Nothing Happens Until You Take Action

| April 9, 2014

Jay-Swimming across mississippiEDITORIAL – In August of 2004, I received a phone call from my mother asking if I had heard the news yet. Alberto Christini had just swum from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco with both his hands and feet bound, becoming only the second person in history to have done so.

I was floored. Not because he had made it, I had no doubt it could be done. Jack Lalanne had already proven that. No, I was upset that he’d done the swim, period. I was mad! It was like he had “stolen” my idea.

Of course, he hadn’t stolen anything. He just had the same idea as me and acted on it. Did you get that? He had the same idea as me and acted on it.  Imagine that—a guy living in Italy comes up with basically the same idea I had. Then, he gets on a plane, flies to America, and actually does the swim.

And although I planned to do the swim myself, and thought I’d be second to have done so, none of that mattered now. The truth is, results are all that really matter, and the only way to get them is through taking action. Good ideas, or the best intentions in the world, don’t count for much.

And so that’s how I ended up becoming the third and not the second person to swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco with my hands and feet bound.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? You have this great idea, but don’t do anything with it and before you know it someone else does. They act on it, while you (and most everyone else) just think about it. Why is that?

I mean, if it’s such a good idea to go ahead and act, and that’s what the most successful people do, what holds everyone else back? As far as I can tell it comes down to one of the following reasons, or more likely a variation of them.

  1. Perfectionism – This probably holds more people back than any other psychological condition. If you are waiting on the perfect time, perfect conditions, perfect opportunity, or the perfect whatever, I’ve got some sobering news for you. There is no such thing as perfect. Professional speaker and author, Larry Winget, says it best when he says, “Implement now, perfect later.”
  2. Procrastination – Procrastination is a horrible thing that many of us deal with. I say “us” because I have dealt with and continue to deal with this myself. And I have found it is directly correlated to perfectionism (if it can’t be done perfectly, I just won’t do it all). You simply must push past this if you want to achieve all that you’re capable of. The key is getting started in some way. Even fifteen minutes can move you toward your goal.
  3.  Motivation – Motivation, or the lack of it, is another factor that prevents people from taking action. I see this in two ways. First, if you don’t have a clear enough purpose for taking the action, your motivation will be weak. The answer to that is to be clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing. The other way motivation comes into play is when you wait to be motivated before you act. There will be times when you don’t “feel like doing it” but you have to go ahead and do it anyway. Action often precedes attitude. Take up a “No Matter What!” approach and you’ll see a difference.
  4. Fear – Fear has a lot to do with whether people take action, or not. (Actually, it’s much more than I can over in this short paragraph, so I will write about it exclusively in a later post). Until then, let me just say this. All three reasons I listed prior to this one (perfectionism, procrastination, and motivation) are often results of fear. So, what are people afraid of? It could be many things. Fear of failing, fear of succeeding, fear of what others will think, fear of the unknown. The key is to take a look at how fear might be affecting you, and then deal with it accordingly. And, while there are other steps, the quickest way is to simply face up to it. Usually anyway. More on that later.

So there you have it: Several simple ways for you to begin taking action, starting today. Whether you will, or not, is the question. I sure hope so, and, in that spirit, I have a small challenge for you. Here it is: In the comments section below, name one thing that you are committed to taking action on. That’s it! I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!

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28 Comments on "Nothing Happens Until You Take Action"

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  1. hope bishop says:

    Going back to school and starting my own business

  2. cathy c says:

    Walk 2 miles a day no matter what the weather. Thanks for the inspiration Jay! A fellow vhl warrior.

  3. Stephanie says:


  4. Angel H says:


  5. Suzanne says:

    Wise words, Jay!

  6. Terri Buelman says:

    I love reading anything by Jay! I am a mother of a special needs child and I work Full Time. I kept feeling like I just had nothing left. Always tired, couldn’t accomplish things, then reading all of Jay’s articles I realized that I… Have accomplished a lot!
    I have managed to raise amazing kids and hold down a job, all while living with daily physical pain. Now I am a grandmother and I am also going back to school because of the inspiration he gives so many people.
    I have a long way to go but I am sure I will get there!

    Unstoppable Grandma

    • Jay Platt says:

      Yes, you are unstoppable, Terri!

    • Annie Marie Peters says:

      Congratulations, Unstoppable Grandma! Going back to school is a great way to do something just for yourself. Jay’s articles are an inspiration to me also. Like you, I feel tired and unmotivated at the end the day when I finally have spare time. Reading these articles really helps give me the boost to keep going!

  7. Cara says:

    Finally put my demons out of my head and be at peace with the past

  8. Ross Quintana says:

    Another great post. Doing it as Nike puts it, is a huge deal. As an idea guy, I am plagued by the stockpile of ideas compared to the resulting finished projects. It can be overwhelming because the excitement of a new idea is there to help you overcome the hurdle and take action so an idea on hold is unlikely to ever get accomplished. Thanks!

  9. Annie Marie Peters says:

    Wow, Jay! I had no idea you were the 3rd person to swim from San Fran to Alcatraz bound. What a feat! I really love that you shared this story, because it’s about motivating yourself through your own mental baggage. The truth is: We are responsible for our actions that lead to our successes… and our failures too. My husband has been talking about starting a blog for the past two years. Every time I ask him why he won’t just do it, he says it’s because there are so many other people out there doing the same thing. So what?! I never quite understood it until right at this moment: Perfectionism, procrastination, motivation, and fear. All of those things are exactly true of his situation. Now, I just have to find a way to talk to him about it to help him realize what he’s REALLY saying when he tells me he can’t do it.

  10. Chick says:

    Another great article Jay, thanks. I am committed to making my remaining years more productive, and hopefully leaving this world a little better for having been in it!

  11. Edward Shrift says:

    doubt . There is no reason to doubt myself

  12. DeLisa Smith says:

    To develop a program/co-op to assist homeless/disabled veterans(or any down and out soul)re-establish/establish self sufficiency

  13. Mary Alejandro says:

    Mr. Platt,
    Another great article that I just read. I did not know that there were others before you, but who cares. I can see that this did not let it stop you from doing what you had already planned to do. You always seem to motivate an individual when it is most needed. I have been meaning to get on the treadmill, but my bad knee will not let me, well guess what, I got on it and the pain was not a killer, it was painful, but I accomplished something I thought that I could not do…you again have helped me do something that I was afraid of doing for fear of the pain…Thank you so much; not only for the posts, but for all your kinds words and motivational blogs.