Execution is The Most Important and Underrated Skill

Execution is arguably more important than anything else, yet rarely gets talked about. Execution is what separates entrepreneurs who succeed vs. wantrapreneurs who never ship anything.

Execution is one’s ability to actually get things done, ie. to produce work and ship. Execution is a catch-all word for work ethic, discipline, time management, focus, and getting the job done – no matter how unglamorous the nature of the work is.

One can have the best technical skills (eg. coding skills, marketing skills), but without execution they will never succeed. On the other hand one can have poor technical skills (eg. be a crappy programmer using outdated tech), but with high execution has a significantly higher chance of success because they’ll actually ship things. Their work might be crap in the beginning, but by receiving feedback and constantly reiterating on it, in the long-run they have a much higher chance of success than the idea guy or perfectionist who talks a big game and maybe has a high IQ but never actually completes anything.

People love to focus on technical skills because they’re easiest to measure and enable people to feel a sense of superiority and elitism. But what separates entrepreneurs is not their technical skills (with the exception of inventors inventing groundbreaking new technology, a small minority of successful businesses), but their execution ability.

Execution is hard. Execution is hard work applied consistently over a long period of time with an unknown payoff. The nature of the work will likely range from mentally intensive challenging prestigious problems to boring and time-consuming but necessary tasks. Most people don’t have the work ethic to continue executing amidst uncertain payoffs, and thus most projects are abandoned without completion.

While technical skills get easier over time as you master them, execution always remains hard because execution by definition is hard work.

The education-industrial complex is good at training people to work hard to complete orders, but most people lack this execution ability when it comes to directing their own work. Our education system essentially trains kids to be obedient employees and corporate cogs rather than self-directed entrepreneurs and masters of their own destiny.

“Follow your passion” on the surface is bullshit advice because success requires hard work, and hard work is not “fun” in the traditional sense because humans are naturally lazy and biologically wired to avoid difficulty and conserve energy. Only when “fun” is redefined as “progressing towards a goal that one cares to achieve” can it be sensible advice.

Instead of “follow your passion”, one should set goals that they care to achieve, and commit to achieving these goals. There is no ambitious goal that doesn’t require hard work, and hard work will always be difficult. The difficulty itself is what makes the goal rewarding, because if anyone could do it then it’s not impressive and nobody cares. If you mischaracterize difficulty as “lack of passion”, then you will never succeed in anything worthwhile. Train yourself to be resilient to and even enjoy the difficulty.

Your problem probably isn’t lack of technical skills. You probably have enough technical skills, and acquiring technical skills has never been easier in this age of information abundance where everything is a Google search away.

What you lack is execution. Stop wasting time trying to perfect everything and creating/consuming social media junk food, and start shipping.

Ship → Receive feedback → Iterate on feedback.

Keep executing on the feedback loop and you’ll win.

Execution is one’s velocity. If you’re not shipping, your velocity is 0. The higher your velocity, the faster your path to product-market fit and success.

Best of luck out there.

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