18 Minutes

Summary Written by Jennifer Knighton

The Big Idea

Take 3 Seconds Before A Decision

"3 seconds stands between those who settle for ‘whatever’, and those who settle for nothing less than ‘whatever it takes.’"- 3 Seconds, page 13

The driving premise of the book is simple: Spend three seconds thinking before every decision that you make. Use the time to take responsibility for what you do, and to make proactive decisions in what you deem to be a positive manner.

The idea is not to accept your first impulse or the easiest path, but rather to consider your options and take the path that is best for you. Remarkably, all this can happen (or have a much better chance of happening) by simply lengthening the time between (a) being presented with a situation and (b) making a decision. Which brings us to our first GEM.

Insight #1

Take 3 Seconds and Choose to Walk the Extra Mile

"Success always follows when you exceed people’s expectations"- 3 Seconds, page 134

In a world where simply “getting it done” is becoming the satisfactory norm, success can often be achieved by focusing on exceeding people’s expectations; by going the extra mile.

“The extra mile” isn’t necessarily about ground-breaking impact, this is something that can be done on any scale, on any day. Everyday examples include the supermarket associate showing you where the product is located on the shelf instead of just telling you where it is, or a company with lifetime guarantee for goods who exchange broken products with no fuss.

Going the extra mile really isn’t difficult, but it is memorable. We can all recall the positive surprises we’ve received in the past. These are the “extra mile moments” that stick with you.

Extra mile ideas outlined in 3 Seconds include…

  • Do more than belong – participate
  • Do more than care – help
  • Do more than dream – work
  • Do more than teach – inspire
  • Do more than earn – enrich
  • Do more than live – grow

An example of an everyday, small scale way of going to extra mile is to respond to all your emails within 24 hours. It’s easy to put off emails for a few days (virtually everyone does it), and so answering any emails that require a response, in both your work and personal life, will get you noticed.

It should be noted that extra mile actions are not going to be completed in 3 seconds, however. The 3 second moment is where you “challenge the impulse to go only the first mile, and choose instead to exceed expectations” (page 155).

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Insight #2

Take Action Today

"Make it so."- 3 Seconds, page 181

Choosing to exceed expectations, particularly in the larger projects in your life, can be scary. It requires you to put everything you have into a project. It requires an emotional commitment. It requires that you open yourself up to getting hurt. There are many reasons that prevent you from doing something you want to accomplish with excellence and the major ones are listed below, beginning with fear.

Before I list them though, I’d like mention a concept described in this chapter which is also touched upon in the Napoleon Hill book Think and Grow Rich: counting the cost to reach your goal. Or to put it another way, “what will you give up to reach your goal?”

Often all it takes is time. For example: spending less time watching TV or playing computer games in order to devote more time to making your dream come to fruition. When you make the choice of what you’re willing to give up, you will feel more motivated to take action to reach your goals.

With that in mind, if you want to take your dreams of ‘someday excellence’ and make them happen, this list of actions for you to take right now, can help:

  1. Confront the most common reason for fear: Stewing.
    Don’t just respond to a fear, challenge it. Ask yourself whether it is constructive or destructive, rational or irrational? This first step can help you feel less afraid and help you begin to take action.
  2. Write down a list of goals. Include some ‘impossible’ ones.
    This is both taking action and making something concrete for you to aspire to.
  3. Count the cost.
    The reward doesn’t come without a price, yet they should be counted together – reaching your goal makes the difficulty worth enduring.
  4. Aim for the finish line – but take it one step at a time.
    As Stephen Covey says, “begin with the end in mind”. Splitting your task into manageable pieces will then help you reach the goal.
  5. Reach the point of no return.
    There will be one big step, a point at which you can no longer go back, when you are committed to what you set out to do. Be willing to commit and take that step.
  6. Learn and refine.
    Mistakes are just new ways you’ve learnt to not do what you set out to do. All successful people refine continuously and constantly improve.
  7. Make room for serendipity.
    When you have your goals in place, you will begin to notice the opportunities that arise to help you achieve your goals. As a personal example the author says that after committing to making a DVD to help train couples as marriage mentors, within a month he had chance meetings with first an investor and then a producer!

These 7 steps listed finish with one key quote to remember – if you’re ready to reach your goals, ‘make it so’.

3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice, by Les Parrott, is a book filled with great advice, and it all starts with building the habit of taking 3 seconds before each decision you make. You will find yourself inspired and motivated to do whatever it takes to make it so.

Read the book

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Peter Bregman

Peter Bregman is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm which advises CEOs and their leadership teams. He speaks, writes, and consults about how to lead and how to live.

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