Taking Action: Our Most Underrated Trait

Growing up, I played a lot of video games. So much so, in fact, it cost me quite a bit of my social life. Video games literally sucked my time dry. I started with computer games, moved onto console, and then split my time between the two. I remember being hellbent on getting my video game time in every day; it was like my sole call to taking action in life. If I were to take action on anything worthy of my time, it was picking up my controller or sitting down in front of a computer game. My days didn’t really vary:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Go to school.
  3. Come home.
  4. Play video games.
  5. Eat dinner after my mom would yell at me to come down for the 54th time.
  6. Do a bit of homework.
  7. More video games.

Looking back, I wasted a lot of time. More than I’d ever like to think about, because it makes me want to cry. But I chalk it up to my innocent youth. Because on some level, it was true innocence. Whether you indulged in video games, barbie dolls, building Legos, or anything kids enjoy, it didn’t take much effort: you were taking action to get involved in them. It was effortless.

Mortal Kombat and How It Relates to Taking Action

One of my favorite games growing up was the Mortal Kombat series. Most of those finishing moves (or “Fatalities” as they’re called in game) were ridiculously over the top and lit up a 12 year old kid’s (and my) face when witnessed. Gory? Sure. Not really for a 12 year old’s eyes? You bet. But man were they cool. The hard part was actually pulling it off. You had to hit an insane amount of buttons in a certain order for the character to initiate the Fatality. We’re talking like 20 things.

To beat your opponent (usually your friend) was one thing. To beat your opponent and then insult them with your special combo of 20 keystrokes…that was another. It’s what motivated kids across the world to study up and memorize.

I remember I used to buy paperback strategy guides with all the finishing moves (this was before the Internet really took off) and study them intensely. I’d try to memorize multiple characters’ finishing moves all in one sitting:

Scorpion’s is Up, Down, Down, Left, A, A, B, X, Down, Right, A, B.

Sub-Zero’s is Left, Up, Right, Up, Up, A, B, B, X, X, Left, B.

Liu Kang’s is….

You get the idea.

Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero fatality
The stuff of kids’ dreams – Image courtesy Complex

I’d spend all this effort memorizing the moves, hoping for a miracle inside my brain to retain it all. It was like an exam for school, and my grades were on the line. That shit wasn’t exactly easy to remember, either. Naturally, when it came time to play and use the combos I had miserably attempted to soak in through some form of useless osmosis, I couldn’t remember 95% of them.

Why? I thought I could remember them all without practicing and then miraculously be a god amongst my acne-ridden and Mountain Dew drinking friends. I never studied one game character’s move, practiced it until I became good at it, and then moved on to the next. No, I’d spend all this time reading and (attempting to) memorize but never taking action.

I can’t think of a better metaphor for life than what I just described above.

And let me tell you one thing: it took me absolutely forever to understand this. To this day, I actively work on making sure I try to take action when I can. Here’s the disappointing part: it’s hard.

Because nothing kills dreams, kills momentum, and kills your happiness faster than not taking action on the things you want in life.

Doing It Versus Just Saying It

One of the most underrated traits you can have is backing up your talk and ideas with pure, unfiltered, unadulterated action. I get it, you’re full of ideas. You’re full of intentions on how you want to change humanity to be all unicorns and rainbows. And last but not least, you’re full of promises on how you’ll do it.

Yet when it comes down to it, you don’t act. What’s up with this crazy ass phenomenon?

I know you’ve heard some of these phrases:

  • “All talk, no walk.”
  • “Your mouth’s writing checks your ass can’t cash.”
  • “Nothing but hot air.”

If you get a slight twinge inside because you’ve heard any of these directed at you, don’t despair. We’ve all been there. It’s so commonplace, in fact, that it becomes a rare treat when someone actually follows through. Like a “holy shit did they really just do that?” or a “damn, they did it” kind of way.

As a kid, I did just the opposite. I used to brag to my friends about memorizing Scorpion, SubZero, Liu Kang, Jax, and Sonya’s finishing moves. Somehow miraculously, I’d beat them in a match and it was time to execute on the 20 button mashup. I furiously pressed, blanking out as I mashed a combination so far off from the original that the game developers would laugh at me for being an idiot. I couldn’t perform.

I spent all my time studying 12 different characters’ moves, and didn’t take the time to study one and then practice. Rinse, repeat. Then in my 20’s, after I somewhat gave up video games, I moved on from the Mortal Kombat example and into real life. The same thing happened; I transitioned into having all these wonderful intentions for things I wanted to do or try, but didn’t act.

When push came to shove, I got scared. I couldn’t execute on the vast majority of them. I couldn’t take action.

You probably feel my pain here. You tell yourself and everyone else every excuse in the book. For instance, you know you need a new career. The one you’re sitting at for eight hours a day being miserable just ain’t cutting it. I knew I needed a new career. But I didn’t quit my old one until after I got fired years later. Did it really take someone else forcing me out as some sort of permission to leave a career I hated? Yup.

I ran through this same exercise with a lot of other things. And to this day, I still struggle with following through on every intention I have, just like you. But I think that’s fairly normal. We’ve all probably got 10,456 intentions in our mind, but we have to be selective with our time and effort. That’s a given.

But when you don’t make a move in any direction, whether it’s your words or your intentions, people notice. It’s hard not to. If you sound like a broken record complaining about your career, but yet you’re in the same one year after year after year…people will stop giving a fuck. They figure you’ll just continue the same patterns.

But when you begin to take action, sometimes even before you talk about it, people also notice. And if you can follow through on that action, as in do something until it’s over instead of bailing out at any point, people really notice.

Because following through is another underrated trait. But I’ll save that one for another day.

If you really want to be the guy or gal known for taking action, follow one simple rule:

Do it, and then talk about it. Not the other way around.

You’d be surprised at how much respect you’ll gather in the process. No one likes a talker. People want a doer; in other words, a winner.

How's your focus and self-discipline?

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