Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Today, out in the field, I had another eureka moment. A minor one, but significant, nevertheless.

I'm currently doing the copy for this major web rehash by one of the large local banks, and as I say in today's meeting, the project manager revealed one of life's beautiful secrets.

"Under-commit and over-deliver."

The skies never parted. There were no glorious choirs of angels, no bright lights. There wasn't even coffee. But there it was, laid bare in front of me like a virgin on my bed.

"Under-commit and over-deliver."

I rolled the words around my tongue. They tasted marvelous.

If I ever get the chance to teach business (that, of course, assumes that I learn the lessons of business myself) this will be the first lesson I would teach my wards.

"Under-commit and over-deliver."

The words were too compelling; I immediately launched a review of my own life vis-a-vis this new-found wisdom. My problem, you see, is that my own practice has reflected the exact inverse of this philosophy. Because of my natural zeal, I always find myself over-committing when I take on new projects. I can't help it; I'm a natural optimist and my greatest hubris is enthusiasm. The prospect of succeeding at a new challenge excites me and thrills me to the bone. My ego revels at the thought of taking on a project and making a shining, shimmering, splendid something out of the tangle of problems and pitfalls. So in my eagerness, I over-commit!

But then something happens during the course of the undertaking. I lose steam. The tangle of issues, difficulties, and dead-ends somehow diffuse the spark that set me going at the beginning. The mirage of a successful finish dissolves into the reality of a long, dreary journey. I lose steam. And when my energy level dips, my universe usually goes downhill. So does the quality of my work. I under-deliver.

Over-commit and under-deliver. What a truly powerful recipe for disaster.

Well, it's never too late to change course. At least I'm aware of it, and that's where it begins.

No comments: