at a time is all it takes. As Vince Lombardi said, inches make a champion.
P stands for put a stake in the ground. Set a deadline for action, preferably something a little more specific than some day. Always remember that you are younger now than you will ever be.
J-U-M-P, jump. Remember, my friends, the only way to make a splash in this world is to jump into the water.
(Note: this is a speech I delivered to my Toastmasters club years ago. I’m happy to note that some of my friends have left the club…and some are still faithfully paying their dues.)