Weekly tips and stories that will help you do your job and make you smile (or groan).
By Sean Filidis April 21, 2022
Admit it. You lack the willpower.
As a marketer, one of my favorite slogans is, Just Do It. It's so recognizable that the brand's name needs no mention. Its explicit denotation has nothing to do with sports, yet it captures the spirit of the active lifestyle so well. My only objection is that it’s poor advice. It reminds me of the classic MadTV therapy skit where a woman confesses her fears and compulsions to an insensitive therapist (Bob Newhart). His solution to each of her problems is to just shout, "stop it!" Therapist: All right, what other problems would you like to address? Woman: I'm bulimic. I stick my fingers down my throat. Therapist: Stop it! Are you a nut of some kind? Don't do that. And every time she tries to touch on the underlying issue, he cuts her off. Woman: But I'm compelled to. My mom used to call — Therapist: No, no. We don't go there. What makes the skit so funny is that it's true! If we could all just “stop it," none of us would struggle with irrational fears, unhealthy compulsions, or self-destructive behavior. And if we could all "Just Do It," we'd all be fit as a fiddle. 🎻 Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that in the real world. Despite what Nike would have you believe, it takes more than willpower (and a new set of trainers) to develop healthy habits. Don't get me wrong. Willpower is necessary. It's just that most of our wills aren't all that powerful.
Whatever our undertaking, we set ourselves up for either failure or success before even starting.
When it comes to getting things done — whether it's a simple writing assignment, an extensive content audit, or a vigorous workout — I contest that preparation is equally (if not more) important than mere resolve. Whatever our undertaking, we set ourselves up for either failure or success before even starting. I mean, how many times have you “planned” to go to the gym in the morning only to find your enthusiasm is no match for the cold cruelty of getting out of bed? That's what I'm talking about. The inevitable early morning devolution from "Just Do It" to "Eh, f*ck it." The capitulation of our will. The sad thing is, we know beforehand it's going to happen. We just don’t care to admit it. One of the best ways to overcome this is with preparation. Practical things like getting your gear ready the night before so you can grab it and stumble out the door before your brain knows what's happening. Or better, go to the gym in the evening while you're still super-excited. A big part of setting yourself up for success is knowing yourself.
When I was a child, my mother observed that I always pulled out my LEGOs shortly after cleaning my room. I thought it a coincidence until I found myself doing it again the following week. Somehow, having a clean and organized space reliably inspired my creativity. The principle remains true for me today. If I intend to write something, I first clear off my desk and clean up my office. This small exercise makes a massive difference in making me productive. If I prepare even further by blocking my calendar and ensuring my phone is out of reach, not only will I finish my writing assignment, I'll probably organize my files and compose a new song while I'm at it. See, winning happens before the work starts. The more mundane, undesirable, or challenging the task is — or to put it plainly, the less you want to do it — the more struggle you'll save yourself through clever preparation. Willpower is fickle. But a well-prepared system can act as a reliable substitute. If you work in content marketing, this principle is even more critical. That's why our content team has a Content Operations Specialist who sets up and manages systems and processes. It dramatically reduces the effort required to churn out new content. These systems also streamline communication, keep results consistent, and make timelines more predictable. (By the way, our content ops, Jerry, is also a regular contributor to The Crave. I recommend reading his last issue about cleaning up your content processes.) So forget "Just Do It." The next time you face a complicated, disagreeable, or tedious endeavor, make it easier for yourself. Just prepare. (How's that for a catchy slogan?)
Let’s talk about it together!
Share your thoughts on LinkedIn using #thecravediscussion This week’s topic: What systems or processes do you have in place to avoid having to rely on willpower?
Here’s what I’m into right now.
- Reading: This masterful article in The Atlantic, Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid is nearly an hour-long read, but an important one, I think. It’s been trending in position #1 for more than a week.
- Watching: Rick Beato is a producer, session musician, and music educator. He’s grown a huge YouTube following where he breaks down famous songs and tries to encourage a new appreciation among youth for the artistry often lacking in todays music scene. Check out his video on and interview with Seal.
About the author
Writer, tech junkie, marketer, musician, traveler, photographer. At Foleon, I’m generally in charge of words and enforcing strict company-wide comma quotas.