The Ability to Act

I recently read the somewhat infamous novel Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.  It’s a fascinating story that emphasizes the strength of the individual.  And, Rand does have some good insights into human nature, society, and economic systems – likely a result of her experiences in both the Soviet Union and the United States.  In spite of the fictional nature of the story, this quote from the thoughts of Hank Rearden in the story crystallized a key element in people’s effectiveness – especially under pressure.

He saw for the first time that he had never known fear because, against any disaster, he had held the omnipotent cure of being able to act. No, he thought, not an assurance of victory—who can ever have that?—only the chance to act, which is all one needs.

When challenges come, at work, home, or elsewhere, the ability to act separates the leaders from the followers.   If a situation requires resolution, a problem requires a solution, [starting to rhyme…], or a plan needs completion, action is required.  As a leader, one of the most difficult situations arises when indecision or fear paralyzes those you depend on.  As an individual, few situations bring with them the hopelessness of not knowing what to do next.

Those who rise to be leaders do so, in large part, because of their ability to act – even under pressure.  Not the ability to guarantee success, but the ability to act and take responsibility for the results.  It’s often risky.  But, it’s always required.

I have three young baseball players in my family.  When they are at bat, we encourage them to swing – to try whenever the opportunity presents itself.  “It’s better to strike out swinging than to watch strike three go by without doing anything.”  If you don’t swing, you will never get a hit.  Similarly, if we want positive results, we need to act.  If you act, you’ll get some good results and some bad results. But, if you never act, you’ll never get good results – ever.

Be strong.  Act.

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