The below is an excerpt from Kim Perell’s new book, The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success.
Right out of college, I landed my dream job working for a booming internet startup. The company raised over $120 million in funding, then the market took a sharp turn, the company went bankrupt and I was laid off. I suddenly found myself; laid off, broke and devastated. It was the hardest time of my life. It was like someone pushed delete on my career.
From there, I decided to make a bet on myself. I called my 80-year-old grandmother for a $10,000 loan and I started my own company from my kitchen table. I was certainly scared and had doubts. What I learned is you have to feel the fear and do it anyway. My belief in myself had to be greater than anyone’s doubt. The company grew the company to over $100 million in annual revenue and I sold it. I went from being broke at 23, I was a multimillionaire by the time I was 30. My last company sold for $235 million in 2014.
Looking back, I know that there was that one skill that drove my success more than anything else – my ability to execute. Execution is the ability to do and get results – to keep moving forward to achieve your vision and goals in business and life despite the obstacles that lay ahead.
The misconception about success is it’s just about IQ or hard work, but it’s not. We all know really smart people and really hard-working people who ultimately are not successful.
You can also be really busy, but that doesn’t mean you are busy doing the right things. Entrepreneurs can think success is all about a great idea – but ideas are a dime a dozen. Ideas are just the starting point. Success is all about execution.
Working with entrepreneurs and after seeing hundreds of investment pitches, the biggest gap I see between the Dreamers and Doers is the ability to execute. When I look at which companies I want to invest in and people I want to hire, I look for people that can execute.
Execution is the difference between success and failure and I believe it’s a skill that can be learned. I wrote The Execution Factor, The One Skill That Drives Success in order to share what I’ve learned with others.
The Execution Factor teaches the skill of execution broken down into five traits so that anyone can learn. Vision, Passion, Action, Resilience and Relationships. The traits are interdependent, not independent. You need to have them in balance as you need them all to be successful.
The Five Traits of Execution
The connective tissue of all the companies I have created, invested in, and worked for is that they all reached success by ensuring the five execution traits were represented in their leadership and people.
Vision: Your North Star
People who lead with Vision know where they’re going. As the line to success weaves its messy way to the top, your vision is your compass, guiding you to your destination. Let me be clear: having a vision is not the same as being visionary. It’s about having a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Without a clear vision, you don’t know what goals to set or what actions to take. By taking charge of your vision, being exactingly clear about what you want, and following your North Star, you are setting yourself up for a life of greater success and fulfillment.
Just like running a marathon, your North Star can have a lot of checkpoints along the way. For example, my vision is to motivate and inspire others to achieve their dreams. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time for me to meet with all the incredibly talented individuals with great ideas, so I am executing on my vision by writing this book, creating an execution platform, and using the proceeds to help fund as many individuals as possible. Just remember: No matter what your vision is, it’s essential that you can see it and feel it. It must be meaningful to you so that you (and eventually others through you) genuinely connect to it. That connection is indispensable. It will make you more resilient, give you something to focus on when times get tough, and help you fight through the fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Passion: What You’re Willing to Sacrifice and Suffer For
How I see passion may be different from what you might assume or have read before. The word passion comes from Latin root pati, meaning suffering or enduring. Thus, compassion means “to suffer with” (the compassionate aren’t immune to other people’s pain). Think about all the times you have comforted a friend in pain or felt someone else’s compassion. Passion is, at its core, a form of pain that demands it be quenched. Simply put, passion is not just about the things you love but about those things that you would happily suffer and sacrifice for. Therefore, mastering Passion in execution is about maintaining the emotional connection to your vision and goals. This level of emotion is necessary because it underpins almost everything good in our personal and professional lives: positivity, self-belief, learning, focus, satisfaction and above all, motivation.
In the workplace, people who lead with passion often have relentless energy and determination that inspires commitment, engagement and performance in others. Passion will give you and those around you a sense of meaning, sustain you through the seemingly unsustainable, and enable you to dig deep when it counts the most. Just remember: Our emotions drive the positive thoughts and feelings in our lives, but they also drive the negative ones!
Action: Taking That First Step and the Next One
People who lead with action know how to take the first step (arguably the most challenging) and then the next ones. They don’t hesitate or get stuck in analysis paralysis. They know every time they act, they get one step closer to their goals. It’s too easy to play it safe and wait for all the data. It’s especially easy to get distracted when you’re thinking far ahead. Leading with action doesn’t mean discounting the importance of strategy and planning. Rather, it means knowing that all analyses and projections are only approximations and guesstimates. You don’t know what will happen until you start, and action-oriented people know there is no wrong way to start.
People who lead with action seize the day to make things happen. They may be scared, and they feel the fear, but they push it aside and do it anyway! That’s what I did when I got on that plane to Hawaii to start my first company. Was I scared? Yes, I was terrified I would fail. But I didn’t let that stop me. I faced my fear and moved anyway. Just remember: Action without vision is just busyness, and it’s important to not mistake busyness for progress. In a world of limited time and resources, you need to carefully choose where to invest your energy and not get stuck in a hamster wheel of repeating the same action over and over.
Resilience: Dealing with Obstacles, Change and Uncertainty
People who lead with resilience accept uncertainty and overcome the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks to success. This allows them to thrive in change. There’s an elasticity in their confidence. They bounce back after setbacks. They know how to handle a crisis, they have confidence and gumption in the face of impending doom, and throughout it all they demonstrate a tendency to recover stronger than before. They fail forward.
Resilience is not just about dealing with obstacles, crises and setbacks. It’s about dealing with them in constructive and creative ways. Resilient people know you can’t change the wind but you can change your sail! This makes them inspiring—even stabilizing—influences when situations are intense, conditions are in chaos, or obstacles seem insurmountable. They believe they have control over the events in their lives even when the world seems to be working against them. They have heart set and mindset in balance so they know when to give up and when to continue despite the challenges that lie ahead.
Relationships: Having the Right People in Your Life
Building healthy, inspiring, supportive relationships is not just the cornerstone to successful execution. It’s the cornerstone to happiness. The most significant element in any person’s life is the people. We are biologically wired to connect with others, rely on those around us, and work together. In short, we are at our best when we have the capacity to collaborate. And of course, success is always better shared. Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the people who have helped and supported me along the way.
Great relationships aren’t a luxury, they are a necessity. And like every other valuable asset, they need time, care, and attention in business just as in life. Those who know the power of relationships have an ability to recognize the strengths and talents of individuals and are guided by a win-win mentality, always on the lookout for areas of reciprocity and mutual success. They also know the importance of being with people who believe in them and provide the strength they need to transform their vision into reality. In fact, if you change nothing else in your life than the people you spend your time with, you will have increased your chances of success tenfold.
My life continues to be transformed by these five traits of execution, and I owe my success in business and life to mastering them. I use them all the time—whether planning our next family adventure, determining which entrepreneurs I want to invest in, working on the next big deal for my company, or writing this book.
Perell’s new book, The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success, is a national bestseller, designed to help others achieve success in business and life by mastering execution . In conjunction with the book, Kim launched The Execution Factor Fund, with one million dollars plus 100% of the proceeds from the book going to support aspiring entrepreneurs with early stage investment.