Fire, ready, aim. This phrase reflects taking action and figuring out the details later. Although some situations call for this type of response, it can often lead to undesirable results, both in life and in business.
If “knowledge equals power” is an incomplete equation, then “action without knowledge” is a recipe for disaster. Consider the following true story.
Action without knowledge
Several years ago, 33-year-old Larry Walters decided he wanted to see his neighbourhood from a new perspective. He went down to the local army surplus store one morning and bought forty-five used weather balloons. That afternoon he strapped himself into a lawn chair, to which several of his friends tied the now helium-filled balloons. He took along a six-pack of beer, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and a BB gun, figuring he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.
Walters, who assumed the balloons would lift him about 100 feet in the air, was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 11,000 feet into the sky – smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport. Too frightened to shoot any of the balloons, he stayed airborne for more than two hours, forcing the airport to shut down its runways for much of the afternoon, causing long delays in flights from across the country.
Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked him three simple questions:
“Were you scared?” “Yes.”
“Would you do it again?” “No.”
“Why did you do it?” “Because,” he said, “you can’t just sit there.”
Action without planning
Larry Walters took action, but failed to act wisely. In their quest for success, too many people take action without first gaining critical information. This lack of preparation leads to many unneeded and costly mistakes. Though one might admire the individual who “can’t just sit there,” the winner’s circle is usually reserved for those who have a plan and execute it successfully. Leadership expert and business guru Peter Drucker states, “action without planning is the cause of every failure.”
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you might remember the following scene from “The Empire Strikes Back.” Luke has a vision of his friends in trouble and wants to go rescue them before he has finished his Jedi training. Yoda, his little green mentor, begs him to wait.
“Luke, you must complete the training.”
But Luke has seen the future, and he knows his friends are in serious danger.
“I can’t keep the vision out of my head. They are my friends. I must help them.”
Yoda finally issues a dire warning,
“If you leave now, help them you could, but you will destroy all for which they have fought and suffered.”
But Luke is determined to go; he “can’t just sit there.” He heads off immediately in an effort to save his endangered friends.
Do you remember what happens? Han Solo is captured, frozen in carbonite, and handed over to Bobba Fett, a bounty hunter who takes him to a warlord by the name of Jabba the Hutt. Luke manages to rescue Princess Leia, but has a nasty encounter with his father Darth Vader (“Luke, I am your father…”) and loses his hand in the process. The moral of the story? Even in this galaxy, action without preparation usually spells disaster.
Have a clear vision
Success comes to those who clarify their vision, work out an action plan to achieve that vision, and work the action plan. Although there is always the risk of getting caught in the paralysis of analysis in the planning stage, “Ready, aim, fire!” is more likely to get you the results that you want than “fools rushing in.”
What is your vision? And what is your action plan for executing on the dream? Plan your work, and work your plan. And may the force be with you!