The power of action

An African parable revolves around the action that takes place at sunrise each day deep in the jungles: Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It does not matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you had better be running.    

The profound message of the parable strikes a chord with the principle that propagates concrete action in the place of plain decision. It is one thing to decide to do something but quite another to actually implement it. Management pundits summarised this philosophy: To look is one thing. To see what you look at is another. To understand what you see is a third. To learn from what you understand is still something else. But to act on what you learn is all that matters.

Achievements are the results of tangible actions. There can be no victory with mere intentions. As Vance Havner, renowned American writer and preacher, put it, “Vision is not enough, it must be followed by venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs.”

Henry Ford, the American industrialist who revolutionised the automobile industry by converting automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance of the twentieth century, articulated the same philosophy thus: You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do.

Action must succeed the desire to do. From lofty goals to mundane pursuits, it is only actions that produce results. A thinker puts it lucidly: There are four general things you can do with your hands – firstly, you can put them in your pockets for safekeeping, secondly you can fold them in apathy, thirdly you can wring them in despair or lastly, you can lay them on a job that needs doing!

To get started is therefore the only way to get to anywhere in life. This calls for beating procrastination. To put off things for a later date is the enemy of getting anywhere in life. Just as a thing well begun is half done, a thing simply begun is wholly alive.

The want to do, must be converted into the will to start, which then will spring to action and finally to the accomplishment of the task. Rev Clifford Warren observed neatly, “The word begin is full of energy. The best way to get something done is to begin. It is truly amazing what tasks we can accomplish if only we begin. You are never finished if you forever keep beginning!”

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