In my career to date, I’ve been lucky to work with hundreds of successful entrepreneurs.
And I’ve come to realise that nearly all of them have one thing in common.
And it’s not something that most people may commonly associate with being a successful business person.
It’s not that they’re the most knowledgable in their specific disciplines – in fact often they’re far from it. It’s not only because they work hard – so do millions of other people who rarely reach the same heights. It’s not even that they want it the most – I speak to many new entrepreneurs every week, and although many of them are desperate to succeed and make huge sacrifices, sadly only a small proportion fulfil their true dreams and ambitions.
No, the trait that I have commonly noted all successful entrepreneurs have is something that they actually don’t do.
And that is that they have this rare ability not to overthink.
You see, as humans, our minds are continuously working and firing new ideas. Usually because we prefer certainty and are searching for risk-free options. When confronted with important problems, situations or decisions we tend to keep thinking about all the possibly options, outcomes or best courses of action.
Or as one of my mentors a well known ex-FTSE 100 CEO once told me, often we succumb to “analysis paralysis”.
But great leaders are different. Off course, they know when to analyse and think through things diligently.
But perhaps more importantly they also know when to stop and actually start taking action.
Here are some reasons why great leaders don’t overthink.
Sometimes, worrying and thinking about a particular event can be far more painful than the actual event itself.
It’s why the night before a big exam is often far more stressful than the exam itself. Or preparing for that big board presentation can cause you to feel overwhelmed. Or weighing up all the pros and cons ahead of making that career change can feel so excruciating.
The truth is, like all organs in the body, even our minds need to strike the right balance between exercising and resting. Between analysing and deciding. Between thinking and simply getting on with it.
Great leaders understand that past a certain point, thinking about anything over and over agin becomes destructive. Stress starts to build up. We might feel trapped. Even our physical health starts to become affected.
That’s why a clean mind can often be the best one to make important decisions. Rather than being obsessed or preoccupied with stressful thoughts, its better sometimes not to overthink and just act.
Great leaders avoid stress.
There’s another big problem with overthinking.
On it’s own, it doesn’t actually achieve much.
Thinking and analysing over and over again can often eat up large amounts of precious time. Time that allows others to catch us up.
Start-ups are perhaps one of the best examples of this. Year after year, we all hear of a new company – Google, Facebook or WhatsApp – that has cornered the market and created a revolutionary new product. However, rarely are these companies the very first ones to come up with the idea. Sometimes, several other companies might be doing it first.
But what often makes these companies different however is that when they do eventually launch – they spend less time analysing and more time doing.
They don’t worry about making initial mistakes. They don’t wait to develop the perfect solution before going to market. They scale faster and move more decisively.
Great leaders understand that thought without subsequent action is worthless. They realise that most people spend more time planning and deciding than actually putting these big ideas into action. Only once this is done can progress be actually made.
Great leaders don’t waste time.
But perhaps most ironic of all, there’s an even bigger reason why spending too much time thinking isn’t a good idea.
And that’s because, doesn’t matter how clever or analytical we may be, the simple truth is that none of us can actually predict the future.
Great leaders understand that spending huge amounts of time to actually try and predict exactly what will happen next is pointless. Not only is it impossible, it also leads to endless frustration and ultimately permanent hesitation and indecision.
Sure, its important to deliberate carefully in order to minimise risk and maximise opportunities. But only within reason. Analysis can certainly give you a reasonable idea of what is likely to happen but can never account for the unknown and unpredictable.
Life is just too complex and full of surprises.
Being able to deal with these surprises is far more important than trying to predict them.
Great leaders handle the unpredictable.
Big decisions require careful analysis.
But once decisions are then made, there’s no need to keep revisiting them.
Great leaders understand that overthinking is an easy trait to develop, and to overcome it requires decisiveness, discipline and firm action.
After all only actions lead to results.
Do you take firm action?
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