Speed is movement without aim, energy without guidance.
Velocity is force that is targeted, directed down a chosen path.
Using an indirect approach and exploiting the momentum you create is a pattern of thought that goes back over two thousand years. “Taking advantage of other’s failures to catch up, going by routes they do not expect, attacking where they are not on guard,” is considered the epitome of strategy and manoeuvre. Yet it is often forgotten and rarely practised.
Many people are moving with speed, tirelessly working, exhausting their finite energy down avenues that ask for much dedication, and offer little return. It’s far rarer to find someone acting with velocity.
Acting with velocity requires a single, non-negotiable act; a decision.
You must decide to assault the biggest problem you face. You must find the action with the biggest influence on your current situation. The most effective tool to find this is an 80/20 analysis. Choosing where to direct your creative energy and your time is critical, not a call to be made without thought. It may require you to start saying no, or to start saying yes. It may require you to re-evaluate relationships that have a negative influence on your life, or rekindle those that have faded. Be like the master craftsman, measure twice, cut once.
Deciding to act with purpose is unusual because most are indecisive and remarkably cautious when it comes to forwarding their own development and cause. These same individuals will offer the most resistance to you and will always oppose those who try to break the mold. Follow the first rule of street fighting, and always swing while the other guy is telling you how he’s going to kick your ass. This favouring of action over empty words will unnerve many, but inspires those special few.
After making a decision, there are four factors that affect your ability to act with purpose, direction and effectiveness.
Velocity Requires A Canvas
If you’re one of the lucky few who exist outside a hierarchy, with no boss or dependants, then you can start taking meaningful action immediately. However if you don’t have that freedom of action and autonomy, you need to create your own canvas.
A canvas is your own safe haven, where responsibility for progress lies solely with you, and you’re not impeded by permission seeking and objections. It can be in the form of a website, hobby, secondary activity, or taking control of your own health and fitness. What matters is not how big a part of your life the canvas is, but that it’s yours and you make the decisions that directly impact your progress. Taking responsibility for your actions is a behavior that, even when manifested in the smallest arena, soon spirals into the rest of your life.
By possessing your own canvas you gain a measure of maneuverability and are able to exploit any opportunities that cross your path, which is essential in today’s uber competitive environment. Looking towards Silicon Valley illustrates the monumental effects this mobility and purposeful action can have. With the giants laying off their staff, being small and nimble has never been safer, more effective and more necessary. There’s a reason Law 48 is to assume formlessness. Your mobility, gained from owning your canvas, is the greatest force multiplier of them all.
Velocity Requires Preparation
This preparation has two factors; preparing yourself and preparing for the reactions of others.
You, as an individual, must be prepared to execute daily. Your success is going to be determined by your ability to act every day, doing subtle variations of similar tasks, through easy and difficult situations and ebbs of high and low energy.
Fits of creative inspiration are the exception, not the norm. You can never act with velocity if you cannot embody the grit and grind mindset. This is no one week splurge. Act with a campaign mentality and settle down for a long ride. It’s simple, not easy.
This next pill is hard to swallow; there’s no correlation between hours worked and success. Grit and grind is an important component of the journey, but it is not the whole picture. Don’t become great at being mediocre. Do an 80/20 often, and focus on the work with the biggest leverage.
The second part of preparation, expecting resistance, we’ve already mentioned, but it needs repeating. People don’t like others who are prepared to make a change and have an impact. This resistance will energise you if you allow it. Say a quiet thank you to those who are blocking your way and determine a way over, around or through their blockades. Your sense of achievement will be multiplied by the obstacles you have to overcome.
John Vaillant wrote about a rogue tiger who starts to ruthlessly slaughter humans in Russia. When the tiger tracking team (yes, there is such a thing) began to pursue it, they were forced to proceed on the tiger’s terms, disadvantaged and in it’s favoured environment.
When it comes to preparation, like the tiger, your objective is to be an effective predator and “excel at engineering situations that skew the odds in your favour.”
Velocity Requires Commitment
The best way to inspire commitment is to utilise a death-ground strategy. Put your back against the wall, with no way out except forward. If the only way out is to succeed, you probably will.
It doesn’t matter how you do it; raise the stakes; act before you’re truly ready; stay hungry and restless; or make it you against the world, just do it. Make it as visceral as possible. If you leave yourself an easy way out, when times get hard, that option is going to become more and more tempting. This strategy will set you alight with cold, hard determination. And determination is the force that keeps you going when you’re outside your comfort zone, in unfamiliar territory with few sources of aide.
The use of the death-ground strategy is not just for times of desperation. It is for times of comfort as well as hardship. Peter Drucker called it management by drives, after managers and executives who only push themselves into direct action when they’re in the midst of a crisis or meltdown.
Crisis or not, you must move relentlessly forward towards excellence, towards impact and towards action. If you can master this unyielding drive, you will stay ahead of a vast majority of your peers. Learning to act without expectation of recognition, without encouragement and in times of abundance, will allow you to thrive in times of difficulty.
You may have sensed the common theme; velocity ultimately requires action.
Many are comfortable accepting what’s handed to them, with a polite thank you and a meek bow of the head.
Do not be one of them. Be more like the men and women who set this world on fire. Refuse to settle for mere existence and refuse to accept your reality as it is allocated to you. Seek to be more than you are given permission to be and decline to walk along the paths you are told to take.
Fight the temptations of mediocrity and enter into action with velocity.