Currently, I’m participating in a Youth Leadership Program for Toastmasters. Several members of the Toastmasters club where I’ve been a member for seven years have also been part of the effort. One of the topics that has come up repeatedly is leadership. Toastmasters is not just a public speaking organization, but also a leadership development program.

Edward Anderson, a personal friend and colleague of mine who is working on building a coaching business, has been the main driving force behind organizing this program. I was excited to be part of the team from the beginning because it’s a much-needed resource. Ed had the idea to add some interactive exercises designed to help the students see the necessity of taking initiative and making things happen rather than waiting to be told what to do next.

To start off the discussion, Ed had all of us watch this video:

Ed then asked the students: how often do we see this kind of situation happening in real life? Sadly, as he pointed out, this phenomenon doesn’t end in high school. Adults in the business world do this exact same thing all the time. Opportunity goes by because no one acted on it. Businesses never get started, partnerships never get formed, and problems never get solved all because everyone was waiting for someone else to take the lead.

It got me thinking — where am I “stuck” on the proverbial escalator? One of the areas that I noticed for myself is my blog. I’ve allowed my blog to languish over the last two months as a result of being “too busy.” I allowed perfectionism to set back in. I did all of the things that I urge my clients NOT to do. As I watched the video, I started to notice how easily I will paralyze myself for no reason.

Sometimes, I just stop moving. It doesn’t make any logical sense, although for awhile I might convince myself that it does. The only solution is to start moving again. I am prone to spending too much time thinking about the reasons why I’m not taking action — instead of just taking the necessary action. If you’re stuck on the escalator, all there is to do is start walking up the steps.

The Danger of Passive Insights

This video gave me an insight. I realized that I needed to act on that insight quickly, or else it would become worse than useless. Insights are only valuable when acted upon, and they tend to have short shelf lives. Have you ever had an idea or an inspiration that you planned to act on “someday” but never got around to it? This kind of inertia creates resignation and bitterness. When we habitually let ideas die on the vine, they fester into negative thinking. Passion, when left to rot, becomes cynicism. I have to remind myself that I’m at a constant crossroads. I can either be a person of action, or a person of ideas.

The Role of Networking

I used to think that networking was about meeting people and getting connected to opportunity. That’s only part of the value of networking. As I’ve recently come to understand, movers and shakers surround themselves with other movers and shakers. The video helped to remind me that I am prone to complacency and settling as much as anyone else. I’m grateful to be surrounded by people of action. I invest a lot of time and energy surrounding myself with the right kind of people — people who consistently take disciplined action toward their goals. If I surround myself with people who are “stuck on the escalator,” I will soon find myself stuck on the same escalator.

Human beings are inherently prone to the trap of believing in excuses. A question worth asking: what escalator are you stuck on right now? If you’re honest with yourself, you will identify at least one. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; we all do it from time to time. Rather than beating yourself up for getting stuck, the value of the exercise is taking an honest self-appraisal and looking for opportunities to move your life forward. Successful people aren’t perfect. In fact, I think that a huge success factor is admitting to imperfection. Successful people know their weaknesses and their strengths. They accept themselves for who they are.

Part of my self-interest in getting involved with things like the Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program is that it gives me an opportunity to disrupt this type of inertia in my life and my business. When I learned that Ed was going to be running this program, I knew it would be a success because he has always been the kind of professional who takes consistent action without giving in to excuses.

The take-away here: do you see what “escalator” you are currently stuck on — and what simple action you are not taking? If you look honestly, you will find at least one area where this applies to you.