The Law of Diminishing Intent

Laptop in classic library

Many times as managers, coaches, or leaders we think we have to become experts in a new area before we take the step and try something new.  The people we lead do the same thing.  We all think that we have to know all aspects about something before we can start.  Learning all aspects and becoming an expert in a particular area takes a huge investment of time and energy.  This unfortunately leads people to fall prey to the Law of Diminishing Intent.


If we don’t take action soon, when the idea strikes us and the emotion is high, fairly soon the urgency starts to diminish.  The morale of learning something new falls by the way side and we never act.  The key is to not just learn, but to act as you learn.


Jim Rohn put it like this.  People who are learning without taking action, is like a man who continues to bring building materials to a job site.  Day after day he brings lumber, plumbing supplies, shingles, nails, drywall, carpet, tiles, insulation, ext.  An onlooker sees all the things that he’s bringing to the job site and says, “Wow, you sure have a lot of stuff.  You must be building something amazing.”  The man replies, “Yeah you should wait and see what I bring tomorrow.”   The man continues to bring new materials, but never BUILDS anything.  Eventually he gets tired and moves on to something else and nothing is ever built.


Never mistake movement for action.  You can plan your route, fuel the tank, and pack the car but it you never get going it’s all a waste of time.   You have to translate that intention into action fairly soon or your passion will turn cold and soon it will be a distant memory.


Start with something small and take immediate action. You and the people around you will have an ignited passion and sturdy developing intentions that lead to great things.

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18 thoughts on “The Law of Diminishing Intent

  1. Cranston, I think you are doing an amazing job with your blog… Just had to put that out there. With that being said, as a manager I find your entries very inspiring. One of my favorite quotes is, “Start before you’re ready.” I think this can be applied to many parts of life: starting a new career, starting a family, or even starting an entire movement. I did not necessarily choose my leadership role in my field. It was more so given to me. I had two choices, either start or let it ruin me. Actually starting gave me the confidence I needed to be a manager.

  2. Thanks Jessica. Your encouragement means a lot. I’m glad I can find your site now.

  3. joshsherin says:

    Great post, I really enjoyed and was inspired by the analogy of the man bringing materials to the job site. It also reminds me of a story once shared to me by a random old man at a bar after a long day at work. He knew that I was a teacher, and that I was working on my MBA.

    He asked, “If you’re getting your MBA, why aren’t you working in business now?” I replied that even though I want to work in business eventually, I didn’t want to forgo the job I had now until I finished my degree.

    I will never forget his response, “You’ll never steal second base, until you take your foot off of first.”

    There is something to be said about taking risks, and learning by doing, and I agree with what you wrote wholeheartedly.

  4. btg5885 says:

    Great post. I saw Malcolm Gladwell, the successful author speak once. Once he has his basic outline and has done some research, he begins. He writes some, does more research and writes some more. To your point, he said if I wait until I have done all my research, I would never write anything. BTG

    • you’re right. It’s kind of like chopping a tree down. It’s easier and it comes down faster if you take 5 swings a time with a break between each one than if you try to bring it down all at once. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. I know the post is work related, but I do this so much in my personal life! It’s time to start making Christmas presents, and it’s not uncommon for me to have the project and the tutorial going at the same time. I’d never get anything made if all I did was my research; however, by not doing more research, I’m short materials! 🙂 I have to constantly work to find my balance! Which keeps me moving forward, so I’m not complaining at all that as a person I’m still learning and still growing!

  6. Justin Buck says:

    Love the distinction between action and achievement! If we’re not careful, mentors might also caution us to prepare, prepare, prepare. While preparation is probably the most important ingredient for success, it can become a stumbling block if we don’t gather our wits, scrape up some courage, and do something!

  7. witzshared says:

    Your blog is awesome as usual. When I was forced into retirement because of the economy crash I still wanted to be active and began to share my work experiences with others. I had never blogged before & knew nothing about social media. So being me I just jumped into it and learned as I went along and it took time but I kept moving forward and now I have readers and followers. This has been a very rewarding experience for me.

  8. Rajiv says:

    I absolutely agree…. However, I must confess, there are times when I wish good intentions would move mountains!!

  9. heindoc says:

    Good post! I agree, in my world there seems to be plenty of good planning and strategy, but sometimes limited execution. I wonder if the hesitancy toward action is a fear of failure, an intolerance for risk, and/or a culture that doesn’t reward failing forward.

  10. […] The Law of Diminishing Intent. […]

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