Years ago, when I was working at a DC trade association, the CEO stopped by my office one night before heading out the door.
“Why do businesses fail?” he asked me.
I could think of many reasons, but I knew there must be one in particular that was on his mind.
“Because they can’t execute.”
Earlier in the day, we had been brainstorming a new project that would take a lot of staff time and resources, so I knew where he was headed. The upshot was that he was killing the project before we even had a chance to get it off the whiteboard.
As I drove home that night, I had mixed feelings. I was disappointed that we weren’t doing the project, but I was also relieved because I wasn’t sure we could actually pull it off.
When I was a kid, my parents used to say that my eyes were bigger than my stomach when I put more on my plate than I could eat.
There have certainly been times in my life when I’ve bitten off more than I could chew. Haven’t we all faced situations where we feel we can’t possibly get everything done that we’ve volunteered or been asked to do? Especially nowadays when everyone is working harder yet still expected to meet those elusive stretch goals.
I have a lot of admiration for visionary thinkers, but I have even more admiration for thinkers who can deliver on their promises. Few people are good at both dreaming and doing.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.”
That’s good advice. Along those same lines, Mike Robbins wrote a good blog post a few years ago about keeping your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground.
It starts with recognizing where you are in the cloud vs. ground spectrum. It’s tough balancing the practical with the visionary. My days are often filled with the humdrum stuff that goes into running a solo practice. Not to mention meeting client deadlines.
The big picture gets left in the weeds. How to expand the business, get new clients, maybe develop a new specialty area—it always seems to fall off my to-do list as I get busy.
Robbins says that we should allow ourselves to focus on our dreams. “Having our ‘head in the clouds’ is about giving ourselves permission to dream and dream big,” he says.
But we also have to take intentional and effective action. “One of the biggest challenges we encounter in our journey towards our dreams is either not taking effective action (because we don’t know what to do or we’re too scared to do it) or taking too much ineffective action (because we’re running around crazy or acting in an unconscious way),” he says.
According to Robbins, “When we allow ourselves to dream big (with our ‘head in the clouds’), how we keep our ‘feet on the ground’ is by coming up with intentional and appropriate actions to move forward with our goals, even if we’re scared and not sure how things will turn out.”
It’s also important to get support and feedback. As Robbins puts it, “[A]ll of us need people who can cheer for us, hold us accountable, and support us on our journey in an authentic and meaningful way. We can’t do it alone—well, at least not nearly as easily or effectively.”
Finally, he suggests not getting too stressed or uptight about meeting goals. “Having fun along the way ensures we keep things in perspective and enjoy the ride, regardless of the outcome.” When we’re able to both dream and execute with passion, intention and focus, “we create a sense of balance and peace that can allow us to have what we truly want in life.”
How about you? How are you balancing the “vision thing” with getting things done?