Chopping down a tree is a lot like taking on a business project (e.g., for me that could mean delivering a large software application, creating a new artificial intelligence platform, or building a company). I am on vacation this week and decided to do some yardwork today. The first project I took on was chopping down a tree. I came at it with an axe and a thin pair of gloves – definitely not the right equipment, but sometimes you just have to dive in with whatever tools you have in front of you. I threw on a pair of shades to cover the minimal safety precautions and started with a fury. I swung with all my might for a “sprint” and then had to slow down or I would have burnt out. I then started to notice the similarities to business and began reflecting:

  • First step is to identify and get clarity on what you are trying to accomplish. Some people think when it comes to starting a company or creating a product that that’s the hard part. The reality is that while the selection process does play a role in the ultimate success, it is the perseverance, perspiration, and positioning that are core.
  • Planning is a luxury that is vitally important, but needs to be balanced with diving in and getting the job done. I am a huge proponent of planning and being organized, but often times it is instinct that prevails to spark growth. If I had planned better, I would have had the right gloves at the very least. However, if I did a hardware store run, I would have lost inspiration and that tree would still be standing.
  • Assess don’t obsess about risk. I have chopped down a tree before, so the risk of chopping down a tree was precalculated, but I did have to size up this particular tree. Speed and spontaneity can get buried by over analyzing (analysis paralysis).
  • It helps to change your approach and come at it from different angles. It’s easy to fall into a rut. Shift gears if you feel diminishing returns. Take a step back and come back with a fresh perspective (a new stance). Don’t go too far adrift, as initial efforts can, and should be built upon.
  • Brute force works for a bit, but letting the weight of the axe do most of the work is the long game. The analogy is here is that you don’t need to go it alone. That method just doesn’t scale. Pull together the right team and rely on them to add to the effort (ideally autonomously).
  • Keep on doing and going. OK, I admit it, that is a quote from Henry Ford, but I have adopted it. Keep chipping away at whatever you are working on and you will eventually get there.
  • Find a certain angle that works and focus there. When you hone in on one area, you will make strides. Ride the momentum and make a significant dent, when you have it in front of you. Never ease up when you feel you are making progress.
  • In the end, it was a coordinated effort coming at it from both sides with all my might that won. Teamwork is the name of the game.

I am sore, I have a big blister on my hand, but I did it. I thought about borrowing a chainsaw or hiring someone to do it, but I knew I had it. At some point, you just know that you got it. Own it when you do!