Make The Iron Hot: A Manifesto on Action
There’s a famous quote—you may know it. “Strike while the iron is hot.” That saying is meant to encourage you to seize an opportunity before it disappears.
It’s good advice for that rare moment when you find yourself at the nexus of fate and ability. But it’s an idea that, if taken literally, tells you to sit around wait for the conditions to coalesce.
Wait for things to heat up.
I’m not much on sitting around and waiting for something to happen. American music producer, poet, and gangster rap icon, Dr. Dre said there are three types of people…this is the edited version:
- Those who know what’s going on
- Those who don’t.
- And people like me that make things happen.
For those who choose not to wait for a collision of consequences, listen to Irish poet and Nobel Prize Winner William Yeats. As poets often do, he changed the wording and the meaning completely shifted. Instead of strike while the iron is hot, he said: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
Said simply, “Make the Iron Hot by Striking.”
Take action. Do something. Get into the arena and get bloody. Stop dreaming. Start doing.
It’s a cut-the-excuses philosophy that’s served me well.
When I came up with the idea for Kippo I knew I was onto something. Millions of people workout with a smartphone and it’s a terrible experience.
The normal smartphone-workout situation involved:
- an armband holding your phone hostage
- the phone flopping around in a regular pocket
- holding it the whole time
While the idea for Kippo was bouncing around in my brain, I had to confront some inner demons. In the past, I had ideas. I’d even launched some entrepreneurial ventures and they fizzled out.
Why didn’t I make them happen?
I came to this conclusion: I would get passionate about a project, it wouldn’t move as quickly as I wanted, and I’d burn out. Or lose interest.
From the outset of Kippo, I decided I wasn’t willing to let that happen. I came up with a simple strategy: take one small step, every single day.
Some days it was only sending a text to a friend looking for a fabric supplier. Other days I may only make a phone call. I knew those small steps would add up. They did.
Today the company is in full swing. We hired our first full time employee and sales continue to grow.
I’m no pioneer on this topic. Many others have used similar strategies. When asked if he waited for inspiration to strike, or did his writing on a schedule, Somerset Maugham replied, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at 9 a.m. every morning.”
Inspiration is the offspring of action.
For me, something extraordinary happened, almost immediately, when I made a decision to stick with it, and take that one small step every day…I found myself loving the journey.
In the past, I’d been focused on the outcome. The payday. The glory.
The decision to take small steps somehow switched off that part of my brain. I ended up enjoying the process. And what a wonderful thing! Instead of only being happy during those moments when the cash register would ring, or the media would celebrate our success, the work delivered joy.
Another Irish writer, Jonathan Swift, once said, “May you live all the days of your life.” You are going to work. Fill those workdays with LIFE.
How do you do that?
For me, I feel most alive when I’m creating. I’m an artist—I think we’re all artists in our own way. And what must an artist do? Create!
For believers, you are aware God created us in His image. Think about that. The ultimate Creator, created us, in His image. If the Creator, created you, in his image–that means you are supposed to create things.
Even if you're not a person of faith, He or the universe or something swirling in the cosmos wants us to take action.
You will feel connected to the greater good. To God. Your spirit. Your muse. Your fullest potential.
Let’s say you’re not quite there. Your idea—your Kippo—hasn’t come along. No worries. I know what you need to do: learn your craft.
Truly concentrate on your technique. If you’re a writer, read a lot and write something every single day. Read On Writing and actually apply Stephen King's advice. Practice every single day. Toil next to technique. Slave to improve skill. March toward mastery.
You might be saying, “Well, I’m the type of person that waits for inspiration to strike. I can’t just conjure up ideas from thin air.”
Make the iron hot by striking.
It’s not that I don’t believe in inspiration, quite the contrary. I just believe you need to be ready when inspiration comes along. You want to be your best—to be in possession of your fullest potential and all your talent—for that moment when inspiration strikes.
If that lightning bolt bangs down on your mind’s metal roof, and you can’t think of the words, or you don’t have the work ethic to complete the project, you’re just another wannabe. You’re a hack. You are not a doer.
On Being a Leader, Now and Later
Now, or someday in the future, it’s likely you are going to be a leader. Don’t fall into the trap of learning about leadership and never living out those lessons.
Too many people pick up a John Maxwell book and substitute its teaching for real leadership. They believe when the moment is right, when the weather gets better, when I drop 10-pounds and feel my best, that’s when I’ll be ready to lead.
Your letting resistance win.
If you want to be a leader and you are waiting for your chance, here’s a better way to go about: unsubscribe from Seth Godin’s blog and start following an actual person.
That’s right—be the first follower.
Have a friend starting something? Tell her you’re in.
Think about this: You won’t be a leader unless you have some followers. How do you know how to treat your followers if you’ve never been in their shoes? Why would someone follow you when you’ve never stepped up to champion another person’s ideas?
There’s a YouTube video where a guy is dancing like a madman on a grassy knoll. To the average observer he’s a lunatic. But suddenly something happens; a young man begins dancing beside the wild one.
Once the crowd notices this first follower a swell of somebodies throw their hands in the air like they just don’t care and I’ll be darned if they didn’t start a mini-movement. The leader was out there—by himself—dancing alone. It took that first follower to make it a movement.
When you become a leader, and you’re dancing alone, you’ll praise heaven above when somebody gets up and starts gyrating right beside you.
I have one request: walk away with your mental hammer ready to start striking. Make up your mind that you’ll take a whack every day—every single day. Make up your mind that when you are lost, or unsure about how to move forward, you will know that taking action is your default setting. Action will show you the way.
Make up your mind that you will not only strike while the iron is hot. You will make the iron hot by striking.
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