How do you become someone that executes on ideas?

While it’s great to have a whole bunch of productivity knowledge, so many people engage in what’s called productivity porn. They read about doing more better. They can tell you all the features of the task management apps out there and what each application is doing wrong.

They’re happy to pontificate on the virtues of GTD versus Bullet Journal versus Kanban to a point that makes other sick.

You can find the podcast version of this here. Make sure you don’t miss an episode by subscribing to Should I Read It.

But they never ship anything. They just read about it and maybe write about it.

Execute is not for you if you engage in productivity porn. At least that’s the hope of the authors. It’s also not for you if you want to stew on ideas a bit. Josh Long and Drew Wilson say that you need to just jump on that interesting idea full force and execute.

This book is about executing on ideas immediately when inspired rather than following the normal rules.

The key here is inspiration. The authors figure that without inspiration you’re not going to work as hard and produce something as awesome.

But why is inspiration so important? Why would we want to spend our time writing a book about going from inspiration to execution as fast as possible? The answer is a simple, three-part truth: 1) Happiness is making what you wish existed. 2) Inspiration is the single most powerful source of energy a creative professional has. 3) Execution means acting immediately on inspiration and planning as you build.

Heck, even the book was the victim1 of this mentality. They primary author, Josh Long, wrote the book in a week and he prided himself on the fact that he scrapped the whole thing the day before it was due.

Now they say inspiration because otherwise you’ve got to force yourself to work on something. With inspiration, you’re passionate in the moment about shipping something so you don’t have to force yourself to complete the task. It’s fresh and fun, so you work.

…while most people are trying to figure out how to eliminate distraction, others are building things that they’re so excited about that they don’t even consider being distracted.

While they say the book is broken down in to 5 parts, they mostly repeat themselves. As I read further, I kept wondering what the repeated content had to do with the section I was in theory reading.

While I’m not going to address any of the parts on their own, I’ll tell you what the authors say they are.

This book is broken down into five parts: Purpose, Inspiration, Philosophy, Process, and Execution.

After that it all kind of goes mostly off the rails. The book sure has passion and you can tell it was written in a day. You can tell the idea was conceived of in a week.

The authors do stuff like come up with a new term for Minimum Viable Product (MVP). There was a bit of mental wrangling to explain how Smallest Possible Version (SPV) was different than an MVP. But after a few reads of their explanation, I never saw it.

If this was a bigger business book, I’d say that they came up with SVP to have some intellectual property to sell to clients in a process which you could purchase for “only $999.99”. But I don’t think anyone thought that far ahead.

As my dislike is becoming obvious, there is still some good here. They have a bunch of quotable sentences that I could see myself coming back to in my future writing because they said something worthwhile in a fairly concise memorable way.

I’ll I’ve you a few.

Be someone that ships. It’s the ultimate gauge on whether or not you are executing.

True if you’re not shipping then you’re not doing much.

Are you battling with self-doubt? Remove it. You couldn’t possibly know the outcome, so worrying about it doesn’t make much sense.

I agreed here as well, you can spend so much time dreaming about the bad things that might happen and it’s all a dream. You have no idea what will happen so don’t waste too much time stressing about it.

If you’re currently stuck in a job you don’t like or in client work that isn’t fulfilling, do whatever it takes to start building for yourself. Make sure that you’re spending more time on your side projects than the work you’re obligated to.

I like the sentiment here. You should be working on inspiring side projects if you want to get out of the gig you hate. So much of the sentiment surrounding it just sounded like putting in more hours and sacrificing everything around you like family and health and friends. Instead, read Rest to find out what a long strong career looks like.

Big projects are a slow-paced, headache inducing juggernaut that leads to too many meetings, opinions, broken marriages and late night fast food binges. Big projects are what typically allow for an underdog to come in and steal market share.

This was one of their rationale sentences for justifying SVP. Yes, the bigger the initial features you have the harder it will be to finish the project. But that’s not a justification for going with SVP instead of MVP.

Stalling is a mean creature. If we’re stalling that usually means that we’re scared, ill-equipped, or procrastinating.

Stalling will kill you, but Steven Pressfield writes more more eloquently about it in The War of Art. Not more organized, but it’s still a way better book.

The truth is that executing fulfills many of the things that we crave in our everyday lives. It gives us a sense of accomplishment, it gives us a sense that we’re contributing in some way, and it gives a strong sense of pride in the work that we ship.

Yup, shipping does fulfil us so we should do more of it.

Finally, they call many people out pretty hard with this quote.

If you have side projects that you’ve never finished and you haven’t launched anything in the last year, you don’t know how to ship. It took just over one year to build the Empire State Building, that’s it. How long has your project taken?

If you call yourself an author, and haven’t actually published anything in…ever, you’re probably just someone that likes to write. Jeff Goins would disagree with me in The Art of Work, and I understand his reasoning for it. In his mind you need no outside authorization to call yourself an author or a writer.

The problem I see with this thinking is that I meet people every week that call themselves…whatever. Once you talk to them what they really want is to talk about being a writer. They are in love with the thought of being published, they never want to do the work to get there though. They’re not sitting in front of a keyboard or notebook getting words out of their head.

They’re just showing up to networking events talking about this thing they aspire to be.

Should You Read Execute?

Nope, don’t read it. There are a few other quotes that are good you may want to use in your own writing but I’ve got them in my searchable resources. I’ve saved you the time of going to find them.

If you want to learn about shipping work then there are much better books. If you’re awesome at shipping, but your stuff needs a bit more polish read Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday.

If you’re the type that starts a bunch of stuff and doesn’t finish it, read Finish by Jon Acuff or The War of Art by Steven Pressfield or Do The Work also by Steven Pressfield.

If you need to find what your passions are so you can focus on the right stuff, read The Art of Work by Jeff Goins.

You’ll get so much more out of any of those books than you will out of Execute. It clearly shows that was conceived of in a week and then written in a day. It lacks structure and repeats itself with so many cliched ideal statements that you may get sore eyes due to the rolling you’ll be doing.

Photo by: sergesegal


  1. Oh yes victim was the word I used intentionally here. I’ll say more about that later. 
Execute - Acting on Ideas Immediately When Inspired Rather Than Following the Normal RuleS Book Cover Execute - Acting on Ideas Immediately When Inspired Rather Than Following the Normal RuleS
Drew Wilson and Josh Long

In theory this is a book that is going to teach you to execute quickly while you’re in love with something. In practice, the fact that it was written in a day (while they were passionate) shows. Not a great book.

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